Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

Three Games

25 November 2010

Dear J-

American thanksgiving is drawing to a close, three football games, twenty-three pounds of turkey, and one bowl of questionable stuffing later (they say never to eat the dressing that’s been in the bird, but you have to live sometime).  Raw numbers add up but don’t make much sense when you’re considering what to be thankful for, after all.

After having gathered a blended family (my parents, theVet’s parents, us, and theVet’s sister’s family) into one cheerful organism at a single house, my mom called for a prayer before lunch (and here I was confused:  like gravy that tastes like flour and cranberry sauce from a can, the one thing I always could anticipate was no prayer), which my father-in-law obligingly provided.  While I was trying to shush figgy before I knew it the hastily mumbled benediction was over and it was time for food.

Which I didn’t go after immediately, of course.  No sooner had we set him down than Calcifer began letting us know he was alone, and sad about it to boot.  So much of the meal was spent in shifts, first helping figgy with cutting the meat into savory bits, then joggling Calcifer and keeping him amused with swings and dips.  The kid’s hours are all flipped around, but I recognize the pattern:  bolting awake upright with darkness all around, the cries receding into sobs every couple of hours.  I did get to eat.  You pick the times when you’re allowed, and you’re thankful for having as much as you’re given.



T-Day Visit

23 November 2010

Dear J-

My folks are visiting tonight as part of the parade of faces for Calcifer to enjoy; he has given them the same steady regard he has given everyone else so far, gazing past or through them but starting to bring the world into focus.  When he does gain some focus on them I wonder if he’ll see them (or us) as I do:  well-meaning, even-handed, occasionally exasperating, and tinged with a bit of guilt.

I am a disappointing son in several different ways, preferring to hold my family at arms-length and providing contact in sporadic, as-needed fashion.  I was also a demanding one growing up:  things needed to be my way, now, and in no uncertain terms, lest they receive the dreaded sulking lip.  Even today I’m not the most steady personality, blowing up at the slightest provocation in inconsistent fashion — it’s like living with a bomb, which has the rest of the family counseling patience.

At times I wonder why anyone would choose to live with me, which is the real source of my holiday blues:  reflections on the person I am, not who I want to be.  But of course there’s nothing worse than self-pity, unless it’s despair that self-pity is all you can muster for a full day with more to look forward to tomorrow:  what plans, what frustrations lie to be conquered (and which should just be ignored — work being first amongst those).  Instead of ruminating on the regrets of today, think about what you can do to make tomorrow better.


Today Tonight

26 November 2009

Dear J-

And so today I’m thankful for zzz … folks like to shout out their favorite holidays — Thanksgiving and Halloween being some of the popular choices, as for most of us, they involve a lot of food and generally warm feelings (especially for those of us who don’t spend the day slaving over a stove — I offer, but everyone knows better by now than to let me anywhere near edible preparations). Christmas tends to be a bit too much pressure for most to really enjoy: between preparations for guests and fighting crowds, everyone spends the first few weeks of December in a sour mood.

Thanksgiving in the States, on the other hand, sneaks up like a favored cousin: you run along high on sugar for a couple of days after the candy-fest of Halloween, stop off for Veteran’s Day on the way, and before you know it you’re stuck on the road with a million other drivers on the way to the inevitable overindulgence. And yet if it wasn’t for the traffic today would have been nigh-perfect, figgy running around and charming after the initial shyness (she has learned how to kiss, albeit moistly), good food, good company, good memories: the cousin confessing her wishbone wish hoping all days could be like this.

We have holidays to remind us of different things: Labor Day isn’t just a day off, New Year’s Day is redolent with the promise of fresh starts, but it shouldn’t take a special day set aside to proclaim what we’re thankful for. We’re all some mother’s child, after all.


Home Push

25 November 2009

Dear J-

Every morning, just like that scene in Edward Scissorhands, garages open and spill people onto small streets, merging onto larger arterials until they meet the freeway and we all wait obediently for the light to change.  Green means go.  We pick our departure times based on when we want to get there, based on how long it took us before; if it’s a new place it’s not unreasonable to allow a few extra moments for orientation, unless it’s the journey we’re after.

On my bike, when it’s not majestically attempting to ingest its own chain and spill me forward, I watch it all unfold with an unmatched sense of superiority and trepidation; there is nothing so arrogant and vulnerable as the thirty-odd pounds of metal and rubber supporting a human, ego and all, in America.  It turns out a third of my daily three-hour commute is spent experiencing San Diego by bike, and much of it on the nigh-highways of Balboa or Genesee, where you may rage at the vehicles which would brush you aside as easily and carelessly as an insect, despite your gentle protestations that you’re doing your part to combat global warming.

There’s a marked contrast in the mornings, no one quite yet weaned off the coffee drip and treading lightly amongst each others enormous buffer zones, and the afternoons, where we’re all pushing each other in our haste to get there, wherever there may be.  On this Thanksgiving eve we cut out of work a little early to beat traffic and we pushed it all the way home, trickling back down the veins and freeways to the smallest capillaries, waiting to be absorbed back into our families, back into life.


Guilty Party

26 November 2006

Dear J-

How much easier is it just to be able to say no and have it stick? My folks are on the road back to their (new) home in the Bay Area (ha ha — try to find a ‘Liu’ in the Bay Area — you can’t possibly liuse lose your way) after having dropped by for a surprise visit. I believe that, being the completely ungrateful worthless son I am, I had something to do with them leaving a couple of days early, cover story of ‘Cyber Monday’ notwithstanding.

