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January 16, 2007


I know I've said this before: I think you're dealing sensitively, with something really important in this family stuff, Beth. Having more than one pattern of family relationships in our lives, having to make individual moral choices about the expression of love and duty, is very hard, I think; not at all what 'comes naturally' - a freedom, but also a burden.

In India where I come from and live, network of families caring for elders - old aunts, uncles and parents is more or less the norm. Adjustments are made, plans and schedules are drawn out so that the old members of the family are taken care of. I live in an open house myself,I live with my parents-in-law, my father came over to stay in my house after my mother passed away, and there are old aunts who come visiting and stay on for some period of time.I had seen this in my grandfather's house where widowed and abandoned aunts, were given haven. There were enough adults and elders to take care of the brood of children. I do not know if it will be the same when I get old, families are shrinking in size and there will be more old people in the family and very few young ones to take care of them!

This shows us that "symbolic" doesn't have to mean "empty of meaning" or "without emotional attachment," which unfortunately is how the term is often considered in the current vernacular.

It's fascinating that your family, who (as you say) have been here for generations, have kept up the village traditions, while J's family (or at least some members of it) have not. That shouldn't come as a surprise though. It is often those in the transitional generations who are quickest to abandon the old ways. I'm not sure which is the cart and which is the horse -- perhaps the abandonment came as a result of wanting to get away and change, or perhaps it up simply happened as a result of all the changes and upheaval.

In many cases, the generations that follow the transitional ones fall back into traditions, or more likely, adopt new ones. The village traditions your family observes, for example, are perhaps more informed by American village life than by the traditions of the folks back in the "old country" so many generations ago. Chances are, your transitional ancestors also abandoned a lot of the stuff from "back home," and it was their children who picked up the new gauntlet, so to speak.

Although perhaps not -- it depends on many things, such as if they were part of a mass migration, or if they arrived on their own and settled with strangers.

All that to say, you make some fascinating observations here -- food for thought, as usual.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.