The Transfiguration

everything is sacred

Posts Tagged ‘joe

Gathering of the Day #2622

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For the second year in a row, I’ve hosted Thanksgiving with my family. What that means, mind you, is that I surrendered my kitchen to Michaela and let her prepare a huge chunk of the meal, lending a hand to chop vegetables or fill a pot with water now and then. She made, I hear, I good turkey; I was sated with the baked veggies, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and mango-topped casserole.

I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated Thanksgiving with Dad, or even – to my memory – shared a meal with both him and Mom, so it was really nice that he made it over tonight, bearing two different kinds of pies. His company made the evening feel more whole than other Thanksgiving dinners have, and I was so used to celebrating each year without him that I didn’t realize how much of a difference it would make.

We ate well and have a generous supply of leftovers for the weekend. I hope your evening went sweetly as well.

light struck from the lemon tree

Written by Umbrella Man

November 26, 2015 at 11:41 pm

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Mother of the Day #2379

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Mother of the Day #2379

We celebrated my step-grandmother Bessie’s 90th birthday. One of her sons, Clint (unfortunately obscured at the left here) hosted the celebration in a classy club beneath a building he owns in San Francisco, and a huge number of Bessie’s friends and family came to celebrate her.

It was a lovely event, with live Irish folk music and delicately presented food. I thought it was so fantastic when the caterers offered platters of deviled eggs and potato salad delivered in pretty leaf bowls with bamboo forks – the family’s traditional foodstuffs made as fancy as possible. The party was absolutely a celebration of the family’s culture, their strength as a clan (or “dynasty”, as someone put it), and everyone paid their thanks to Bessie for bringing them all up and keeping them together.

Not all of Bessie’s children made it tonight, but her dedication in raising so many people is marvelous indeed, and she certainly deserves the massive trophy they gave her before she blew out the candles.

I only see any of these people at big family events. It’s nice to see them all together like this, but I wish I could talk with them individually; all I can ever get is a short catchup, a quick conversation to see where they are in life – no chance to learn who they really are.

It’s still a bit of a miracle to witness these reunions. I’m glad to be here, even if only on the edge.

say that I’m sane

Written by Umbrella Man

March 29, 2015 at 12:39 am

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View of the Day #1556

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View of the Day #1556

Joe’s brother, Clint, hosted the main family event this Christmas. We were the first to arrive at Joe’s brother’s home, an immaculate villa at the edge of the city overlooking the bay and the Golden Gate. Clint’s wife showed off the view with pride, and while we waited for the rest of the family to make its way through the rain we stood and admired the sea. When the fog is just thick enough, it hides the hills but leaves the water, and you get that lovely quiet sense of infinity when you see the soft waves rolling in.

My step-family was friendly, as always. For the second time I saw my stepbrother and didn’t recognize him at first; he’s changed a lot since we lived in the same house so long ago. His life has had its difficulties, but he says he’s happy now, and I hope that’s true.

I feel vaguely like my pursuit of cognitive neuroscience rather than cellular biology is a little bit of a disappointment to some of my relatives; I likely won’t be helping to develop any medicine in this line of research. The subject of Alzheimer’s disease arose, and one man told me about his experience as a nurse tending to an Alzheimer’s patient, and that if he were diagnosed he would commit suicide before becoming such a burden to his family. This seemed to me a very personal thing to share, though I don’t know him well enough to gauge whether he’d say that to many people. I told him to keep reading, keep flexing his brain, because I don’t want him to have to make that decision.

Desserts were very tiny and delicate, as high-class food always seems to be. I’d never had black-cherry-and-black-pepper cookies before.

Mom told me today that Eugenie, the kindly old woman who lived next to us when I was little, passed away in November. I wish we hadn’t lost contact after moving, and I hope it was painless for her, and I hope her husband is getting by okay. We’d planned to stop and say hello on the way home, but it was too late when we arrived back in Berkeley. He has his daughter, at least.

I can never write properly about sensitive things, as though trying to put them in words might break them.

I haven’t had that warm, cozy Christmas feeling in a long time and I’m not sure it’s real, but it was still nice to see people, and to get an idea of all the connections in Joe’s family.

there’s a black rainbow above my house

Written by Umbrella Man

December 26, 2012 at 3:55 am

Pages of the Day #1555

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Pages of the Day #1555

Joe’s family has these holiday parties every Christmas, and often I don’t know what to say to anyone there. These are people I see only once a year, if even that, and there is always someone surprised to see how much I’ve grown in the last fifteen years.

These books are always a good point to start conversation, though, and several people tonight lent pieces of themselves to either the blue book or the book of memories. Joe doodled mechanical and sports equipment with rough, straight lines and his mother wrote about preparing 25 pounds of potato salad and meeting family in the evening. Joe’s brother also claimed a page, and told me how Joe used to make such amazing illustrations when he was young. I wonder if he ever had aspirations of becoming an artist, and if something happened to discourage that; it doesn’t seem like Joe does any creative work on his own these days.

