Blood and Bonds

Family reunions are curious events. The premise of gathering all of these people that you are related to through ancestry and heredity is a good one. But the reality of life in this day and age is that many of us barely (if at all) know these people – these family members. The idea of family for me has been affected by the reality and logistics of my life – growing up in Hawai’i, thousands of miles away from my mother’s family in the Philippines and California and my father’s family on the east coast. The fact is, I barely saw and can’t say I “knew” my blood relatives as I grew up. The family that I grew up with – my hanai (loosely, “hanai” means adopted) aunties, uncles and cousins – were the people who celebrated every holiday and milestone with us. These were the people who had the right to scold me as well as to comfort me. They were the ones who taught me the lessons of unconditional love, aloha, support and community. In truth, it wasn’t until I was in my teens that I really started to grasp that my hanai family wasn’t truly related to me and that those that were – a vast network of people spread throughout the world and with so much diversity – could very likely walk down the street next to me and I wouldn’t have a clue.

When I moved to Arizona, I did spend a bit more time getting to know some of the family branches – there are some California cousins that I have been honored to be at every wedding and meet their children, the {former} Baltimore contingent of my father’s clan has welcomed me in on more than one occasion and I was even able to enjoy time with several cousins who’s paths brought them to and through Arizona during my time there. But, for the most part, its safe to say that the bulk of my blood-related family are practically strangers to me.

Upon the passing of one of my great aunts, my mother and her generation of cousins began to concoct a plan for a family reunion so that their generation could reconnect and the younger generations could meet. I must say, it was brilliant! A bit of over thirty people who are part of my ancestry and heritage and share some DNA with me made their way to Hawai’i for a bit of vacation and catching up.

It was the first time that Panda met the Filipino family en masse. Oh my! And she fit right in!! Not sure what that says, though. 🙂 We did our best to keep things casual and easy. There were a bunch of beach dinners and a couple of lunch gatherings. We met family from Texas and all over California. There were cousins and siblings of three generations present and mingling. Food was scarfed down, beverages were consumed and (apparently) shave ice became an obsession. It was fun! It was loud! And it was compelling! There were at least 10 family members that I had not met (or – if I have, I have no memory of them) and, by the end of the reunion week, I felt bonded to them. I can’t say I know the ins and outs of their daily lives or what even makes them tick. But I can say that these people are my family and I know there is something beyond measure or logic that bonds us to one another. My only regret was that shortstack wasn’t here during this shindig. He hasn’t had the chance to get to know and hang out with his cousins. So, we just have to plan another one for his enjoyment – and ours!

I just wanted to share a few glimpses of our amazing and crazy family! Thank you, Cathy, for the pictures (yes! i TOTALLY hijacked them from your fb page!)

cousins1 cousins2 cousins3

Thank you, my family, for making the trip to our little slice of paradise! Panda and I enjoyed catching up and getting to know y’all. Family – in all the shapes and sizes that it comes in – is amazing. And those of us that are blessed to have family – hanai or hereditary – that love us, need to remember to count and cherish those blessings!

Happy Monday, my peeps. May it be a beautiful week!


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