Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dear Extended Family

I used to squirm being in a room for extended periods of time with my relatives. Aunties who told me I was too skinny and should be eating more or that I was getting fat because I was eating too much. When dinners of roasted lechon and pots full of rice were an excuse to pry into your life. Who was courting you? Who was your boyprend? they would ask in that psuedo-american yet distinctly filipino accent. It made me anxious, bored, annoyed.

And then this kind of funny thing happens. 

You stop getting anxious, bored, annoyed. Because maybe you've been away for a while or maybe you've seen somebody without copious amounts of relatives or some other alternative universe that makes you appreciate the gifts you get for christmas that you will never use in a million years, or the way that only your relatives can get away with calling you by that name

Because it means you're part of this Family. And that one day, too, you might be that aunty giving identical pairs of t-shirts you got at a bargain price from K-Mart to all your nephews at Christmas. You could be that uncle that gets drunk and says inappropriate things at all the appropriate occasions. 

It grounds you and gives you roots. And having roots is essential. Otherwise you float away. Grounding in the form of your parents' parents who changed your nappies when you were a child and fed you and put you to sleep. Grounding in the form of cousins who know what you looked like when you were hitting puberty with craters of pimples between your eyes and all the dorky clothes you used to wear.

Relatives are like a living museum, a collection of memorabilia that remind you that you will always have a seat at a Christmas dinner, that there will always be a gift wrapped under the tree with your name on it, that you are not forgotten and will not be forgot. 

Family that looks like a fun-house mirror reflection of yourself. The way that you start off as that cute little baby that gets passed around and somehow transition into that kind-of-adult that's playing with the little kids and teaching them how to assemble lego models of cars or ambulances or trucks.

I somehow forgot how much I missed it all. The routines and the traditions and the belly-ache of too much food. The huge chaos of noise that is the sum of the movie the kids are trying to watch, the stories some aunt is always trying to tell, the comment some other aunt is trying to interrupt with and the murmurs of the men drinking beer and talking politics. Somewhere in the midst of all the noise is the soundtrack to years of family memories.

I guess after having two Christmases away from home, being back just felt good. 

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