Last night, our extended family got together for a Chinese New Year dinner. It was small… Max was back in China, Larissa in college, Auntie Lettie with her mom, Rich in Vancouver, Patrick & Rich’s mom in San Jose at a concert, and Meimei in the hospital… But everyone else was there.
We gathered outside, spent time talking and catching up while the restaurant cleared the tables. We walked in, slowly sat down – after greeting a couple more late arrivals (Kim and her significant other, Steve) – and spent time receiving 红包 from everyone older than us (the current generation of “kids”). Getting handed 红包, saying “恭喜发财 Thank You” in return, and going back to our conversations.
When the food came, we all started eating. First, starting with the soup. Then quickly moving on to the standard appetizers, roast chicken, walnut prawns, lettuce cups, mushroom with bok choy, salt and pepper crab (everyone loved this!), noodles (no one really ate this, even though they do symbolize long life), steamed fish… Cup after cup of tea, & more conversation.
It was the typical Chinese banquet, something we’re likely to take for granted, but it was also family and food. Two essentials at Chinese New Years.
I thought of how I had missed this every year that I was at Seattle University, only to have my own “family dim sum" with the Kolvenbach community each year during Chinese New Years. I thought about how, if I commit to my dream of going abroad after graduation, this year will be one of the last years I might spend Chinese New Years together with family. One of the last years before we all are scattered in different places. That thought really gave me pause and made me treasure that night all the more.
As much as I was somewhat saddened by that thought, there was also a reflection of how much our family has grown and changed since ten years ago. We’ve lost family, but we’ve also gained a lot too. Our family continues to span three generations.
The "first” generation that grew up, raised kids in Burma or Hong Kong, and later moved to the US to look for a better life. The "1.75" generation, our parents, who moved earlier to the US to go to college and settle down. The second generation, my generation, born in the US, but having a unique perspective of growing up in two, maybe even three, different worlds.
The onus now moves from the first generation to the rest of us…and our family keeps expanding. Victoria, Kim, Ryan, with their significant others. Patrick engaged to be married later on this year. It’s pretty amazing to see that even as we’re getting bigger, growing outwards from our own roots, we’re also becoming more diverse a family. That’s pretty special, isn’t it?