Thursday 16 September 2010

Family Ties that Bind Us . . .

"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family."
~Anthony Brandt

Oh, I had a most lovely dream last night. It was Christmas and I was at my mother’s house. Todd was there, as were my children, and my brother and his family were there as well. All of a sudden I had the brilliant idea, lets go visit my sister! (In real life she lives thousands of miles away from my mother, but in the dream apparently she was not very far!) And so, off we went, my brother and I, to visit my sister . . . and what a lovely reunion it was. It didn’t last long though, because almost as soon as I started to dream it, that twilight recognition that this was only a dream reared it’s head and I began to wake up, but I so wanted it to go on . . .

It’s been about eight years, at least, since my brother, sister and I were all together in my mother’s home. I am the oldest at 55, my sister comes next at 52, and my brother is the youngest at 50. We are now of the age that anything can happen, every moment being so precious. We rarely talk these days it seems . . . our real lives being quite busy with work and family. There was a time, about eleven years ago, when my sister and I spoke on the telephone every single morning for at least an hour. Oh we did have wonderful conversations! My brother and I spent a period of time when we used to talk on the telephone quite often as well. Those were lovely times. I live so far away now, it is difficult and expensive for us to talk to each other like that, not to mention, with the time difference it usually means that I am awake when they are asleep and vice versa, and I only very rarely find them on line to speak with them. I do miss them so.

It’s funny though, because as a child, if you had told me that one day I would be so close to my brother and sister and that I would miss them as much as I do, I would not have believed you!! Families are funny things. When we were growing up, my brother was always my parent’s favourite child, and my sister and I felt the loss of their attention keenly. I’m ashamed to say that I was quite jealous of him to a large degree. Children don’t really understand the mechanics of family do they?? As adults, my sister and I both know it wasn’t his fault that he was their favourite, but as children . . . we largely blamed him, and so he bore the brunt of our jealousies. I know now, that it was as much, or even more, of a burden for him to be their favourite, as it was for us not to be.

We went through a bit of a funny spell when I first joined the church I go to now. I don’t think my brother and sister quite understood why I had chosen the path I chose to go. The fact that it almost coincided with the break up of my marriage didn’t help either. I think for a long time my brother associated the two as being part of the same thing, and so he did not speak to me for several years. I suppose he did not know what to say. A lot of our conversations up to that point had been theological ones, and now we were on different pages, which I suppose that may have frightened him in some way. My sister was a stalwart supporter throughout the break-up of my marriage, although, even she did a bit of a wobble when I joined my church. I guess perhaps they had both looked up to me in some way and they saw my leaving the belief system of my childhood as a betrayal of sorts. I’m happy to say that those problems ironed themselves out eventually, although it did take several years.

At the end of the day, I have known my brother and sister for almost my whole life, and they have known me for all of theirs! We share a history and a bond that goes deeper than any other relationship, save that of a parent and child. We share the same blood. We love each other. While we may have our differences from time to time, there is a glue that holds us together that is stronger than crazy glue, and I like to think that we are ultimately there for each other in a unique and beautiful way. What we think as individuals, and how we feel about certain issues, pales next to what we share together as a family. Nobody sees our family in quite the same as way we do. It was my brother who shared secret and special moments with me in the back of our family car, for hours at a time, while my parents were visiting my sister in the hospital, when, as a child she was suffering from rheumatic fever. It was my sister who used to follow me to summer school, and embarrass me when I would have to take her home because she didn’t belong there. It was the three of us who endured hours in the back of a hot car playing “Dean Martin,” and countless other hours of family moments, moments shared together that nobody else on earth has shared with each other.

