2017-07-27 14:21:24 (UTC)

Abridged Family History

July 27, 2017 Thursday 12:21 PM

The crook of California, is where I am, right where the arm bends. A place where the Olympics kind of were one time, I guess, and there's a big deep lake with very blue waters, town full of tourist shops and an abandoned greenhouse and an eatery called "Burrito Window." I wonder if they actually serve things out of the window.

Altitude, my aunt says, means I need to drink more water, so I do. The sky is really blue and the sun intense so my skin's all cripsy, burnted, now, my scalp red, nose peeling, forearms and thighs browning to a color like dry Terra Cotta.

My grandma cried with her mouth open as she explained that she loved us so much. She "lost a lot of very dear friends" this year, and I'm not sure if this is because, as she is still recovering from her stroke, she hasn't been able to spend as much time socializing or if it's because they have died or both. My grandparents are in their eighties, so I dunno, it makes sense that their friends are dying off.

Grandpa lost his wedding ring after he lost weight earlier this year, so they bought each other new rings. Grandpa got my grandma a diamond engagement ring, another ring that signifies something beautiful like life or whatever, and a gold band. He told us a story about how they met in the midwest, how my grandma was dating his best friend, how they bonded over their love of mountain-climbing (the dangerous kind) and found from there they had even more in common (like that my grandpa had been raised Catholic—although by then he'd left it behind—and my grandma was becoming a devout Catholic).

Grandma said she knew she was gonna marry him and that her mother disapproved because she thought he was a Russian Jew. My grandpa is actually Russian and El Salvadorian, haha, born and raised in San Francisco. He said that he used to be teased in school 'cause he was "dark," which I find peculiar now just because I am darker than he is and I'm rarely recognized as hispanic. But back then, he counted as a dark person, I guess.

My grandparents worked as chemists together, I think. I know my Grandpa remained a chemist for a long time afterwards. Years ago, he gave me these old glass goggles he said he used to wear when he worked with lasers. My grandma, meanwhile, has had a weird career that includes science but also includes theology and mental health stuff. She worked on a ranch for troubled kids, runaways, abused, mentally ill, etc. She also was a pastor in multiple places, I think. When I was born, she moved to New York for a few years and was a pastor there (she was Presbyterian at that point, which she still is). I was scared of her back then because she told me to stop playing with a hula hoop one time and that single moment, although she wasn't particularly angry with me, scarred me. I dunno, I was a sensitive kid and I felt rejected and demeaned by the scolding. The whole thing set the tone for the rest of my life, or at least it's the first moment I can remember feeling so awful about such a minor moment.

When my grandparents got engaged, my grandpa went to a jewelry shop that sold him pure (?? high quality, anyways) gold bands for $5 or something like that.

I dunno, the whole story thing was strange to hear, bits of their lives I can add to the other pieces I've stored up over the years.

I felt a little terrified at the idea that the both of them love each other and love life, both of them have stood at the edge of death, both of them are either twinkly or teary-eyed with joy. It was so weird to me, to see all that emotion kind of just shoved out there—kind of unwelcome, but also not. It's always hard for me to get used to my own family. We have a certain stupid sense of humor and a tendency to speechify everything, to give thanks all the time, to talk about family and how we love each other, reminisce about things that happened decades ago so that it all turns into collective memory, I guess.

None of this is how I operate, and it takes a bit for me to shift into family mode.

I asked my aunt how my dad was when they were little, and I guess he hasn't changed much. Focused, she said. He'd always been focused, to the point where he'd be oblivious about certain other things. She mentioned how my dad doesn't ask a lot of questions about my life (this is true, although I only mind when I'm stressed) and how he inherited that from my grandpa. My dad always had a love of learning, she said, and that's where they got along best, 'cause they were both curious people who liked to talk a lot about hypotheticals n' shit. My dad, he gets very interested in certain things and educates himself deeply on them. Population is a more recent example, but he has also always been fascinated with historical fiction—mostly East Asian history and very early human stuff, and also Native Americans too.

My dad knows everything about everything. That's a lie, but like, he always strikes me as all-knowing 'cause, no matter what question you ask him, he always has some sort of answer. Sometimes he says, "I don't know, but," and then talks about what knowledge he DOES have that may shed light on the question.

I like my dad.

I like my aunt too. I've decided she's my favorite of my dad's siblings. She's the most like us, the most comfortable with some disorganization, the one I feel most comfortable talking to. I feel bad about ever calling her Crazy Aunt or Hippie Aunt or whatever it is I used to call her. Even if she is a hippie, even if she is kind of overemotional, she is also smart and kind and accepting and interesting. There were times when I didn't ever want to be like her, didn't ever want to be irrational like her. But I dunno, she's not so bad.

She might not be as smart as my dad, but that's OK. She's still from the same family, and all of them talk like they're educated, all of them, smart smart smart. Or at least good at acting smart. I wonder where I lie among them. I wonder if I'm smart or if I've become an excellent mimic.

And now I am tired of writing, I don't even know what I wrote.,


The air is dry and hot and I like it, it's a nice change from New York's humidity. There are birch trees scattered around the green yard of the resort, and the birch trees have markings like eyes all over their bark. Caroline and I can't decide if the eyes are mid-roll or if they're making some sort of innocent/pleading expression. We like the former theory, because then we can imagine people frozen in the trees: "Ugh, really? The gods turned another person into a tree? What brats."

Today it's cold. I'm tired and confused and the sky is blue.