After eight hours of sitting in a cramped space we arrived in London. As we crawled through security, I thought of Europe’s promises: meeting my family from different parts of the world, exploring the legends of Scotland, and getting to try fish and chips!
The reunion kicked off with a dinner party that evening. I soon discovered that there wasn’t a soul my age. Five minutes in I knew it was going to be a long night, so I decided I would cling to my mother. I saw her out in the garden talking to an eight or nine year old girl.
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“You are my grandmother?” the girl asked in a thick strange accent.
“No Maneesha, I am your Aunt,” my mom said, chuckling, “and this is your cousin, Naira”. I smiled politely. Her dad walked over and started talking in Italian. It turned out that her Italian dad is my mother’s cousin and Maneesha is adopted from India. Our family is bizarre, but this I was totally unprepared for.
Throughout the evening, Maneesha was tugging on her father’s pants, running around us in circles, and laughing interminably. Her English being rather poor, she spoke in heavy Italian. This idea of bonding with the extended family was not working.
To make matters worse my mom and Maneesha’s dad were discussing a road trip to the Scottish highlands. “We would love for you guys to join us. Maneesha can squeeze in the backseat with our girls. It wouldn’t be a problem at all.” No problem! During the ten-hour drive, I would be compressed next to an irksome child. My dreams of exploring castles, the land of Harry Potter, and so much more came crashing down.
I decided to sleep in the car so that I wouldn’t get irritated. That plan didn’t work out; the second I closed my eyes, I felt something land on the top of my head. I reached up to find a stuffed kangaroo balancing on my hair. I took a deep breath and looked over to Maneesha, who was giggling guiltily.
“Maneesha, I’m trying to sleep!” I knew she didn’t understand a word I had said. It was time for plan B. I took out my iPad and my headphones. Before I knew it, Maneesha snatched the iPad from me and started scanning for interesting apps.
She was mesmerized by the iPad. She halted all of her laughing, talking, and shrieking. She went into the drawing app and started drawing. I showed her how she could pick different colors and backgrounds. She played on it for the rest of the road trip. I even helped her with pictures and we ended up bonding over it for hours. It turned out Maneesha is a budding artist! When we reached Scotland she sketched a portrait of me. I must say I definitely approved.
Hiking in Glencoe, we found a bag of M&Ms. I opened the bag and passed it to Maneesha. In her accent she said, “Thank you”. I couldn’t believe it; I was looking down at a sweet, playful girl, and just earlier I had wished she wasn’t on the trip. Before I knew it we were exploring castles together, admiring Scottish cows, wondering about the Loch Ness Legend and sharing fish and chips.
When they left to return to Italy, I realized that Maneesha and I had some of the same experiences on the trip: clinging to our parents because we didn’t know anyone at the reunion, wanting to get away and explore Scotland, enjoying good food and ice cream and learning another language. Grazie Maneesha!
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