Dear Lela, Lamzira, Zauri, Misho, Mari, Erekle, and Caxa.
Erekle and Misho, I will forever cherish our bond. You are the little brothers I never had. Erekle, I will cherish the times we swam in the pool and watched movies on the balcony and Misho the times we went to the park and played outside. Erekle, I’ll always laugh at the funny questions that you would ask me and when Misho accidentally peed on my floor. Erekle, I remember one day I came back from the beach and I showed you my tan, you said “Brittany why would you want to be any blacker?” I couldn’t help but laugh. You were asking me a serious question and you didn’t understand why I was laughing. I had to explain that yes even though I’m already black, I also enjoy getting a tan. Erekle thank you for always being patient with me when I made mistakes speaking Georgian. Thank you for sticking up for me when you saw people treating me differently. Most of all thank you for reminding me that I should be married by now. In case you ask the next time we speak, no I’m still not married. You are a very smart young man and I believe you will grow up to be very successful. Misho I will always reminisce about playing pattycake with you and listening to Lela sing you to sleep. You are one ball of energy. I miss our walks to the local store to buy candy. Misho and Erekle I love you. Even though we may be far apart, you’re always in my thoughts. Misho I hope you always remain kind and warm. Mari thank you for always being kind to me. I know you will be a famous opera singer one day. You have so much talent and I know you will go far. My only regret is we didn’t spend more time together. You are a beautiful person both inside and out. I believe we bonded because we both love to sing. You have a very warm spirit and you light up the room. I enjoyed our talks about our thick hair dilemma. I hope you will have the opportunity to visit me in the U.S one day. I will always remember your boisterous laugh. I wish you well as you continue to pursue your passion for music.
Lamzira you are such a wonderful woman in so many ways. You work endlessly to provide for your family. I just want you to know how much you are appreciated. I enjoyed the times in classroom where we were able to learn from each other. I’m grateful for the walks home from school we shared.Thank you for always making blini because you knew how much I loved them. Thank you for opening up your home to my family and friends. Thank you for your endless hospitality. You are truly a second mother to me. I will always value our relationship. Lela I remember the first time I met you. I thought wow, she’s so pretty. She looks too young to be my host mother. I’m happy that you are apart of my life. Thank you for always being so open and willing to help. I was always amazed at how you worked tirelessly to always make sure there was something tasty to eat. I miss your pelamushi, khatchapuri, chvishtari, etc. You are a strong, beautiful, and smart woman. Erekle and Misho are lucky to have you for a mother.
Caxa thank you for being a good father to Erekle and Misho. You can’t deny how much they adore you. We didn’t spend very much time together but thank you for welcoming me into your home and your family.
Zauri thank you for sharing your family with me. For the times that you gave me a ride, thank you. You made my experience in Georgia richer.
Saying goodbye to you all was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do but it was not goodbye, it was only see you later. I love you all very much and words will never be enough to express how much you all mean to me. Although we may be separated by many miles, you all will forever be in my heart.
*Beke is the name that Misho called me
So often when we think of family, we limit it to people who are related to us. I’ve learned family might not be people you share a biological connection with. However, family are the people who lift you up and support you unconditionally. They are the people you’re connected to with your heart. I am blessed beyond measure to not only have a wonderful family whom I was born into but also because of my family who reside on the other side of the world, in the small, sometimes overlooked, country Georgia. My Georgian family and I may not share the same language, culture, or traditions but they too are my family.
Who are you thankful for this holiday season? Will you be traveling over the holidays to spend time with family?
*I was fortunate to have two gracious host families when I lived in Georgia but this post is dedicated to the Phirtskhalishvili family, who I lived for the majority of my Peace Corps service.