Friday, November 24, 2017

Celine & Carl in Canada.

Living in this transient mountain town, we are no longer strangers to saying goodbye to friends. In the short time we have been here, nearly every new friend we have made, we have also farewelled. However, having to drop my sister and brother off at the airport a month ago today opened up a well of homesickness that, up until then, I had been good at avoiding. Their departure coincided with the transition between fall and winter; the start of a slower season, of strange grey weather days, of cold and snow. I had the summer to keep busy; hours of daylight to spend outdoors. Sitting here now, as the festive season approaches and people get ready to spend time with their families, I can't help but feel glum at the thought of our first orphan's Christmas, despite the more exciting prospect of our first white Christmas, our first real tree, and perhaps making our first successful gingerbread house where the butter in the dough won't melt from the heat before we even get a chance to put it together.

Let me give you a little background to my siblings' visit. I had always known my sister was coming to see me. She forwarded me her flight details, and I began imagining all the places I'd take her and all that we'd see together. “It's a shame Carl won't get to be here too”, I'd said to my family at the time. The time came and, as planned, I flew to Vancouver to meet my sister as her flight arrived, expecting to wait for her plane to land ten minutes after mine. Checking my messages I saw she arrived early, so I called my aunt, who sent my uncle to find me. We chatted on the way to the international terminal and then I saw my aunt and my sister waving at me at a distance. I tried not to walk too fast. I hugged them, and after a pause, my sister said, “I have another present for you”. Confused, I stared at her hands and down at her suitcase. That's when my brother appeared from the pillar he was hiding behind. I had no words, really—only exclamations of disbelief and the involuntary & unexplained tears that came spilling from my eyes (and perhaps no explanation was required). Everyone had been in on the secret for months, even Martin and his family. I was complete, and happy, but already dreading the goodbye I knew was coming. “This means the goodbye will be twice as hard”, I said.

All in our twenties, we live in three completely different cities and have lived away from each other for years. We are used to being apart, but we still feel every goodbye. It felt this way when I moved away for university; when my sister moved to Manchester; when my brother moved to Montréal; when my sister moved to Sydney; when I moved to Canmore. I doubt it will ever stop feeling this way. We're aware we may be one of few sets of siblings with this kind of closeness; it was a bond forged from a childhood of migration, witnessing our parents' hardship, growing up in a conservative and culturally different household vs. that of our peers, and more. For me, they were the constants who knew me at my best and worst moments and loved me anyway; who witnessed their older sister crumble under the weight of her own mind's demons as often as she would pick herself up from underneath them. Our parents reinforced our closeness, encouraging us to maintain our friendship with each other, so that should all else fail, even when they are gone, at least we'll always have each other. They weren't wrong.

So it was fourteen days of deep belly laughs, conversation and catching up on lost time. I took countless photos (they're used to it), trying to immortalise this time with them; capturing their portraits as if I'd never done it before. I didn't even care if I wasn't always in photos with them. I just wanted to capture them, them, them. And then there were the moments I kept the camera down for. The moments I didn't want to miss a single detail of—the things that are impossible to capture. On our last morning we picked up coffee & croissants and made our way to the park, where we scared two deer having their breakfast. We stared at the mountains while dogs and their humans went on their morning walks, and we Skyped with our mother, in the Philippines at the time, happy to see her babies together. Then there were all those little things, like my brother's ridiculous noises as we would cross the street; dancing and singing songs that popped into our head in Stanley Park; going to the grocery store together; waking up knowing they'd be in the other room; watching a movie late at night, our three tiny bodies able to fit on the one bed; them playing piano; us making dinner together; our conversations about life, science, art, our parents, our lives then, our lives now, and everything in between.

Here are some of my favourite frames from that time. Taken in Vancouver, Banff, and Canmore. Two more posts to come from our hikes together, coming soon.

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