So I let my mother drag me to an an aunt and uncle’s golden wedding anniversary. I picked a dress for her some days ago when we went to the city and my mother being quite the drama queen, cried when I offered to pay for it. Now you know where I got that from.
I am usually adamant about refusing to go to family affairs but this aunt and uncle are special to me. When we were kids, my sister and I would spend summers at their house. They lived much closer to the foot of the Panay mountain ranges. Where our hills gently rolled, theirs were less gentle. Their next neighbour were several hills away. You couldn’t quite see past the next hill except to see the much taller mountains of Madia-as. Being closer to the mountains, they had more wildlife than our decidedly agricultural valleys. I lazed through many an afternoon with my cousins by the creek where they would dip their fishing lines and doze off. Some days we would go nest hunting or climbing trees just because we could I alternated my summers between them and another uncle who had a house by the sea. Those summers would set my lifelong fascination with high places and the sea.
As family gatherings usually go, it was an endless parade of people who insist you should know them but you don’t. At one point I just wanted to say, “Of course, we’re related. Our noses say so!” We all have these flat noses that mark us like Cain has marked his descendants. I gave a leery look when a good-looking young man with a beautiful nose was introduced to me as my nephew. The blood isn’t strong in this one. Either that or his father’s a cuckold. While I could tell most of my cousins, they didn’t recognise me until I introduced myself. We last saw each other maybe 20 years ago. I could tell because they looked like their mother. The one we’re related to. And they bore the familial nose that have crossed several surnames refusing to be bound by one family name alone. I was surprised to find that I was closely related to people from far and wide and people I see in town but never thought I was related to. We were never enthusiastic about family reunions. We chose to associate with relatives we liked. The ones we know who don’t talk ill about us behind our backs. As soon as we find out that a relative has been discussing us instead of going up to us directly for answers, we politely decline all invitations from them or invitations that will likely lead to us bumping into them. We don’t choose them by their means. We choose them as we choose our friends. By their loyalty and discretion. My sister and I were talking about a recent family gathering we were glaringly absent from. We learned that we were talked about for not coming. That was to be expected. They remind me of the meme that was going around lately. Crass but true. It goes like this: “Dati ang mga tsismosa nasa kapitbahay. Ngayon, high tech na. Nasa FB na sila.” Without going into the details because it would be very telling and several of them prowl the interwebs for more gossip and this would be enough fodder for them, my mother was criticised for seeing her friends instead of going to that gathering. It irritated me so much to hear it that I was waiting for somebody to mention it to me so they can get a piece of my mind. I would have told them that the reason why we excuse ourselves from these occasions is because we are tired of the hypocrisy that is a staple at these occasions. It’s like part of the menu. Bijon, Lechon, Dinuguan, Fruit Salad, Act Nicely Towards Somebody While Being Passive Aggressive, Criticise Absent Relatives. My sister and I concurred that we really don’t care about certain relatives. There are some whom we love but they are a handful. These relatives seem to have one thing in common. That they don’t care about your present station in life. They know the world goes round and we all should just make it easier for each other as much as we can without any expectations. And then there is the rest. The relatives who are only nice to you when they need something from you. They have subgroups too. But it would make this post far longer than it already is. We agreed that we didn’t grow up faking affection for these people. Why start now? While the rest of my family is polite, I am about the only one who will, if questioned, honestly, albeit rudely, answer.
I remember a funeral my mother went to some time ago. It was of a relative of ours whom I don’t know too. She knew well enough not to ask me to go because there were going to be relatives I didn’t like. True enough, at the funeral, a set of aunts were all taking turns boasting about their children with the least prompting.
“My daughter’s in the states now. She sends me 50 thousand every month.”
“My son is a ship captain now. He sends me 60 thousand a month.”
“My son may not have gone to live abroad but he’s a millionaire now!”
No mention of the son who steals to sustain his drug addiction, or the daughter whose husband beats her to a pulp if she doesn’t give him money for drugs. Picture-perfect lives. They make fun of our little hovel of a house that’s full of books (mine) and sentimental knickknacks (my mother’s and my sister’s). What they don’t realise is that we’ll choose our little hovel full of memories over their nouveau-riche petit-manses. Monstrous columned replicas of the White House painted in all the primary colors, stuffed with faux Louis the IVX furniture wrapped in plastic that block the doorways leaving you with hardly room to move around to get from one place to the next. And tiles all over from floor to roof that make you wonder if you’ve somehow wandered into an elaborate, if badly designed toilet. One of these houses even sits on our lot which they haven’t paid for. We really don’t begrudge people their joys as long as it’s not at our expense. I didn’t want to say anything until I heard how rabid they have become because of the little comforts they are now enjoying. It’s like they expect for everyone to be awed by their bad taste just because they can afford to flaunt it now. I am sorry to tell you, shit dipped in gold is still shit.
I have an aunt who especially disapproves of me. Anytime we bump into each other, she has this disdainful look on her face and I have been told she shoots her mouth about me when I am not around. This amuses me to no end. It appears that she first got ticked off when, according to her, I didn’t mind her when I first arrived and she came to visit my mother. I remember calling my mother and telling her that she, my aunt, was there. I waved at her and told her I couldn’t hug or kiss her because I was cleaning the dogs’ crates which were very dirty from the travel. I don’t think she would have appreciated being hugged and kissed by someone smelling like dog poop and pee. Then she went around telling people I was downright ignoring her. Which, of course, made me laugh and really start ignoring her. We weren’t particularly close in the first place. After that incident, there was no point in wanting to change that.
Relatives are funny. Some of them expect that just because you are related you owe them something. That if you chose to help one of them because you think they deserve help, they also feel like it should be spread around even if they have done very little to help you, or worse, they have done something to hurt you, and even more worse, they have done nothing to help themselves. They think that they can talk behind your back and you will all pretend that it’s ok when you next see each other. It would be nice for a change if they got up and got together their own shit and stopped minding other people’s business.
We may share the same noses, but we smell things differently. Stop sniffing my way and start sniffing around yours.