Great-Grandma’s Birthday Dinner

It’s 5:35 in the morning and in this entry – the first part of it, at least – is coming to you from the Kam Shopping Center Starbucks. For reasons unknown to me, the gate at the Damien parking lot opens especially late (by my standards) on Monday mornings. I know that if I headed into work right now, I’d end up parking in the back lot, then have to walk up to my classroom, only to move my car later in the morning. Considering the weather, I chose this instead. I suppose I’ll bang this out for 30 minutes or so.

Now she kind of looks like old Goobi.

Now she kind of looks like old Goobi.

My side of the family had a party for my grandmother’s birthday last night at Buzz’s in Aiea. The timing was perfect, we all arrived before the post-Pro Bowl traffic got really bad. I told my brother that I was slightly disturbed by a trend that emerged this weekend. My usual schedule on Saturday and Sunday involves getting up before Lynnette and Madison to start or continue laundry while simultaneously getting a game of NCAA Football in. I did that on both days this weekend, but I also pulled an “Al Higa” which is also known as the “mid-day nap.” Generally, this is Lynnette’s realm. But for reasons I hope have nothing to do with advancing age, I passed out in the middle of the day two days in a row.

When I awoke from my nap yesterday afternoon, Lynnette gave me a half-hair cut, which is basically just the sides. It’s really short again because that should mean I need to cut it again less frequently. It also means I’ll be besieged by sarcastic comments from my students like “Ho, not the skin fade, ah?” Well, I wasn’t the only one to get a fresh cut. Lynnette also cut Mad’s bangs. You’ll notice they look similar to Lynnette’s self-hair cut. I know that Lynnette loves Madison endlessly, but part of that surely has to stem from the fact that Madison’s the living, breathing version of Lynnette’s best dress-up doll.

Same way she holds a cherry. Didn't end up the same place as cherries do, though.

Same way she holds a cherry. Didn’t end up the same place as cherries do, though.

As my family talked sporadically through mouthfuls of delicious red meat, Madison picked at her dinner. She ate some pineapple, some garlic bread, and a baked potato (no green onions). She decided that she “doesn’t like broccoli anymore” on a whim to the surprise of absolutely no one. If it were up to her, she’d eat candy and other similar snacks in two-hour intervals for the rest of her life. But it’s not up to her. Well, we try at least.

Over dinner, we were able to rehash some family lore, including the courtship between my uncle (my dad’s youngest brother) and my aunt. My aunt was 26 when she first started dating my uncle. I told her that that seemed right because I remember her being “youngish” when I first met her. It might have had something to do with the fact that she played tapeball with us outside at my grandma’s house back then. That’s when I realized she was as old as Tanya, my sister-in-law is now. Wow. And then finally, I was reminded of the fact that their daughter was born the year I graduated from high school. She’s a beautiful and talented young woman, but she’s also a live reminder of how old I am. However old she is at any given time is exactly how long I’ve been out of high school. Gross.

So glad no one had to eat a cake frosted with Goobi spit.

So glad no one had to eat a cake frosted with Goobi spit.

Since Madison only has a basic understanding of numbers, she considers sum over 40 to be huge. When Lynnette told her how old my grandmother is, Madison responded “Oh my” in a whisper. Hilarious. After dinner, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to my grandmother. Madison is currently the only member of our family young enough to be on the “help the birthday celebrant blow out their candles” squad.  I wish I had a better camera to adequately capture how seriously she takes this responsibility. She used to be gung-ho and stick her head right over the cake and try her best to blow out the candles and also cover the cake in spittle. Now, she’s aware when it isn’t her birthday. She defers to the birthday celebrant by waiting, looking at them for a green light, then she commences blowing out the candles in a delicate fashion befitting a princess-in-training. She doesn’t even go for frosting with her finger anymore. I’m so proud.

My grandmother – the matriarch, as my aunt calls her – has always spoken softly. I can’t remember her ever yelling at myself or my brothers. That’s probably because grandpa got to us first. Or my dad. Either way, not good times. So in words, this is what it looks like: My grandmother’s oldest son has two children. Her oldest daughter has a son who is married. My dad has three kids, two of whom are married, one of whom has a child. His younger sister does not have children. His aforementioned youngest brother has two children. This is the family I grew up with, and sadly apart from as time has moved ever forward. First my cousins were win high school, and then in the blink of an eye, the were adults, too. We don’t spend as much time together as we used to, so I am thrilled about dinners like last night. In fact, since Matty is turning 30 this year (!) and my uncle is turning 50, Paul and I immediately started making “dirty thirty” and “all-ager rager – literally” jokes at the table. Fingers crossed.

I know how spiteful this child can be. I swear that sometimes she does stuff like this to troll me.

I know how spiteful this child can be. I swear that sometimes she does stuff like this to troll me.

My mom and dad, but mostly my mom, were probably going through withdrawals by the time they saw Madison on Sunday night. Apparently, my dad is sponsored by Adidas now, as he showed up in a shirt, shorts, and shoes all emblazoned with three stripes. That’s fine. He’s deserves it. And then true to form, my mom told me after dinner that she found a jacket for Madison for $5. This brings the total number of gifts my mom has purchased for Madison outside of her birthday or Christmas to a staggering 433. That’s just four years right there.

In any event, I’m glad that Madison’s warmed up to them as she’s gotten older. Perhaps this was always going to happen, but you couldn’t have convinced me of that when she was calling my dad “that one.” Maybe it’s because she’s older and less inclined to believe that Lynnette and I will leave her at the drop of a hat. It’s my hope, though, that Mad can tell how much my parents love her, and that she’s chosen to reciprocate in kind. Though I have to admit that whenever I play the “What do you like better? _______________________ or grandpa’s mustache?” game, she never chooses grandpa’s mustache. We still have time, I suppose.

Just like the 600 other pictures of us at family dinners. Plus or minus 5 pounds.

Just like the 600 other pictures of us at family dinners. Plus or minus 5 pounds.

Sitting among my brothers and aunts and uncles and parents and cousins and my grandmother made me wonder how we got here. As always, I understand the biological, chronological aspects of the answer, but still. I wonder about Madison’s hypothetical sibling(s) and her theoretical cousins. I wonder if my parents’ house will be to them what my grandparents’ house was to us. Will they all ride their bikes up and down Ponohale Street? Will they hit tape balls into neighbors yards? Will my mom cut their grilled cheese sandwiches into long strips or triangles? Will we gather there to celebrate every birthday and milestone and Mets World Series Win? I certainly hope so.


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