THE Christmas season is teeming with family reunions. For all their accompanying dread of being scrutinized, pinched, judged, commented on, ignored, whispered about, or the rising of zombie-like childhood/teenage issues of rivalries and jealousies, family reunions continue to live on.
Your parents might have dragged you to some of them. Your face gets cramped with all the smiling as you are introduced to a whole lot of people whose names you can never seem to remember.
You get presented as the daughter or son of your parents who in turn are the sons and daughters, grandson or granddaughter of a member of a bygone era. Your eyes, your nose, your lips, and your skin color become that of everyone else’s except yours.
Names of dead people live on. They get immortalized in the stories that each representative of the family gets to tell on stage. How you wish you could have met them. Their stories are simply amazing. So amazing that you realize, in death, people only remember the good things. Even a black sheep gets white-washed.
That is until late in the evening when everyone had their fair share of drinks and emotional unearthing. Then you will hear all the nasties and the dirty little secrets that are now heavily sprinkled with light-hearted banters, laughter, and the occasional shaking of heads.
For some, the appeal of the seemingly endless feast is what gets them up and joining. Filipino reunions’ version of mortal sin is a party without overflowing food and drinks. You start with a super heavy lunch complete with lechon, pancit, at least two varieties of cooked rice, three more dishes composed of either or all pork, chicken, and fish, and desserts galore that goes on to the evening dinner or until the last guest has left with their doggy bag.
Meeting your famous (or infamous) or legendary, cousin, tito, tita, lolo, or lola, is also one of the perks. New graduates find that attending family reunions are most beneficial to kicking off their careers. Suddenly, you have one full page of people in your target network and referrals page. Now you know who to contact on your next travel to Mindanao, New York, Dubai, or Singapore.
Suddenly, without really having to work for anything, your sense of pride in belonging to a family of doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, teachers, religious, lawyers, politicians, or business people rises up to the brim.
But most of all, family reunions survive and thrive because nothing else grounds you as much as family. Nothing else gives as much shared history, a history that whether you accept or deny will forever be a part of who you are. Despite rivalries, opposing views, and personality clashes, you feel the undeniable thread that connects family love in a way so deep everyone still comes to gather as one.
Meeting and reconnecting with relatives can give you glimpses of your loved ones’ past, to a time when they were their own persons besides the mom or dad you’ve always regarded them to be. You get to appreciate them as individuals with as much ups and downs as you do.
Hearing stories of great grandparents or people who have passed away enlightens you of the fact that time is moving so fast. Those people were just like you and now they live only in the stories told about them. Doesn’t that move you into creating a wonderful story of your own? A story that may be simple but will be lovingly shared by those who intimately know you.
In this year’s family reunion, why not be fully present? Whatever else happens, it can be one heck of a learning experience.