This family, which I always visit as an outsider, must have a rich history behind it – so many siblings whose lives went in so many directions, and all the relationships tangled between them. Despite these yearly traditions, I never see many hints as to what it was like for these people to grow up together.

But perhaps I’m simply not looking hard enough.

once in David’s royal city

Written by Umbrella Man

December 25, 2012 at 1:18 am

Posted in events, family, holidays, people

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Reunion of the Day #825

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Christmas celebrations at home have always been very mild, quiet occasions. When I was little, we usually woke up very early (once we found Mom wrapping presents) and collect around the tree, all foggy-minded and sleepy, but excited nonetheless. We would open our gifts, play with them amid the ocean of torn wrapping paper, and the day would proceed more or less as normal from there. Sometimes Grandma and Grandpa would come by and we would all go out to brunch at a Chinese restaurant.

Joe’s family, though, always has big, involved celebrations for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and each holiday is a gigantic reunion for them. Here’s Joe talking with his brother Clint after the Christmas dinner, which took place in a big tent outside since we couldn’t fit forty people in Kevin’s new house.

(The house, which is nestled into the woods overlooking a valley, is beautiful and full of paintings and absolutely spotless, and it hardly looks like anyone actually lives there)

I don’t really know anyone in Joe’s family, so when I go to these gatherings I tend to sit in the corner with my mom and sister, who also don’t really know anyone. Every so often someone will come by and make conversation with me, asking where I go to school and what I study.

“Santa Cruz”

By the third time I answered this, I was starting to get rather tired of that particular brand of small talk, but had to stay enthusiastic because neuroscience really is important to me. Each person did have a different take on the subject: they knew someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; a sister had died of brain cancer; a computer game that had been used to change someone’s brain waves.

I would have liked a little more variety in small talk – I wanted some way to bring up my Photos of the Day, and eventually did so by bringing out my laoptop – but it was still rather encouraging for everyone to be so excited about my major. Neuroscience is a strange subject, being a relatively new science, but because it deals with our thoughts and emotions – what makes us who we are – people are generally intrigued by it. Quantum physics, alternatively, is too abstract for most people to understand, and so while it is much more complicated I might not get such an enthusiastic response if I said I was studying it.

People hope for cures, too, and I suppose quantum physics won’t deliver that, even if it does develop faster-than-light travel or limitless energy someday. I hope I can accomplish something good with my studies.

It was a nice night, even though I didn’t know anyone; Joe has a family of kind people, and even if we don’t get past small talk it’s still good to see them once a year.


Written by Umbrella Man

December 26, 2010 at 1:15 am

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Buzz of the Day #704

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Joe came by to see Michaela this evening but, due to some miscommunication, she wasn’t here, so he went ahead and made dinner anyway. Over leftover pesto pasta and chicken (for him), he talked to me about my dad, Ben, and school – asking how my life has been going since we last spoke. He seems so faithful in my academic ability, always saying that I’m going to invent a perpetual motion machine or figure out how people work, and while I don’t expect to shatter the laws of thermodynamics I do hope I can be nearly as successful as he imagines. Someday I’ll discover something – just wait.

When Michaela finally came back, Joe heated some dinner for her and started to make some coffee. He had some fun with the coffee grinder, turning it on and off to a rough rhythm and asking what song he was playing. Michaela guessed the first – Jingle Bells – but was stumped on Mary Had a Little Lamb. With a monotone instrument, the song is entirely in your head, and each note is only anchored to reality by its timing; the actual melody can be interpreted as anything. Certain songs have a distinctive enough pattern that they can be recognized just with taps or coffee buzzes. It’s like seeing a black and white picture of a flamingo and understanding that the flamingo is pink.

Anyway, Joe really got a kick out of it, and I like when people get kicks out of things. Laughter spills a good mood into the air.

I am a leaf on the wind

Written by Umbrella Man

August 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm

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Wave of the Day #364

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My mom is maybe one for long goodbyes (I certainly am – I can’t leave Emily without several hugs and kisses, since naturally the first few don’t “take”), and so she decided to come up to Santa Cruz this weekend, to see the campus and postpone the inevitable goodbye before leaving me to live on my own for the first time.

We went to Saturn, which is decorated after its namesake and offers delicious vegetarian food, and to the boardwalk, which is impossible not to visit if you come to Santa Cruz.

Here Mom is waving hello from the ferris wheel while Joe looks into the distance. I suppose it’s her last time saying hello to me for a while, hm?

I’ll miss her, and everyone in Berkeley. Santa Cruz is still beautiful, though; I’ll make the most of my time here.

I am so tired~

no one’s gonna take me live

Written by Umbrella Man

September 21, 2009 at 12:35 am

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