Saturday, April 02, 2005

Nothing says family like cemetary

Yesterday, I went to the all-Chinese cemetary in Colma. The group in attendance was comprised of me, Gary, my mom, Uncle Kin, Auntie Jenny, Auntie Linda and Emily. See, about twice a year in the fall and spring, families are supposed to by san or visit the gravestones of their elders and leave offerings of food, money (in the form of Hell Bank Notes) and prayers. It's actually the first weekend of the season when people come. But, since most of my mom's siblings are semi-retired or part-time workers, they decided to go on a Friday. Kinda nice not having the crowds there. Not that the cemetary is very noisy to begin with.

Of course, standing in front of my maternal grandparents' graves had us all thinking about visits past. I looked around and noticed how much smaller the group was compared to during my elementary school years. The cemetary is on a hill and my grandparents' headstones are situated right next to a concrete path that cars can take up to the next level. Hehe, I still remember when my grandma was with us. As she got older, we worried the uphill climb would be too hard for her. Once, we didn't want her to stand for too long during the entire ritual. So, Uncle Kin put his big blue cooler on the pathway for her to sit on. And we all had to take turns standing with at least one foot against it so the cooler and Grandma wouldn't go sliding down the hill. Of course, now she's there for the long-term. I wonder if she wishes more of us came. But, it's all part of the natural progression of change. I didn't go many times when I was in college and for a couple years after that. And the past two years, I've gone. These days, everyone has either moved out of proximity or they're just too busy to even consider coming. So, hopefully, more relatives will be around next time or at least if I can't come, someone else will be able to.

The adults got to rehashing things my cousins and I did when it came to paying respects. Uncle Kin recalled how several years ago at his home, some of the cousins had to pray to a little memorial--incense, oranges, the usual set-up--in front of two chairs. My cousins Tina and Randy--brother and sister--were just little kids. After the praying and offering of food, a slightly spooked Tina asked "Do you think they're still here?" (They being the ancestors). Randy: "Nah, I think they left after they ate."

Another thing I noticed gazing around the cemetary was some of the names on the headstones. I think many people sometimes just pick an English first name by writing a phonetic spelling of their Chinese name. Now, I don't mean any disrespect by snickering at some of them. But honestly, somebody--a family member, Immigration, whoever--should of told these older Chinese folk that maybe that wasn't the best way to pick a name. What really surprises me is that I forget these names by my next by san visit and it seems like I'm hearing about them for the first time. Anywho, here's a sample of what I saw:
Dip Yee (Dip might be ripe for a playground ass-kicking)
Suey Gooey Fong (Rhyming in a name is almost never a good thing)
Sitting Woo (His Chinese name is pronounced Sitting; it's not that the Chinese word for sit is his name)
Hung Tang (Um, I don't think I need to elaborate except to say he is NOT related to my family)

OK, well, now that I've managed to poke fun at some innocent, dead and elderly Chinese people, here's hoping Hell isn't waiting for me.

1 comment:

Karen said...

How coincidental is that? I have an Uncle Kin too...

Yep, it's ching ming again. My grandma has traveled to China for her annual trip...

Though I don't speak much chinese anymore, it's fun to shock people by using the few words and phrases I know... Too bad one of them has to do with dead people...