Saturday, December 26, 2009

Family Through the Ages

Today is the day after Christmas, and everyone in the house is still asleep at 8:08 AM except for Herb and me. We tend to be both the late-stayer-uppers and the early-risers in this household, currently consisting of my mom, Frances, who lives with us here, my brother, Jon, on a 3-week visit, and our daughter, Cece, and her fiancee, Jamie, who live in Springfield, Mass., where Cece is half-way through law school.

Tink, our 10-year old Devon Rex kitty, has been up long enough to yowl for treats from both Herb and me, and is now back on the heating grate in the front hallway, sleeping. Tink always reminds me of the simple pleasures, like a nap at any time someplace warm. Given the extreme cold of this Christmas season and the multiple snowfalls and snow storms, I am also reminded of the homeless and the poor, because a home cannot be taken for granted nor heat on a cold winter's night.

It started snowing again at about 7:00 AM, and it's coming down steadily. That should make for a good day of skiing and snowboarding for Cece, Jamie, and my son, Corin, and his boys, Tristan and Aidan, at the Eldora Mountain Resort, a mere 45 minutes away, assuming the sun makes an appearance to brighten the day. Back in the day when I ventured out on skinny waxed sticks, I only liked to ski on bright, sunny days. It was often icy in spots and felt depressing on the gray days even if the powder was fresh. Bright, sunny days always make me feel glad to be outdoors, high up in the mountains, breathing fresh-smelling air, the hairs in my nostrils icing up, and seeing for miles to the next mountain peaks in these beautiful, dense Colorado Rockies.

My favorite Christmas gift this year came from Herb. It's a flower decorated collapsible cane. That's right - a cane! My trick right knee has become more temperamental in recent months, and the cane, when I do use it, will give me an extra measure of confidence in rising from my computer desk. I confess to sitting too many hours without moving, the curse of being addicted to the online delights of reaching out beyond my physical locale to the larger world. Multiple online friendships are irresistible to an extreme extrovert.

The most extravagant gift came from Steel - a Flip video camera. As Steel says, he has asked me numerous times to record some video when I've been traveling, and he has now given me the tool to do it. Video is an interesting subject to me (and Herb), because we never videoed any of our daughter's growing up, unlike many other parents. In the past, we felt the video camera interfered with the actual living out of the moment.

Plus even now, I have little patience for viewing videos, whether they're YouTube videos recommended by Facebook friends or videos of family and friends and their memorable moments. Likewise, I have always favored reading - whether it's a book, a magazine or an online article - rather than listening to a podcast or books-on-tape. I suppose you could call me a dinosaur in terms of video media. I'm a visual learner, but listening to or watching electronic media feels slow to me, or maybe narrow is a more accurate assessment, in terms of capturing only the recorder's perspective.

I'm actually very grateful and delighted to receive this Flip video camera, because I now have a purpose for it. Just two days ago, Jon and I were talking with Mom about recording her reflections on our family's history. Neither Jon nor I read and write Chinese, and it would be virtually impossible for us to trace our family's genealogy after Mom dies. We know our grandparents and great-grandparents as characters in stories, but we don't know them as links in a family history that spans 25 generations on my mother's side. (Following up on Dad's side would be even harder, because his remaining American siblings don't read and write Chinese either, and we don't know the sibs in China and Hong Kong.)

Mom actually has a copy of a written genealogy, which she brought out to show us. What's interesting to note is that only the sons and their male children are reflected on the chart. We don't even know how many daughters were born into each generation. In the Chinese culture, the children belong to the father and his family. Thus, children of daughters are not part of the mothers' families, but are part of their fathers' families. So, the girls disappeared not only due to infanticide and second-class treatment when nurture and medical attention were dispensed, because of a historical cultural bias favoring male offspring, but also by just not being counted and accounted for.

What is remarkable about my mother and her family is that her grandfather was the sole Christian in the family, who were Buddhists, and he mandated that both girls and boys be taught to read and write. Without my great-grandfather's leadership and example, our history on my mother's side would surely have been lost to our branch of the family, because there would have been no one to note and record it.

I feel like I owe it to my mixed ethnicity children and grandchildren to capture some of our Chinese family's history for them, because as each generation intermarries, more and more of our ethnic heritage becomes diluted and is lost permanently. Assimilation may not happen by choice for one's self, but it does happen through the choice of whom we fall in love and have children with. Like the Borg say, resistance is futile when it comes to assimilation, which happens even when we're paying attention.

1 comment:

Anne said...

I think it is a wonderful idea to use your camera to record your mother. We don't do enough of that...I've missed so many opportunities to do this too.

Sounds like you had a good happy for you!

All good wishes,