Making dramatic proclamations isn’t hereditary.
In 1987, Thanksgiving day should have proceeded like ones in years past. My uncle/godfather (my Ninong, which means godfather in Tagalog) was hosting Thanksgiving dinner at his house in Long Island. My aunt, cousins, and extended family gathered around the dining room table, chatting and nibbling on appetizers.
As usual, my mother was running late. Mom finally arrived with my father. Ninong gave them the side-eye as they unbuttoned their bulky coats. It wasn’t like Dad was invited. Thanksgiving (and all other holidays) were strictly family events. Random, sketchy “friends” of his little sister didn’t count. They stood awkwardly by the kitchen.
Ninong frowned at Mom’s swollen stomach.
“Ting, you look bigger. Did you gain weight?”
Dad grabbed Mom’s hand as she spoke.
“Kuya, we’re married. I’ve gained weight because I’m pregnant. The baby is due before Francis’s birthday.”
Everyone froze, watching in horror as Ninong bounded upstairs. He grabbed his shotgun and ran back to the dining room. Dad pushed Mom out the front door.
“YOUR BROTHER IS TRYING TO KILL US!”
“HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO MY SISTER?!”
“…” (I didn’t exist yet, so I had nothing to contribute.)
After trudging to the Long Island Railroad, my parents caught the next train back to Queens. They ordered takeout from an Indian restaurant. They swore that they were each other’s family. They would do anything to protect it.
A couple months later, Ninong hosted a baby shower at his house. A month after that, I was born. By then, my disapproving Lola and Lolo accepted my parents, too.
Twenty-five years later, my parents believe karma is punishing them for eloping against their parents’ wishes (and everyone else they knew). They haven’t changed or learned anything. They hold grudges for decades. They don’t fix their life, so they try to control everyone else’s. Somehow, our living together is as shocking as their being married and pregnant, when no one knew they were dating. Instead of announcing it at a holiday gathering, I simply replied to my mother’s email asking if I had moved.
We are everything they are not.