For the first time in fourteen years, I’m living in the same state as my parents. I knew it would lead to increased visits, but I had no idea it might be unannounced, 500-mile jaunts. Black Friday, after determining how sales might affect our finances (we chose to put off purchases — property taxes and mortgage payments add up), we were just about to slip into a delicious leftover-induced coma, when a call from my mom told me to expect them … in half an hour. Wha?

Turns out that they’d been rejected from Black Friday sales (no parking spaces at 4am spells desperation) and had spent the morning going back and forth on whether or not to come down (because of holiday traffic, my dad said no, my mom said yes … after two hours, guess which side won?). My weekend has been full of driving — Thursday, to LA County; Saturday, Orange County and Hacienda Heights; Sunday, Orange County again, just can’t seem to stay away. The Saturday trip was fun — I got to see my cousin again, after swearing to see her again soon every time we meet (yes, it’s been over a year and you’d think I could make the time to head up to Irvine once in a while). We went to a Buddhist Temple after shopping/dining in Rowland Heights — once again, I’m struck by the differences in Chinatowns (compare Monterey Park/Rowland Heights to San Francisco — it’s not just land value, is it?). Now that I think about it, that was just down the road a bit from you, eh, J-?

Friday afternoon was marked with swearing, hustling, and cleaning the guest bedroom (I’ve been using it as a ‘staging area’ for things to be taken to the thrift store while I transform the storage/bedroom into a nursery — oh so slowly; theVet doesn’t deserve that level of ineptitude in her life). Clean the litterboxes. Vacuum, quickly, so quickly. New sheets — aren’t these the same ones they used last year? Hmm. At best, we weren’t in the most charitable, welcoming moods as they rolled up the drive; at worst, we drove them out a day earlier than they expected.

I don’t mind, I really don’t when they drop in, expected or not. TheVet has a different take on things, probably because she sees the state the house is in as a reflection on herself and her abilities — well, she’s not controlling the numerous storage boxes I have lying around, or the slow state of cleanup, or the dithering I do (doesn’t the Smithsonian take unsolicited ‘donations?’ I’ve got an ancient Magnavox Odyssey — in box — I’d like to see go to a place everyone can see). It stresses her out, even when I know they could care less about the disarray (they’re too thrilled about the pregnancy, and they need only look in a mirror to see other pack rats of my caliber — I learned it from somewhere, damnit). She gets short; I get nervous, and caught in the middle — somewhere between this woman I live with and the adults I used to. I understand why they want to come; I understand why it’s an imposition of the highest degree; I understand there’s no right side to choose; I understand once they leave, she’ll be back to sanity; I understand they can’t know what she’s thinking aside from the prickly coldness every time someone that’s not us is in the house.

It doesn’t make it easier, and I’m pretty sure I botched it again this time, sending them home a day earlier than they’d planned. Well, that’s guilt; as I’ve said before the Catholics don’t have anything on Asian parents. I want them to stay as long as they feel welcome, and I can’t know how to make them feel as welcome as they need to. I’m sure I’ll get over it only to feel bad the next time over something else.

How do you get a ‘no’ to stick without feeling like the worst person in the world? Boy, this’ll be fun when the kids are out … I’m hearing that it’s either ‘Cedric’ (after C.Diggory) or ‘Sadie’ (after S.Frost), but that’s just for now. What fun this must be, waiting waiting waiting for some discipline and thicker skin to show up in your life.


Thanksgivings Past

24 November 2006

Dear J-

Every year I remember the first snow of the year would fall Thanksgiving night. Maybe it was only the afterglow of turkey and pie, or seeing all the Chinese students in the local university (where I grew up, there weren’t a lot of folks who looked like me and my dad, perhaps picking up on this, would invite all the students out for Thanksgiving — partly for their benefit, being so far from home, and partly for mine, I’m sure), but there that first snow always made the world anew. Not just the obvious blanket, but with it, new hope as well.

I’d wish on that first snow of the year. Every year could be a new start, a chance to change things and reject those ideas you never liked about yourself. Did it ever show, coming back after that long weekend, that here was a completely new man? Like those vacuum-sealers, suck out all the bad things, and damn the wrinkles on the way. What’s even scary about change, anyway? Take the plunge, just do it, make it so, carpe diem. J-, one of the friends I’ve made told me when he moved from Mexico, he decided to change himself, and having no history or baggage, transform from the introvert he was to the genial guy who can’t keep quiet (all in a good way) he is now.

It’s too easy to blame the situation for not choosing earlier to step up and take the chance on change; when you live in the same town for seventeen years, everything you’ve ever done gets seared into local lore. Din’t he pee his pants in fourth grade? Math classes at college, I remember that. I started to realize this when the eighth grade English teacher pulled out someone’s old assignment from five years back — I knew the author, I knew that I’d be able to achieve a limited immortality should I choose to put the right amount of effort into it.

But was it enough? No, no, gotta have more, gotta make sure that no one ever forgets. So, back to Thanksgiving, not as much a chance to do something new as a chance to renew that vicious competitive streak and make sure that everything remains as unforgettable as yesterday. Me me me; I begin to suspect the whole point of having kids is, in some way, just so that there’s one person on earth who won’t forget who you are.

I did like all the holidays, growing up. I never quite understood why Lunar New Year fell on a weird date (or, for that matter, why the Gregorian calendar arbitrarily breaks the year in the middle of winter — wouldn’t the first hint of spring be more appropriate?). Everyone says that Thanksgiving is their favorite, though, and it’s true for me, too. My chance to start things fresh, stamping footprints in the first snow under those sodium lights, shuffling to school in the satisfaction of a new secret. J-, what were your family traditions?