Our guests left for Manila the other night. After returning from dropping Uncle Jeff, Auntie Kathy and Isabelle at the airport, our home took on the usual stillness and silence that is typically the case when guests have just left. I was a little sad for a moment but at the same time very glad to have had a week with them and the chance to rebuild relationships. During the drive to LAX, I was telling Auntie Kathy that what I would remember most fondly about their stay were the little things: like grilling steaks in the backyard with Uncle Jeff, late night chats over green tea, Auntie Kathy making us breakfast every morning before work, and watching the finals of American Idol with Isabelle. Little things that seem so ordinary but for me helped me reconnect with each one of them.
Strange as it may seem, I grew up very close and at the same time quite distant to my relatives (my mom and dad’s parents, siblings and their kids). We were close because we saw each other quite frequently on special occasions, most major holidays, and even on weekends just to have lunch or dinner at my grandparents’ homes. We were close because we knew what was going on with each other and because relatives living in Manila just naturally gathered together often. But at the same time, I did feel there was a distance as well. Yes, we did gather together all the time, but because meals were hurried and people had things to do, all we normally had time for was a quick “hello” and then it would be time to move on. Because I had so many relatives, conversations were usually just general chatting. There never seemed to be enough time to really sit down with each one and talk. Of course, when I was much younger, playing with my cousins was top priority and then when I became a teenager, I was preoccupied with my friends. When I passed my teen years, it just seemed like that’s how it was with everyone coming over and leaving all together. So we were resigned to polite “hi’s” and “see you next time’s”. I didn’t really get to know much about my relatives back home.
What I like about being here in LA, is having family come over to visit and stay a while. Starting with my immediate family (mom, dad, Jim, Joy, Atsi, Jules). And also my in-laws (there are too many to mention). I’ve had the pleasure of having Uncle Wash and Auntie Pizza visit. Auntie Scarl, Auntie Mimi and Auntie Christine were here too. Of course, Auntie Julie and Uncle Raniel have been here quite often. And even Uncle Junior and Auntie Lillian who came for my wedding. My cousins Jill, Chris, Notsky and even Leanne have also stopped by to stay a day or two. Each time, I am able to "reconnect that closeness” (or actually “discover it for the first time”), but more than that I am able to discover a new way to look at my relationship with each of them. This last visit from Uncle Jeff, Auntie Kathy and Isabelle was no different. At first, I was worried about their coming over since it’s been 7 years since we last saw them. What would we talk about? What would we have in common? Interestingly enough, things turned out very well, we did find things to talk about, we did find things we had in common, and we did have differences that made conversations far from boring. Their 7-day stay with us was over far too quickly which is why Jojo and I even encouraged them to extend their stay over the Memorial Day holiday. Too bad they could not.
I thought about why I now seem to have a “better” relationship with my visiting family. Perhaps it is because I am away from home and seeing them so infrequently has made me appreciate the time we have even more. Perhaps I am older and wiser which makes friends and family just so much more important. Perhaps I have come to value my relationships because life here is just so unbelievably hectic that I find comfort in looking back to what is familiar and safe. Regardless of what it may be, I am glad to have this chance to mend old bonds and hopefully build more lasting ties.