Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Year in Review (part two)

After writing last night, I remembered a few more things Nicole and I had talked about, so this list will overlap chronologically with the previous one. I figure that's not a big deal--if you read this blog, you're used to me jumping back and forth by decades, so a few months won't make a difference:


I think it was a little bit after my nephew was born that Kira got a series of earaches. When I was in high school, a classmate and friend of mine did research on earaches with a professor at OSU and presented it for his science fair projects each year--he told me that whenever the judge was a parent, he would win, and I can see why. When a young child is awake half the night with terrible pain, all priorities other than comfort and healing leave a parent's mind. We'd bring her to our bed--even though at the best of times she tosses and turns as if sleeping were a circus act--and do our best with warm wash cloths, tylenol, and physical proximity to make her feel better. It was good practice, looking back, for having an infant who also doesn't let his parents get a good night's sleep.

After the ear infection came an eye infection, so in addition to antibiotics Kira needed eye drops. She hated them, of course, but she trusted us enough to lie her head in our laps, let us pull down the bottom of her eye, and put in the drops while she moaned or cried.

It was during the eye drops phase that her dad who hasn't visited for three years sent a package which included various gifts he'd been collecting but neglected to send for quite some time. That afternoon was like a second Christmas for Kira as she opened up present after present after present, squealing with delight.

When Kira went off to play with her newly obtained bounty, I told Nicole how much happier I was to be the dad Kira trusts to put in eye drops than the dad who sends presents in the mail. The eye drops are far closer to the core beauty of family.


Passover began, if I recall correctly, at the tail end of March this year. My first seder was in the home of a girl I had a crush on in eighth grade. After another one the next year at my dad's cousin's house, my dad produced a Haggadah he'd apparently been keeping on a shelf for years and we started keeping seders in our own house. I held seders both years I was in Germany on my LDS mission. I held seders with friends while I was away at college.

Nicole and her sister Kirstin had come to my 2009 seder and helped make it particularly good. Sometimes, non-Jewish seder participants see it as a cultural experience they're supposed to just watch and observe from the outside rather than as an important discussion they're supposed to take part in. Nicole and Kirstin weren't that way at all: they were completely engaged with the seder, brought themselves to it and let it speak to them. That seder was wonderful as a result.

In 2010, I got to have a family-only seder in Utah for the first time--at my parents-in-laws house with all the George and Sandra Wilkes descendants (eleven adults and twelve kids) plus my brother Matt and two of my cousins. There wasn't the time for all the involved adult discussion I'd been used to through my years in college, but those kids got really involved. The seder is one of the best ways I know of teaching children: it combines symbolic foods, stories, and questions in a form they can soak up and interact with. The grown-ups all helped explain the story (Mormons know the Exodus particularly well, having had another sort of one a century and a half ago): it was the best kid-centered Mormon Passover I've ever been to or heard of.

My niece and nephew asked just a few days ago when we can have Passover again. They remember these things.


After visiting relatives in Delano area after Naveen's wedding, we headed up to San Jose and Oakland to visit with some relatives there. My uncle in San Jose had just accepted an offer from his company to spend at least three years in London, so we were particularly grateful to have time with them before they moved out to double the extended family's U.K. presence.

We also got to spend a night with my dad's cousin Juli, whose Passover seder had been the inspiration for reviving the tradition on our own.

I love seeing Juli because as a little girl she was particularly fond of her uncle (later my grandpa) Art. I still feel like I can see a bit of that girl, wide-eyed and -minded, not too off-put by her schizophrenic uncle's eccentricities to see his intelligence, creativity, generosity. She's an important piece of the puzzle when I try to imagine the whole life of my grandfather, the man who gave me two of his names.


Kira graduated from kindergarten in May.

The thing I'm most proud of is the way she learned to pretend to teach her own imaginary class, something she'll often do to pass time while sitting on the toilet. Five of Kira's great-grandparents worked in education (not to mention Nicole and I plus at least two of her grandparents, three if you count George's side business teaching guitar lessons). These early lectures she gives may turn out to be good practice for the dominant family field!

Another day, I should start writing up family stories about education--how Grandma once risked her job by speaking Spanish to a student, how my dad used to play outside the one-room school where his mom taught, how Bapuji, who later became a math professor, used to regularly lose calculation races with his illiterate dad--to tell Kira at night.


Every healthy family has their own traditions and way of bonding--rituals play an important role, I think, in counter-balancing the natural frictions and tensions of life.

One of the important family rituals among the Wilkes is Karaoke. They brought out the amps after Nicole's divorce was finalized several years ago, they bring out the amps for birthdays and even baby showers. The Wilkes can all sing and dance, though nothing ever quite tops Kirstin's signature rendition of Shakira's "Eyes Like Yours." People sometimes listen, sometimes dance, sometimes joke about old times. It's a great tradition.

I am, unfortunately, musically almost completely talentless, but luckily I'm also hard to embarrass, so the lack of talent doesn't hold me back from playing along.

In June, it was a combined birthday party that brought the amps out. I wanted to do something special, and finally settled on singing like a little orphan girl to the Les Miserables classic "Castle on a Cloud."

The crowd had a good laugh, especially when a three-year-old nephew ran up to hug me halfway through the song.

Everyone in the world has to find their own way to fit in. I'm glad to be part of a family that has traditions to fit into and is flexible about the way each of us finds to fit ourselves into them.

1 comment:

  1. You forgot to mention that during your performance of "Castle on a Cloud," Andrew tweeted "There's not a drop of alcohol here. These people are just insane."

    I think that is a good tradition to uphold.


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