Don’t be angry with me for not writing, dears! I’ve been busy, been on my “world tour”, don’t you know 😉 I feel jolly, so let me tell you about it!
In mid-June it was time for my annual trip back to Michigan, this time with much purpose: my younger cousin Jimmy was tying the knot and my dad had conveniently scheduled his own wedding to my dear now-step-mom a week after Jimmy’s. The actual two-plus weeks I spent back in Michigan and Ohio were an action-packed sandwich (real-life action sandwiched by action movies on the plane which I still can’t obsessing about, so I’m sure they’ll find their way into this post). But I’d also like to talk a little bit about how much I love my home in Chengdu right now, and how all recent goings-on seem to be wholesome and nutritious parts of the “complete breakfast” which is my life right now.
I find that the best time to reflect on your feelings about a place is on the plane to or from somewhere else. I found myself extraordinarily calm about returning to Michigan this time. I think this is because my life in Chengdu is settling down, or at least heading in an easily predictable yet terribly exciting direction. On other flights back to Michigan or family after a China adventure, I have been all over the place, from terrified to devastated to muddled to happy. This time, calm. I knew who I was, where I was going and what I was meant to be doing. And I really enjoyed myself because of it.
So, on to the tale of the vacation! The first week and a half in Michigan was punctuated by doctor’s appointments wherein I made use of my new status as a dependent on my mum’s medical insurance (thanks, Blue Cross!) and visits with my truest and best of friends, which of course includes my family. This has been by far the booziest trip I’ve ever taken to the States, not sure who to blame there, but I’m not complaining! I got to explore some local bars and beverages, my favourite venue being the Rock on Third off Main Street in Royal Oak for its jukebox and patrons with good music taste, and my favourite drink being the real fruit margaritas at the Red Fox British Pub above Diablo’s on Main Street (also Royal Oak). I ATE so much that my stomach is still recovering, even though it was mostly just nachos and buttered toast. They have loaves of ENGLISH MUFFIN BREAD over there, which you might only understand the awesomeness of if you generally like English muffins… I also ate a “quesarito” from Taco Bell, which is of course a burrito wrapped in a quesadilla. The two wedding’s food was surprisingly similar, being potatoes, green beans, chicken and a roasted meat. No offense to Jimmy, but the appetizer buffet at my dad’s wedding really out-did itself (or should I say the bride out-did herself!) with its huge prawn cocktail platter, various cheeses, OLIVES and delicious meatballs. I seriously ate so many meatballs I should’ve had to have been rolled out of there.
My dad’s wedding in Ohio was probably my favourite event of the trip, even if it did start with a Catholic masszzz…! I really enjoyed getting to spend time with my newest step-siblings, even if the time was short. My dad’s two brothers came, and it was rather shocking to see how big my dad’s youngest brother’s kids have gotten since I last saw them. When they jump from being around ten to suddenly being in high school it’s a pretty noticeable change. I last remember my autistic cousin’s main hobbies being the Disney movie “Cars” and running around, but at the wedding he was looking dapper in his suit and pubescent facial hair, and behaving very calmly. His sister, now going into her sophomore year of high school, entered into mature and engaging conversation with me; I hope I managed to maintain a calm and collected facade while internally being incredulous! I spent the reception mostly talking to my dad’s family and my step-mom’s New York relatives, and at the end enjoying my Nana’s gaiety as she sang and danced along with the country hits played by the wedding singer. It was a side of her I hadn’t really seen before, and it was wonderful.
After the wedding, us step-siblings and step-bro’s girlfriend headed off to the Cranberry Resort on Indian Lake for more drinks and staring at our smart-phones–I mean conversation. On the way back, step-brother swung us by his dad’s grave, which was something I really appreciated. I know that sometimes it’s a case of seeing what you want to see, but preceding the wedding, a lot of little things went wrong in the preparations, like the dress needing serious alterations, the priest not turning up for the rehearsal, some of the centerpiece flowers freezing, the photographer’s plane being delayed. But in the end, the entire ceremony and reception were beautiful and problem-free. Now I knew that my step-mom’s first husband had died when the kids were younger. I also couldn’t help thinking about the wind-chime on her front porch that she got in memory of her sister, who had also died a while back. When it chimes she says it’s her trying to join our conversations. For me, Ohio has a lot of ghosts because I feel the people who live there hold the dead in a more recent, readily-accessible part of their memories. Cemeteries are visible everywhere you drive. So maybe you see what you want to see and all the little snafus had perfectly reasonable explanations, but to me, it was my step-mom’s first husband in the works. And when I asked my step-bro, he said the family had been whispering the same! So I was really grateful for the chance to stand near his final resting place and send out my own reassurances to him that my dad’s going to take good care of his wife!
