Food is the magnet for gatherings. Don’t you agree? An amusing phenomenon hard to deny and easy to accept, I dare say. Often, a common remark to someone you hadn’t seen in a while – let’s get together for coffee or lunch. I said just that to relatives from Daly City whom I had not seen in over three years. A mini-reunion, one might consider. It was so delightful to see my 92-year-old auntie, and her children. A cousin from Union City and her family and I met them at one of the best buffet seafood restaurants I’d been to. At past 1 p.m., my group was starved, so we started to eat before the Daly City folks arrived. That was quite all right, since we ended up indulging in that restaurant for nearly two hours, just leisurely savoring every dish our eyes could take fancy on. Eyes are usually “greedier” than the stomach, and for some reason, we give in to our eyes. Did that happen to me? Kind of, I admit. I particularly fancied the boiled clams, baked salmon and spiced crab dish. I ravished them all; none wasted. Though my gut hesitated with the steak flanks.
Not to forget, the company was outstanding. Spending time with kins is truly heartwarming, especially when memories of old times resurge, stories of past funny incidents bring joyous laughter, and kind banter ricochets around the table for comical moments – and as the teasing and story-telling grow, so does the eating.
But in this gathering, there was someone sorely missed, my auntie’s husband who passed two weeks before. That auntie, my Mama’s younger sister, was almost never out of the house without her husband. They were a team that did most things together. So that day was not without nostalgia and grief. Somehow, when grief is felt with family or loved ones, the rough edges are honed smooth to lessen the pain. It was that way in our mini-reunion, a lot of bitter-sweet moments along with the joys.
The party is never over in a few hours when relatives meet. We moved the party to my auntie’s home where she lives with her daughter and her family. That setting was more conducive to louder conversation and hearty laughter. More relatives came to join in the conviviality. What stirred the company into friskier party mood was the karaoke that was started as soon as we sat down, though in between songs were more catching up and more stories. My cousin’s son, a handsome young man in his mid-20’s, was the star of the marathon singing with his magnificent voice. He brought his fiancé, a very lovely young lady soft-spoken and demure in her ways. They plan to marry next year in Naga City, Philippines, where my auntie’s family comes from. This couple reminded me of my husband and me when we were young. It was my husband’s splendid tenor voice when he sang that first caught my serious attention. I wondered if it was the same for this young lady. She looked enraptured when her groom-to-be performed some contemporary love songs. But we all were enthralled. Music has a mysterious way of speaking to the heart. Especially when my 92-year-old auntie held the microphone and belted out song after song, after song. Wow! She knew more old hits than any of us. Of course, I couldn’t resist the microphone. Pretending at first, not to want to sing, I clutched it tightly, lest anyone should grab it from me – and I crooned away a Johnny Mathis melody and a Tagalog love tune, “Dahil sa Isang Bulaklak” (Because of a Flower, my late husband’s favorite). That felt really good. I wanted to do more, but the mic went back to my auntie, and my cousins, and more cousins that trouped in, and the young man. It was only when the pizza arrived that the robust singing became a lull.
What a joyful and lively get-together that started with food, and ended with food. We promised ourselves, we would get together again in that same format – food, music and zesty conversation every three months. But guess what – we’re meeting in over two weeks, for the commemoration of my late uncle’s 40th day after his passing. After the prayers, will we party again? Who knows!