Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Tribe

At some moment last night, I looked at the mass of small children on the floor before me, laying, crawling, toddling, walking in a great conglomeration of arms and legs, heads and bodies, and had a vision of the future.

In twelve years, the youngest there will have just passed that year marker. There will be two thirteen-year-olds, two fourteen-year-olds, and a sixteen-year-old. Add in the other cousins from the rest of the tribe and there will be another at thirteen and an eighteen-year-old in the bunch.

The boys that now climb all over each other, squeaking out shouts of glee and pain in toddler-sized voices, will wrestle on the floor, their voices cracking between high and low notes. The girls, who now giggle and push dolly around in a stroller, will still giggle, but will be more likely to be kicking a soccer ball around in the back yard. Chubby little calves will have elongated into skinny legs. Dimpled knees will be nobby. Tiny paws will have grown into strong hands.

A part of me hopes they remain friends like they are right now. Remarkably, for a tribe made up of families who spent the past thirty-five years traversing continents on the other side of the world, these cousins have all landed in the same place for a time: seven kids spanning four years who see each other more than once a week. If the families stay where they are, they'll attend the same schools or church youth groups.

But I know this tribe; those traversed continents make for itchy feet. Already, some cousins have moved away, and these that remain may well travel the world as well. However, they'll congregate with some regularity, perhaps at holidays, or in the cool of a Michigan summer evening like last night.

Two families joined years ago and formed a tribe - it's grown since, with additions through marriage and birth, but remained joined. The crew of kiddos crawling over rocking horses and sharing dollies today will not lose their bonds. Blood, tears, joy, pain, and love join them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Quoteable Week

Home for the birth of Jonathan Lewis Warnemuende, who made his arrival a few days late at 9:56 am, Monday, August 10, 2009, weighing in at 9 lbs. 11 oz., and 21.5 inches long, I've realized once again how quoteable my family can be. Here's a few choice notes from the week so far.

In a discussion about various family members' names -
Aunt Carrie: "Ev, what's your middle name?"
Evelyn: "My middle name's not here, it's in the car."

As we waited impatiently for Baby Button to be born -
Kraig: "This kid's going to have to be named 'Spot,' as in 'Out, out, damned...'."

Upon meeting Jonathan for the first time -
Clare: "He's not in baby-land anymore!"

Talking about her 1-year-old cousin -
Evelyn: "I like Zachary. He's nice."

Upon meeting her brother -
Poppa: "Clare, what's your new brother's name?"
Clare: "C. S. Lewis."

Sitting at the breakfast table, pointing to her bent-over middle finger -
Evelyn: "Stay down! Stay down!"

Telling us about staying the night with Grandma and Grandpa W. -
Clare: "And we played Little House on the Prairie and I was Laura and Evvie was Mary. Grandpa said we should play Big House in the Suburbs."
(Then she wondered why we all started laughing)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Comfort of the Familiar

It was a few years ago that I had the realization - my entire being would relax when I heard Tagalog. It was something I'm sure I'd experienced prior to the realization, but it hit me one day that though I couldn't understand what was being said, my mind just let the words and intonations roll over it without struggle or effort.

I've since concluded that the reason for that response is based in my childhood and before. My mom was pregnant with me in the Philippines, and when we returned to the States we made lots of Filipino friends. Much of my early childhood took place surrounded by commingled Tagalog and English, and it's comfortable.

Once or twice in my life that sort of realization has hit me in other ways: when I'm surrounded by Chinese, I forget my skin color and height and think I look like them. When I enter an Asian market my mind knows exactly where to look for the products most Americans wouldn't ever think to buy.

The other week I was at the Willow Grove Walmart and an Indian family passed me in the aisle, the boy in the cart chattering away in Hindi, the parents discussing whether or not to buy this and that, their voices mingling with their son's, the tones skimming up and down scales in ways that English never does. And I closed my eyes for a moment to enjoy the sound, and felt my mind relax, without even wondering why.

Today I went to the library in my hometown. In the space of five minutes I passed four Indian families and scanned a shelf of DVDs with 3 in Hindi and 2 in Punjabi. And I suddenly realized that the faces and languages of a country I've never set foot in have become familiar comforts. When I find them in another place, I think of home.

What's home? The familiar. To me the familiar is a mix of countries and cultures. When I see those faces, hear those languages: I'm home.