In the run up to my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-laws’s wedding next month, my Maltese family is currently passing through a mild state of unrest pertaining to such discernible tasks as preparing the invites, dressmaker’s fittings, food tastings, flower arranging and meetings with priests. Again an alien environment for my husband and two children, the scene is brewing a mixture of excitement and confusion while strengthening family ties and bringing us closer together.
The big day should be a special one; our children have been chosen for the roles of page boy and flower girl and I will be reading what churchgoers like to call a ‘bidding prayer’ or religious passage at some point during the ceremony. As far as entertainment goes our family might add more than its fair share to the day: a 3 year old page boy who hates getting dressed and likes to run around in the nude, a flower girl who up until now refuses to walk and, heading the comical trio, my atheist husband standing by for an hour long sermon albeit with all good intentions!
Despite the potential for disaster, we are looking forward to the big day with great anticipation. The wedding marks yet another new beginning: the joining of the soon-to-be couple as husband and wife and for whom we are genuinely pleased for, as well as the end of the summer: our first, since moving to the island with our kids.
For the moment though we’ve been sheltering where possible from the merciless summer sun while finding ourselves at the heart of Mediterranean lifestyle: long, leisurely lunches and dinners with friends, birthday parties and boat rides to name a few pleasures. On occasion my husband and I venture out leaving one or both of the kids with my parents, the former still being a good deal compared to the limitations of holding a decent conversation while looking after both toddler and preschooler. Whatever the situation we owe complete gratitude to my parents; without them the possibility of spending more time together and with friends wouldn’t be as straightforward.
Indeed my family’s continuing support and love has been crucially beneficial to our relationship changing the way we perceive our current situation: a moment in time that will eventually fade as we all get older and our lives progress into the unknown. Therefore learning to appreciate each other as well as extended family members has played an essential part in reviving tired or lost connections.
At the same time my husband’s feelings of being away from his friends and family in the UK are slowly appearing like transparent wounds; just the other day he stated that he missed his conversations with a good friend of his back in Bath as well as the company of other like-minded individuals we used to hang around with. For my husband, being away from friends and relations is beginning to effect him rather like the early stages of home sickness: talking about them more and relating to past events and periods of his life where they were present. Also he seems more eager to contact them and keep records of celebratory occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
In a way their absence is allowing him to alter his thoughts and emotions surrounding family ties, reaching the point where our long distance relationship with the in-laws (currently consisting of the odd Skype or phone call and perhaps the occasional greeting card) has become integrated into our lives. I’ve noticed the smile on my husband’s face when he receives emails and messages on his phone from old friends and family; excitement when something comes through the post from abroad; and comfort in the knowledge his mother, sister and stepdad will be visiting in September and attending my brother’s wedding.
Understanding how precious those closest to us are has been another recent revelation in our lives where we are discovering the true meaning of happiness. Such bitter sweet separations have yielded us a new path for where we are now heading and as “absence makes the heart grow fonder” becomes more prevalent to us, one of the many secrets to a happy marriage is being decoded leaving us to explore: How do we keep fresh this appreciation for life and each other?