I had been expecting my cousin for Shabbat. She and her husband, from Toronto, are in Israel for their first-ever visit. She's actually my father's first cousin. She has been in tons of places throughout the world, usually some far-off village in South America or Africa doing aid work. My father's whole side of the family is very into "social justice" and "human rights" and this cousin, now probably in her late '60s, has never been interested in making her donation and going home. She goes to these little places and does whatever she can to alleviate suffering.
This time, the Canadian Government (they're from Toronto) sent her to Georgia to help -- not Sherman's Georgia, but Shevernatze's Georgia. Anyway, she was "in the neighborhood" so she's finally here in Israel! Unfortunately by the time they'd finished traveling (her husband met her here) they were wiped out so they spent Shabat in Tel Aviv and are on their way up today.
It's so exciting to have family come to visit. First of all, I just enjoy it. And secondly, it gives my kids a sense of family that I think is really important. Of course, it's hard for them to put it all together ("she's who's sister? And how is he related? And your grandmother had how many siblings? And where does everyone live?) because they don't know very many of the relatives -- when I was growing up, we knew the basic lineage of the lines of my great aunts and uncles because they all lived in the same area. But it's changed a bit -- we obviously don't live near anyone, and actually the extended family which was once centered in Detroit, dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles, has now mostly left.
On the other hand, that's life. And you never know.....last week, I went to the wedding of some friends' daughter -- #6 of 7 kids. The first 5 are all married with children, and all through the wedding, the grandchildren, numbering over a dozen so far, dashed in and out between legs and under tables. So establishing a new line is another way to express the importance of family. Someone just told me that the American Jewish birthrate is 1.1 children per couple. And that's INCLUDING the 6+ kids-per-family of the average Orthodox family.