I Meet Uji’s Family

So, this post is LONG overdue and essentially I’ve been putting ot off for lack of pictures and ridiculous goings-on that I will explain at length later.

I wrote this the day after Easter, I think, or at least in that week:

Since Uji and I declared our love for one another, I’ve harbored this dread of, “Oh Shit, I’ll have to meet his family, they’ll figure out I’m a warthog in a college student suit, and they’ll hate me.”
That is not at all what happened.

So far, I’ve met his parents Juan and Maria, his middle brother Rob, and Rob’s lady-friend Mandy.

They are effing RAD.

Uji and I met them at the Old World Deli for a chese plate and a few bottles of wine on Saturday. Uji, who is Catholic, does not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. (Nor does he eat goldfish or drink sidecars, which he says are his favorite cocktail.) This meant that after he introduced me to his parents, who both hugged me by way of greeting, he loaded up his plate with enough cured meat to give a large German a coronary, nevermind a smallish Mexican-American.

“We call ourselves ‘foodies,” Juan explained to me, passing Uji a bottle of something sparkling and dry from…God, where was it from? I had a few glasses, so my memory is a little fuzzy. There was a cured meat with mole (MOL-eh, not the burrowning rodent spices,) a complex Rose, and a beautiful sunset.

As we spoke, I did my best to sign at the same time, so Uji and his brother Rob would be in on the conversation (and so Uji could come to my rescue if I said something befitting of a warthog.)

“You sign so fast!” Maria exclaimed, putting an approving hand on my shoulder.

“I have a good teacher,” I replied, finishing my wine a little quicker than might have been couth. I’m really kind of bad at accepting compliments.

“That’s true, you have; but Dad over here signs so slow, and he’s had all these years to have to learn how to communicate with his kids! We tease him.”

“Everybody picks on me,” Juan said with a half-smile.

As the afternoon wore on, I discovered that the Rodriguez family is very tight-knit. The boys visit their parents regularly, including Uji’s oldest brother Juanillo, who lives a two-hour drive away with his wife and baby girl. “We raised the boys that family was important from a very young age, so we’ve always been very close,” Juan explained.

With my bizarre family (my parents and so forth, not my sister’s bizarre family,) there has always been a divide. I had two Christmases growing up, and two birthdays, but only ever one parent in the room at a time from the age of six onward. The last time I saw both my parents sit down to dinner together was my high school graduation, and it was in a restauraunt, with my very extended step family sitting in between my mother and father.

At my sister’s house, we are all as generous as we can afford to be (usually more so) and everyone in the family understands that any act of generosity is one of self-sacrifice that might create problems later down the road for lack of this-and-that. We remain generous no matter what, but the lesson I’ve taken away from my sister’s family is that it deosn’t matter what your station is in life–you can live comfortably, as Uji and his family do, or you can live wherever you find refuge, as my sister’s family and I do.

My Sestra on the back of a hog at a biker run.

Generosity is necessary within the family, and it always costs something. But without that sacrifice, how do you know if you are family?

What I’m trying to get at in this long-winded ramble is that I have a new branch of family, and they have the grace of my parents and the kindness of my sister all in one.

In my poverty, I learned a kind of pack-mentality in regards to my family–bring home food no matter what. Keep shepter over your head no matter what. Protect and nurture the little ones no matter what. Uji tells me his parents have worked very hard all their lives for their affluence, and I doubt with a fervent desire that they never lived anywhere as gross as my family’s old trailer. I learned my kindness out of a need to be kind that rooted itself in the needs of others around me. Something tells me kidness is not something Juan or Maria ever had to learn. Like their son, they simply ARE.

Uji and his older brother Rob on Easter Sunday. Uji refuses to eat ham, but will devour prosciutto wholesale.

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