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Nina's Familiar

Updated: Jul 4

Importance Of Your Familiar

After two months in her adopted home, Nina Simone, my four-month-old kitten, had explored every inch of the house that she has access to. This morning she ran across the room at lightning speed, jumped on the chair in one leap and bounded onto the window sill to peer out at the falling rain. The open window is one of her playgrounds for watching birds, squirrels and passing vehicles. She tries to catch flies against the screen. This is one of her “familiars.”


Nina has several places that define home. She knows where food and litter reside. Her kitty bed and toys are nestled in place. She knows where her favorite scratch locations are. But, most important, Nina is at home where human relationships are familiar. There are rules about walking on the table and breaking plants that are reinforced as forbidden in a language she understands, a sharp NO. She understands that these places are best visited when alone. Nina knows that the consequences of decision-making earn either a treat or punishment.


The familiar, once set in place, if uprooted, can be traumatic. Beyond kittens, what do our familiar mean? They include community lifestyles passed to us as a legacy to be preserved. When immigrants and migrants relocate to unfamiliar territory, they seek out their identity group. Ethnic enclaves were created to simulate the homeland familiar with a shared language, dress, customs and lifestyles. They support and ease newcomers into safety with physical and physiological adjustments for the new normal away from home.


Preserving the familiar is incorporated into orthodox ethnic and religious orders. The Amish originated in Switzerland in 1693, with German influences. On arrival in America between 1717 and 1750, Old Order Amish continued to regulate lifestyles that align with traditional interpretations of simple Christian standards. They resisted modern technology. Today they ride in horse-drawn buggies, dress plainly and typically operate farms with manual labor. What bars them from taking an easier route with electric tools and modern conveniences with technology just outside their door? The answer is the same for all orthodox groups, to avoid disruption of their familiar. Those who leave traditional communities are still tied to early teachings that impact the course of their lives. Shunning or community rejection sometimes results in suicide.


Other ways of preserving the familiar are honoring traditions and teaching them to the next generation. During festival, immigrant groups parade the streets of their city wearing homeland garb and carrying homeland flags. Traditional languages are sometimes heard and celebrations of origin homelands are on display. Every American ethnic group participates in homeland observances that recognize origin holidays regardless of longevity or levels of assimilation. Festival means partaking homeland cuisines and telling homeland stories to reinforce who they are. Always remember home.


I have read about homeland groups struggling to relearn traditional languages displaced by invasion conquers that stripped them of cultural lifestyles. They learn to appreciate differences within their society while recognizing the uniqueness of origin legacies. Taking back what is your is knowing who you are.


Those who casually dismiss or blatantly support homeland invasions, however well meaning, are advocates for native's homeland familiar disruption. It may be perceived as loving, because the natural and predictable consequences are not taught. Disrupting the familiar is underrated and misunderstood. It is fresh ground to ferment resentments, leading to chaos and wars. It is fertile fields to plant hatred and destruction. Silent hate can erupt with strikes against change makers. Can it be more straightforward than this?


Like Nina, we must respect and enjoy our familiar. Once altered, it can never be the same as before, just changed.

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