Clan Gathers & Gatherings

RIVER TORNIO

”The lack of emotional security of our American* young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit.
No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.”

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (1932)
Nobel Prize in Literature (1938)

It has been both fashionable and popular to have these meetings of people related to one another in Finland, and our clan, for example, has been having these gatherings for over twenty years, but for me the Clan Gathering of summer 2004 was my first ever. It was amazing to be together with about 100 plus of one’s own flesh and blood! Our clan is much, much larger than that and spread all over the globe. This number – 100 of those present – is really only chicken feed compared to ALL the relatives that belong to our clan, although for whatever reason they did not come to the gathering in Lapland, nor to the latest gathering we had last weekend in the Northern Finland. The Clan Gathering of 2004 was in our home village of Ylitornio, Lapland, and this year it was not as far north.

The photo was taken in the middle of the night and I think it was about or after midnight. It was so bright with the sun still not gone to bed. The sun does not go-to-bed there for several weeks over the summer months. It is also hard for the humans to hit the sack, as it is simply too sunny right through the night to even feel tired. It was so exiting to be back in our home territory, where we were born and where we grew up. You might be aware of this, that Lapland is called the Land of the Midnight Sun. Yes, all of Finland is claiming that title, as a matter of fact, though not quite so! SORRY, Suomi !! That is Finland in Finnish.

I have posted this photograph as my very first photograph in my very first blog, because this is where my story began all those years ago. My younger sister took it in Ylitornio, the place where I was born and where I grew up ’til I was eleven years old. Or should I say, as it says, in my passport, though in fact, I was born in a town nearby called, Tornio. The area in Lapland , where these places are situated, is right at the Swedish border. It is said to be the most peaceful border on the globe. There is great action happening across the Väylä – the Tornio River- that separates the villages of Finnish Ylitornio and the Swedish side of the village called – Övertorneå .

I have been back since the move from Lapland in Ylitornio a good few times and one of the times we stayed in a cottage of a resort there for a spring holiday. I had thought that I had forgotten how to ski with no chance to ski in other countries I had lived in – but on that break, I realized that what one learns while young, stays in the noggin well! I did enjoy the skiing at that time, for I used to dislike the skiing at school because it was terrible to nearly kill oneself with all that exercise and then after showering, having to go into the class! Phew. I would have loved to be able to just chill and do après ski…

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
Jane Howard

The following visit there was not until this Clan Gathering our clan had there in the summer of 2004. It was the most interesting time to meet so many of the cousins and the other relatives that I had even never seen before. The emphasis of that gathering was on our branch of the clan – that is my maternal granddad. Our locally living cousins had prepared a most detailed and varied programme to take in as much as possible of the life and happenings of his life into it.

It was brilliant, ooh so marvellous, to hear my first language and old dialect – Meän kieli – again after all these years! We did not call that dialect with that name while living in there, it was only known then as “to speak with the letter H” or something like that. Only recently have I heard that new name for the language. Our cousins used it with relish in their guiding the party all around Ylitornio and Tornio, – on the Finnish side of the river, and Haparanda and Övertorneå – on the Swedish side of the River Tornio. We had a delicious dinner in Aavasaksa and a tour of the site and plenty of photographs were taken there. It is a most wonderful feeling to be part of a family, a clan and people that have common roots and common blood. Yes, it does give one a marvellous sense of security of belonging and not being an alien in an alien land nor a stranger in a strange country!

I was told by one of my slightly older cousins that I used to speak, as he put it – a colourful language – when I was small!! That means that I was effing and blinding** as the Irish say, like a twenty-stone dock worker. This cousin reminded me of an incident that happened when I was six-years old: our Granny had given us cousins, about ten to fifteen of us, just a few pence to buy sweets. All the other grandchildren of hers were overwhelmed with thankfulness, except me.***

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past,
bridge to our future.

Alex Haley
Tis for now – Riihele xx.

* I would say: The whole Western world, and not just America!

** = cursing and swearing
*** What I did state after receiving that morsel of a pocket money from poor Granny was:

“One cannot even buy s**t with this!!” We, as in my siblings and I, were used to receiving much bigger pocket monies. So, knowing what one could get with money …. My, my what a brat!! I remember that our usually so patient and kind to me Granny went ballistic and just screamed for help to the other grown-ups.

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2 Responses

  1. Rii, glad to see you in this WordPress, looks awesome blog. I will add your link to my blog. Cheers 🙂

  2. Hei Chris –
    Thank you for dropping by and leaving a great comment. Rii 🙂

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