The other wedding was eerily perfect. My cousin is just a year younger than me, so on all accounts they’re following the rule book: meet in high school, get a college education, get a job, get married… The weather was perfect, the venue was perfect, the guests were perfect; they couldn’t have asked for a better wedding for themselves. Couldn’t help but let the thought “someone was smiling down on it all” cross my mind! Some of it was mysterious to me, such as the line dance done to a severely edited but formerly raunchy rap song that everyone must have learned to do at college together. But sitting around the table with my dad’s side of the family gave me this weird eternal feeling; I felt so at peace because it just made sense. My cousin Jimmy is the son of my dad’s older younger brother, so of course that brother was there, but in place of the youngest younger brother who came to my dad’s wedding was the younger sister, her son and her partner. As I said previously, seeing your cousins after a long period of distance is a shock. I last remembered this cousin as an awkward preteen with a squeaky voice–imagine my surprise to see him towering over me, beer in hand and booming out “hello” in a deep manly voice! But he and my brother ended up finding ways to disappear and conspire, so as far as I could see, people really never change! My aunt is just as competitive about games as ever, taking on some of Jimmy’s college friends in games of “corn hole”, a Mid-western game similar to horseshoes but played with beanbags and boards with a hole cut in instead of horseshoes and a stake. There are complicated rules too, but I make it a point not to learn those sort of things…After sitting outside to escape the loud music and carry on “dazzling” conversation with each other, us Leonards took a selfie, which I think surpasses the Academy Awards selfie tenfold in excellence.
It was wonderful that my brother was able to take off so much time to come to both weddings, and stay for the time in between. We haven’t spent a lot of time together in the past few years, and even this time we did go our separate ways to hang out with our own Michigan friends. But we did catch the midnight movie at the Main Art Theatre, dragging our cousin from Mom’s side of the family along. The three of us are practically siblings since we all grew up in Michigan together, but as I said, haven’t spent any time together recently. The midnight movie was “The Breakfast Club”, still pretty timeless and a great pick for the three of us to see together. Cousin is now 20 years old, which is dumbfounding since I still remember trying to teach her her ABCs.
We spent a lot of time together this trip, discussing the merits and problems of boys, shopping, and catching movies. I was very excited to share with her my love of the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise!
Now I can’t finish this post without talking about my girls.
We couldn’t all be together this time, since one is working in New York now, had a family trip to Mexico and didn’t arrange her time “correctly” 😉 (jk, I love you dear). We’re all doing pretty well for ourselves now, I’d say. Yet every time we come together we carry on wherever we left off, no matter if it was days or months ago. And there’s always new adventures! Like finally making it to the local dance club, Luna, or watching stand-up comedy in Hamtramck.
Last of all, and closest to my heart, is my mom’s family. I stayed at the poshest hotel in Royal Oak, as I always do, known locally as “My Gramma’s House”. Nothing can match the softness of the beds, the swiftness of the dish-tidying nor the lack of early morning wake-up calls. I love my grandmother more than anybody on the earth, because she’s the one who sees my bad side and never says a word, unless I deserve it (, you little snot, as she’d say). Then there’s my aunt, who I’m convinced is actually a saint for her kindness and patience. Her husband is another one of my favourite people, and all he does is crack hilarious one-liners when you’re least expecting them. I even got to meet up with his son’s family a couple times, fortuitous for both sides, as their 9 year old daughter is studying Chinese and shows great promise. I passed on endless books to her, some that I brought from China and others that were gathering dust in my gram’s.
Now somehow, and I’m not sure how this happened, I don’t have a photo from this trip of me and my mom. That’s an error that will not be repeated next time, I assure you! She has been settling back into life in Detroit, and along with my step-dad showed my brother and I around to some of their favourite places. The two of them seem to be loving their life right now, and I’m glad that I was able to share a small part of it on this trip back.
And so I find myself back in Chengdu after a rather long day of travel. I am now caught up on all my Avengers movies (well except the Incredible Hulk), and subsequently totally obsessed with the Winter Soldier. I’m not selling spoilers here, so y’all better just check it out yourself if you’re interested. Other five-star plane movies include “About Time” with Domhall Gleeson and Bill Nighy, and “At World’s End”, one of Simon Pegg’s action/comedies. I also caught “Frankenweenie”, and a couple of my friends’ names in the credits! Way to go guys! “The Lego Movie” was as good as expected, but “Divergent” fell flat on its face. Don’t watch it guys. Ever. Other than that, after now being back in Chengdu for a full five days, I believe I’ve caught up on my sleep, having had 13 hours after getting in and another 15 on Saturday night after my epic Fourth of July night out. I’m ready to literally hit the ground running weekday mornings at 6:30am for my regular jog!
So bring on work, bring on life, I’m ready.