Who knows when we shall be all together again. There is something deep inside that tells me it won’t be until we lose one of our parents, and there is something else inside me that longs for our meeting to be sooner rather than later, and on a happy note rather than with the sharing of a loss. Life passes far too quickly, and before you know it we are old, and the moments we could have had are all gone, and it is too late. I sure wish I could have a few hours with them in the back of a hot car today. I’d tell them that I love them and hug them and treasure the moment for sure . . . Maybe we’d even play “Dean Martin.” “Dean Martin . . . do you eat telephone poles?” (Explanation on the Dean Martin Game. My brother had a GIJoe doll that was the size of a Ken doll. We would take the head off of it and put it on one of our fingers. The person wearing the head was Dean Martin and the others would ask it silly questions. The head person would make it nod or shake depending on whether the answer was yes or no. )

This is a recipe for a delicious autumnal salad that is perfect to serve the ladies when you have them over to lunch, or even just for your family. You can easily cut the quantities down, but don't cut down the dressing! It's delicious and very handy to have in the fridge to use on all sorts of salads! With the fresh herbs it will keep for about a week. If you use dried herbs, even longer! If you want to use dried herbs instead of the fresh, just cut the quantities in half. I often made this for Luncheons my boss would host when I worked at Brenchley Manor. It went down really well with the ladies! Crusty bread is a perfect accompaniment!

*Harvest Salad*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This delicious salad is chock full of dried fruits and nuts with a wonderful red wine - herb vinaigrette. You get the lovely crunch of the salad leaves combined with the sweetness of the fruits and the toasty goodness of the nuts. The herby dressing pulls it all together perfectly!

For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
2 TBS olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 TBS honey
2 TBS minced fresh herbs, such as basil, tarragon, parsley and oregano
1 ½ cups olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Salad:
12 ounces mixed salad greens, washed, dried and chilled
2 cups red seedless grapes, cut in half
½ cup dried apricots, diced
½ cup dried cherries or cranberries
½ cup dried dates, diced
1 cup toasted pecan halves

Rub the chicken pieces all over with the olive oil and season well with the salt and pepper. Place on a heated grill pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side over high heat, just until cooked through. Be very careful not to over cook them, as they will get dry and stringy. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, dice into pieces, cover and set in the fridge until needed.

Prepare the vinaigrette by placing the vinegar and lemon juice into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the honey and the herbs until well combined. Slowly whisk in the oil in a steady stream, until well incorporated and emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Place the salad greens in large salad bowl. Add the grapes, dried apricots, dried cherries, dates and the diced chicken. Toss all together and then add 1 cup of the dressing, tossing it gently together again. Divide amongst chilled salad plates and top each with ¼ cup of the toasted pecans. Pass the remaining dressing at the table.

In The English Kitchen today, a traditional autumnal apple dessert from the West Country called Apple Dappy! Delicious!


  1. It is so lovley to have our happy memories of fun times we have as children )and the not so fun times as well,) as they are the times that make the happy times even more precious
    we have been using these last few weeks with John to remember many of the fun times we have had over the last 50 years or so..and oh gosh there have been so many.
    Love Sybil xx

  2. Lovely post Marie. You sound like a totally normal family - up and downs, issues here and there, but essential bonded by love. That's all that counts. Lucie x

  3. What about Skyping with you family? I believe it is free?

    There is something for you on my blog:)



  4. Memories like yours bridge the gap when distance separates. I know my own children miss being together and love it when they can all be together but those days are far and few between.

  5. This is the most lovely post, dear Marie! Love hearing about your family and times past... Funnily enough I had a dream earlier this week about being home with my family and it was Thanksgiving... Guess maybe my dream was playing how much I am looking forward to going home to the US to see my family for Thanksgiving this year. We are lucky to get over to see my folks & friends about twice a year. But it's been 10 years since we've had the chance to get over for Thanksgiving time. So I am excited already... LOL! You should try Skype--it's wonderful way to keep in touch for free! BEAUTIFUL salad today. I'm craving autumn flavors these days... Happy Day, dear friend! Miss you... LOVE YOU LOTS ((BIG HUGS))

  6. What lovely pictures Marie and lovely posr!
    Send you love and huggs, have a lovely and nice day, xoxoxox gloria

  7. Morning Marie...a sad story, families are so complicated here on earth sometimes...good thing there is a place after this life to get things straightened out! Have a good day :D

  8. Miss Rayner, as someone who loves our Dino so much, I find great delight in hearin' how you and your siblings played "Dean Martin." Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool...oh to return to the days when Dino walked the earth....btw, your Dino-story will be featured on the morrow at the ilovedinomartin Dino-blog...


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