Every family has one designated favorite relative. The one all the kids want seated at the kiddie table at weddings and reunions. The one who leads the most exciting life according to your young mind; the adult you want to become. You might say the one lit by joie de vivre. I’ll give you a moment to think about your own family and identify this person.
In my case, my mom comes from a very large family (Jon and Kate Plus 8 have nothing on either of my parents) but survey any of my cousins and we’ll each most likely name Auntie M, aka Cô Phụng. She’s my mom’s younger sister. My earliest memory is that my aunt zipped around Saigon on a motorized scooter, independent and carefree. She was just too cool for words. Not to say that I didn’t think the world of my mom who was, for her generation in VN, way ahead of her times as an American-educated working mom. Just that… since I was very little I liked the idea of complete freedom on shiny motorized things, unemcumbered by maternal strings. But in time Auntie M married Uncle G,
had a precious child–yikes, my cousin ML will kill me for this, but how cute is this picture?–
and 35 years later we all got together on a recent Saturday in Sacramento to celebrate their wedding anniversary, Hawaiian style!
ML officiated as her parents renewed their vows…
at the luau that was planned by my other cousin E, who also made the cake in the first photo. She’s a new mom to baby W,
whom I got to snuggle a little bit:
There were good food,
great live music,
fantastic hula dancing (loved all the costume changes!),
and of course blackmail-worthy moments (just kidding) (sortof)…
We all loved seeing Uncle G get down, though. He had recently had a very serious operation so this was more than just an anniversary celebration.
Family reunions almost always instantly age you, especially when they start passing the photo albums around. The younger generations remind you that life happens in a heartbeat. But by far the freakiest moment for me was seeing pictures of my parents when they were younger than I am now–here they are on the left all those years ago,
and here they are, another lifetime later:
The most sentimental moment for me, though, was seeing pictures of my maternal grandparents, who both passed away when I was in law school.
In my keepsakes box I have these envelopes on which my grandfather wrote, in his beautiful handwriting, some random thoughts to me. It was always a little odd that the short notes were written on the envelopes themselves, but I think in an unspoken way he was happy each time I stopped by to see them and these notes recorded those visits. In this picture of my grandmother, whose life is a novel waiting to be made into a movie, I finally realize why I find sweet familiarity in Modigliani portraits of oval faced women.
It breaks my heart a little that life can’t be as permanent as death. And that there is as much sadness as joy in happy memories. The only coping mechanism to all this nostalgia is our human ability to make new memories. So as I already wrote my Auntie M, we’re doing this again for their 40th. And this time, I want to plan the party!