Friday, March 13, 2009

On the Third Day of New Year Aunt Tsui-Mei Came to Us...

(picture: Dumplings, a typical Chinese New Year food especially in the North of China.)

1/28/09 OK, 3rd day of the New Year. Big day ahead of everyone. Dad's older sister Aunt Tsui-Mei, her husband Uncle Ga-Lock and their children and grand children stage the Wu Clan's visit on this very day.

The fare is hosted by Aunt Shirley and Uncle William. Mom, Dad and myself took our time getting up in the morning, and getting ready. This was because the Wu Clan was somehow known to arrive behind scheduled time. I mean, really, really late. Like several hours late. Normally it is not ok really to make such an, uh, unfashionably late arrival, honestly. Knowning my dad and uncles, late arrival may very well trigger a nuclear melt down and the island could be shaken. BUT, it being the Chinese New Year and it being Aunt Tsui-Mei's day to visit with her brothers, we go by her schedule. This is the Grand Dame of the Wun's and the Wu's. Aunt Tsui-Mei calls the shots. She's the Queen Mother of our big extended family. And she always so impeccably, elegantly and beautifully put together that she looks like one, too!!

Uncle Jack's family was there too by the time Mom, Dad and I arrived. All of the Wuns from my generation--with the exception of my sister Sabrina--were present. Good! It was especially good to see Cousin Chiyue, who works in Japan and Mainland China and I hardly ever see him. I was one of the very few family members visiting him while he studied in Japan many years ago. I still think very fondly of our time spent together in Japan. Chiyue was so kind and took very good care of me, even though we are quite far apart in age, with me being much older. With his fluency in Japanese and familiarity with the culture and the places, I always felt very safe with him leading the way while visiting him in Japan.

Suddenly there were many dogs on the scene. My cousin Jane somehow teamed up with Uncle William and are known for their stray dog neighborhood rescue mission. This has been going on for many years. Between the two of them, we now have a house full of people, and 5 dogs on premise.

Time was still early because it was barely lunch time. Aunt Tsui-Mei's family will not be coming until it's LUPPER time (meaning 2-4pm.) We watched TV, played with the dogs, snacked away, chatted, tried out the very fancy massage chairs and exercise equipment all about Uncle William's spacious flat. The moms and the helpers busied themselves in the kitchen. Everyone had something to do and we were really quite ok waiting.

By 3pm, the front door opened and people started pouring in. All these cousins and their kids from the Wu clans showed up. Aunt Tsui-Mei looking her usual gorgeous self swept in, everyone greeted each other enthusiastically.

Before the meal even started, in her grandios style, Aunt Tsui-Mei whipped out a thick stack of red envelopes--with a wad of cash inside each of the envelopes--and started dispening them to those of us who are of the younger generation among the Wuns. This, ladies and gentlemen, would be the only red envelope to be received by me this year, and it is received with a bit of thick skin for sure. As far back as I can remember, Aunt Tsui-Mei is always famous for her exceeding generosity with her red envelopes. Even though my dad and his brothers and their wives all decided that we should stop the red envelopes practice among the Wuns, Aunt Tsui-Mei will not have it. She insisted that she must give red envelopes to each and every of her niece and nephew. As one can imagine, this was a somewhat awkward moment for the grown "kids" of my generation. We really were quite beyond the legitimate age to be receiving red envelopes. They are for children--liberally defined; but then again the youngest Wun cousin of my generation is already 31 this year. Aunt Tsui-Mei tracked us down one by one, stuck a fire-engine red envelope in each of our hands, and we gratefully and giddily said thank-you. I especially profusely thanked her for the New Year envelope, and my very petite Aunt Tsui-Mei slapped me hard on my right shoulder, gesturing me to clutch my envelope hard and go off with it...

The meal started and everyone was in good spirit. There were too many of us to sit at one table so we sat divided by our respective generation. All the aunts and uncles sat together in the dining room; while there's another round table seating the 12 of us from the younger generation.

Aunt Shirley's help A-Hen kept bringing out more and more and more and more food, until finally our table was barely visible and completely covered with dishes. We ate enthusiastically and admiringly as each dish came out. But very soon we were completely in awe of the amount of food brought out from that kitchen. We looked at each other, some of us looked a bit, what's the word? Overwhelmed, by the sheer quantity of the food present. They were all extremely tasty, and were being produced at an astonishing speed.

Half way through the meal I realized maybe it was time to stage that New Year greeting toast from our table to the Aunts and Uncles. I looked around and found that I was the oldest cousin. Well, that means I had to lead the pack! I filled my glass with the liquor there on the table, and motioned EVERYONE to walk over to the Auntie and Uncle Table (AUT) with me. Everyone slowly stood up and followed suit. It was visibly clear that we were in that mode of overconsumption. Will power to diet can drastically weaken in the presence of food, especially during the Chinese New Year. We were living proof of that!!

Arriving at Destination AUT, we made a round of raucous toast, and the aunts and uncles were happy to see us. We clanked glasses and toasted, drank, filled our glasses and drank some more. This was the epitome of the New Year for all of us. The Big Reunion. I suddenly realized I have been missing this scene for almost 20 years. It almost brought tears to my eyes!

As we finally wrapped up the meal, Aunt Tsui-Mei cheerfully said to me, "come for the Walk-of-Spring very soon!!" The Walk-of-Spring is the New Year expression of a visit to a relatives' home. It sure would be nice to do the Walk-of-Spring up the hill to visit Aunt Tsui-Mei. Maybe I'll do so to mark the reinitiation of my continued dieting, after all this crazy amount of food!!


Anna said...

Reading how happy you are back home almost brings tears to my eyes. While I dearly miss having you in the US of A I am so happy for you. I hope to see you soon and make it into this blog.

suewun said...

you bet i'm tapping my feet waiting for you to make it into the blog! When are you coming to the Island of Taiwan?

Mark said...

Geez, for some bizarre reason, after reading all these new year feast and spa, I had the urge to flip you a bird. :) I wanna go back too!!

suewun said...

Now Now...don't get in one of those big birds in the sky and you will be able to visit me in Taipei. P.S. Officially, Taipei is the better--sorry--bestest city in Taiwan!! Unofficially, I just wanna say to you, Mark, that TPE is better than Kaohsiung by, like, a lot... :-)