When I think of my grandmother, I picture her standing at the front door of her country cottage. She greets me with a warm smile: "How are you, beautify? Where's my hug?" Enveloped in her soft arms, I breath in her faint, powdery smell and the perfume of her garden filled with nodding roses, camellias, and vines that droop with blossoms and wave their leaves in welcome. Peas, pumpkins and passion fruits already show promise of treats to come for her cozy kitchen. This is Nanas place, as gentle and generous as she is, and we love to congregate here for those special family reunions. The ritual of warm greeting, a home-cooked meal and an abundance of family has created in my mind a template for belonging. .
As cars arrive in the lane outside Nana's cottage, aunts, uncles and cousins emerge looking cramped and cranky after their long, hot journey. But, each person is made to feel special as Nana gazes fondly with her clear blue eyes and bestows her hugs. By mid-morning, seven cars cram the lane, and the chaos is extraordinary. Adults sit on the veranda with a steaming cup of tea and share stories that bring them to tears of laughter. Boy cousins race around the yard like wild Indians shrieking, passing footballs and tackling each other in the green grass. Girl cousins find a quiet bedroom where they perch on Nanas handmade quilt to gossip and plait each other hair. Someone fetches Nanas treasured album from its place of honor in the living room, and we chuckle over yellowed photos of relatives in old-fashioned clothes and pictures of ourselves when we toddled about in nappies. So much has changed over the years, and yet we always feel the same deep sense of family connection. Since childhood the family gala has been my happiest way of relating to other people. Now that I am a journalist, is it any wonder that I seek the same sense of connection when I travel the world and report on my experiences? Avid readers are looking for hot tips on busy cities, cheap hotel and wild adventures, but I am always searching for a deeper way of relating to people and places.