When I was about five years old, I told my parents my tooth was loose. Mind you, they were very old school, traditional Filipino immigrants so this wasn’t a celebration by any means. No magical being was going to show up in the middle of the night and put a quarter under my pillow because what does a five year old need with money? And free money at that?
Oh no, this child of immigrants was taken next door to her aunt, a medical profession, a nurse.
A nurse is NOT a dentist.
My auntie Delen (short for Magdalena) carried me and sat me up on her tile kitchen counter. “Where is it?” she asked.
I opened my mouth, pointed, and just as I was about to say, “It’s right here–”
SON OF A BITCH!
She pulled out that fucker before I even knew what was happening. I don’t remember much after that except for lots of blood and tears but I lived. I learned valuable lessons in trust that day:
- Can’t trust my parents, separately or together
- Can’t trust my aunties
- Especially can’t trust that auntie
- Can’t trust my family in general
While I eventually got over these issues, I remember that I was taught that every sister of my father and every sister of my mother (who sadly I have not met my mother’s sisters to this day; one passed away when I was younger and the other still lives in the Philippines) was like another mother and I needed to treat them as such. Same as their brothers on both sides. In our Filipino community back in the day and I’m sure it is in many Filipino communities today, this extended to their family friends. Pretty sure my teachers thought I was lying about ANOTHER uncle passing way. (Sure, you’re going to his funeral. Again.) But that’s how it was and that’s how I teach my kids now.
It was with great sadness that we celebrated the life my auntie Delene last week. Family members set aside their differences (hopefully permanently but what do I know) to pray and be with each other at this time. She was married to my dad’s brother so I saw many of her relatives from around the country, all of whom saw me grow up and met my husband and children for the first time. It’s funny that even now I think about all of my aunt’s family. I never thought of them as her family, just as family.
There were Filipino (specifically Ilocano) rituals and Catholic rituals that we followed. And although my husband converted to Catholicism a few years back, he still prayed the rosary, an activity that is strangely strictly female. He didn’t have to be blessed by my auntie Leonore (auntie Delene’s sister), he did anyway.
My brother did too. He’s a dork. I can say that though; I’m the sister.
There was a lot of food. Family members took turns cooking. Actually that’s wrong. They ALL cooked to relieve the burden of preparing food on my cousins but that’s what they do. That’s family.
I don’t have recipes and I didn’t have room in my stomach to try everything but I can assure you from past experience that this food was amazing.
Rest In Peace, Auntie, and no, you still can’t look in my mouth.