Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Tis the season to be jolly

The best part about the holiday season is celebrating it together with the whole family, from across the many cities, states and countries we otherwise normally reside in. Over the past week, I've had the good fortune of playing Aunt to two young and spunky nephews and one adorable niece. And it's interesting to see how their young minds process familial relationships.

"Did you know that I'm your Daddy's daddy?" asked my father-in-law of his eldest grandchild.

The look of utter astonishment on the young boy's face was priceless. We all fitted in the neat tidy labels he had stuck on us from the time that he could talk. Grandpa. Grandma. Uncle. Aunt. Mom. Dad. But how they connected - or that they connected at all - was too much of a revelation!

It made me think of the first time I found out my mother's mother's real name was not Nani. I must have been around eight, and was in the process of writing out her address on an envelope that would carry my first real letter to her. I was just about to address it to 'Nani' when my mother swooped in at the appropriate moment. At first, I thought it was a joke, and I'm not sure exactly what tipped me off that it wasn't (maybe it was my seven-years-older sister cackling loudly at my apparent ignorance), but once the fact sunk in, I remember feeling oddly foolish. That I did not even know this wonderful, loving and always smiling woman's name.

Years later, I had a similar feeling when my father's mother passed away. I was much older then. But what left me feeling foolish this time around was that though I knew her name and a few other personal details, I didn't know much else about her. Like why she had her name tattooed on to her wrist, or what was it like to be a police officer's wife, or what was it like to have her youngest sister be born in the same year that she had had her first child?

My nephew will have his turn in figuring out the essentials. Learning what's important and what's not. I just hope we do a better job of filling in the blanks.

The holiday season sure is a time for family. Past. Present. And new. :)


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