Posts Tagged ‘relatives’

Distant Relations

16 January 2011

Dear J-

Earlier in the week we got a call from theVet’s parents:  could they come over, they asked, and visit this weekend? It’s beyond ungrateful to refuse and it’s not like we ever have big weekend plans so of course we said yes. They asked for directions to the local Korean grocery before coming and after a brief struggle between my landmark-based navigation (no, left AFTER the car dealership. I dunno, Chevvies and Jeeps?) arrived safely at our house, where the work began. Her mom went to the kitchen and busied herself there while her dad plunked down on the couch to watch soccer — without cable, there’s not a lot of choice here.

It was eerily similar to what theVet’s sister has said about visits to her house:  mom cooks up a storm while dad withdraws to the television, and it’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself at every gathering I’ve been to lately. After the screaming freeze-out that followed figgy’s birth I’m glad that we’re talking again, but it’s a cordial, distant feeling. We like you, you like us, I can already see that in order to avoid the stranger-danger reaction that figgy has we’ll have to inject ourselves, bit by bit, into your lives. I just can’t help but feel the guilt of ingratitude — I’m thankful they’re here, and they’re making the effort, I am, but there are times I wish the routine we have wasn’t disrupted. The obligation of entertainment and company shouldn’t be this hard.

My brother is now living in Taiwan. I sometimes think that his wife is happiest about that — she’s originally from there, so there’s that but there’s also the fact that my parents, in order to move down from the snow of Cheney, moved to San Jose not far from them and were integral parts of their lives (weekend babysitters, spare drivers) for a few years. I’m beginning to understand. On the other hand perhaps it’s exactly what we need.

Mike

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Hat Trick

15 June 2009

Dear J-

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They say a Gordie Howe hat trick consists of a goal, an assist, and a fight. Today was no exception, as we did end up making it to Monterey (just an hour away) for a visit to the aquarium — the goal — with a stop for lunch where I bought wildly overpriced noodles that figgy ended up rejecting anyway — the assist — and not before quarreling with theVet over reading each other’s minds — obviously the fight. Three adults and three children fit neatly into our little van, but at the end of the day it’s the adults who are exhausted and the kids who need judo to work out those last bits of aggression — twelve hours of fun make for a long day.

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In between we had the chance to go strawberry-picking, one of those activities that seem faintly ridiculous — don’t we pay other folks to do that for us? — until you see the effect it has on kids, entranced with heavy fruit, the sweet scent filling your head, and the obsessive quest for the best berries. We passed by the supercritical plant at Moss Landing on the way from Aquarium to field, a fitting reminder of how the industrial world keeps intruding on what was a rural network of farms and towns. I had a vision of San Jose being an impenetrable maze of similarly-named freeways and houses huddled behind concrete sound walls, but the truth lies somewhere south, in the garlic-scented air of Gilroy, by the roadside stands lines up from Watsonville to Castroville; like the Boston of my mind, the edge between city and country is abrupt and dramatic. Beauty is never where you expect it.

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My nephew is quite fond of pigeons; the last visit to San Diego, we found him chasing the ones in Balboa Park without much luck; at the time I assumed it was the cruelty born of youth, but now I suspect it may have been to hear the dry rasp of feathers ruffled through hurry. Today sitting on the wharf and eating our leftover ham sandwiches (he, feeding the strays with bread crusts) our fellow picnickers disgorged a child who was, with limited success, actually trying to kick said pigeons. My first instinct was to see what kind of parents would encourage sociopath-in-training tendencies, but as it turns out, they either didn’t care or didn’t notice — not sure which was worse; so while I sat and fretted over what to ask them, my eight-year-old wise nephew told the kid to stop, asking how he’d feel with a giant pigeon kicking him (come to think of it, said pigeon would probably just eat the kid raw — at least that’s how Roald Dahl would write it). Smart. Our future is secure.

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After dinner we headed off to watch nearly the whole family participate in judo; figgy sat on the bench and snapped her arms in unconscious imitation. The life — her life — is fast-approaching and it’s not always clear where we should be going next; just as the class started shuffling in orbit of the mat I was struck by a clear memory of that morning, watching a small school of fish flying in formation through the big kelp tank. We could do worse than to encourage the group dynamic, pushing her in boisterous celebration of life.

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Mike

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New You

22 March 2009

Dear J-

Some days it feels like work is real life, but coming home reminds me that we’ve got a new person living in the house too.  Relatively speaking, new, I suppose; while it has been nearly two years already, it simultaneously feels the most natural thing in the world and the strangest too — who is this little person and why does she feel so free with us?  I remember soon after moving down to San Diego my brother came to visit with his family; we walked all over LEGOLAND without him showing any sings of flagging, despite having two kids under five.

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They explained that they did this every weekend, found some fun activities to do, trying to build memories, even if maybe they didn’t stick, that they’d know there were plenty of fun times to be had with family, and not just the immediate, nuclear family.  theVet and I looked at each other roughly two hours in — we were standing there, caught in the rain, wearing LEGO-issued plastic ponchos — and wondered simultaneously of how anyone could rationally conceive of conceiving, if it meant this kind of forced death-march through and around amusement parks.

You find the energy in yourself, even if you end up exhausted in a puddle on the carpet at home.  We need to get around to visiting more family, as there’s still a decided gap between, say, our relationship with figgy as compared with her grandparents, uncles, aunts.  It does take some effort, but the work is pleasant, and the hours pass by quickly:  two years already and it still feels new.

Mike