I don’t know if "quirky" is the right word to describe my extended family, but I know that my husband is often tempted to use less innocuous labels, like "weird" or "baffling."
He doesn’t mean anything negative by it; it’s more a shaking of his head than a pointing of his finger. But I get it. My family does stuff I doubt anyone else would do.
For instance, if you had visitors stopping in for a weeklong visit, would you install carpeting in your home just for them? That’s exactly what Auntie Sadako did when her grandson and his wife visited her recently.
My aunt, my mother’s oldest sister, lives in a remote village in Japan; her only grandson lives in Irvine. They rarely see one another, but Auntie Sadako is nearly 90 and in failing health, so her grandson, my first cousin once removed, decided to visit her one last time.
Unfortunately, Japan is experiencing an unusually cold winter this year, and though the floors in my aunt’s home are covered almost entirely with tatami mats, there does exist one short, naked, wooden hallway.
Auntie didn’t want her guests’ feet to get cold, so prior to their arrival, she installed carpeting in that single stretch of flooring.
That sounds a little odd, but I know what my aunt was thinking: "My guests are native Californians and unaccustomed to even ordinary Japanese winters. They are traveling a long distance at great expense because of me. Their feet will freeze, they will suffer inconvenience, possibly catch colds, God forbid something worse. And in the end, they will have wasted both precious time and hard-earned money because it was impossible for them to enjoy their stay. Because of me. Also, my grandson’s wife isn’t Japanese, so she must be accorded extra consideration and attention."
Did it matter to my aunt that she’s frail and can barely walk? Of course not. But it mattered a great deal to my mother, who always worries about her sister’s declining health. Thus, the numerous phone calls between them - months before the actual visit occurred - during which my mother repeated admonitions like, "Don’t overdo, they’re young, they can handle it, remember your legs and feet aren’t strong, please hire someone to clean the house" - all of which fell on what could easily have been actual deaf ears. My own contribution to the behind-the-scenes discussion was a suggestion to buy really warm socks instead of new carpeting, but even my mother kind of sneered at that.
As I relayed to my husband the details of the brouhaha surrounding my cousin’s trip to Japan, he really did shake his head, because in his family, you just make sure that there’s enough wine to go around and call it a day. And that can be nice, even comforting.
But my family is different. Right or wrong, we require more effort - from ourselves and from one another. We’re definitely a serious lot. But I also think that we’re hilarious and kind, and I do feel the love. Yes, under the incessant overthinking, there is most definitely love. And I can live with that.
Grace Acosta is a Los Altos resident. Email her at theacostafamily@ sbcglobal.net. ■