I live in an inter-cultural home. Both my husband and I are very proud of our diverse heritages. Coming from opposite sides of the globe we manage to share with each other the best parts of what make us unique individuals. Every now and then something will pop up that rattles one of us. In my case, it’s dropping by the house unexpectedly.
Growing up I watched my own parents be social butterflies. The neighborhood that I grew up in often felt more like a grove of families that were all inter-connected in each others lives. Think, “Desperate Housewives” minus all of the murder drama (lol). Everyone knew everyone and gossip flew along every curly-corded telephone. Being a child I didn’t have to deal with all of the adult B.S. Instead, I got to immerse myself in a world where I had plenty of friends, and there wasn’t a holiday that went by that wasn’t a party. It was pretty great.
Meanwhile across the globe my husband lived in an entirely different world. In the bustling city of Manila, Philippines he grew up in a world where everyone close to the family is a “tito” or “tita” (uncle/aunt). In a world where the streets are packed and safety is paramount, resilience is taught from an early age. However, like me he also had a barkada (a close circle of friends who you often hang out with daily). These people became like family to him.
Back in America watching my parents host dinner parties and the like, it wasn’t uncommon for my parents to implement R.S.V.P.s on their invitation. I remember writing R.S.V.P. on my own birthday invitations when I was young. It was just the norm. When I wanted to go over to a friends house my parents always made me ask permission to the adult before inviting myself over. We set a date, made plans, and then attended. There was a protocol and it was always followed.
In the Philippines community is everything. Pamiliya (family) is a central part of life and they truly believe that “blood is thicker then water”. With older siblings, my husband always tagged around with his brothers and sister and learned a lot from watching them. His lolo and lola (Grandpa and Grandma) were an integral part of his young childhood and there was never a need to R.S.V.P…. you simply showed up and were always welcomed. Family is family.
Fast forward to yesterday. As I was in full Spring Cleaning mode my husbands cell phone buzzed. My in-laws were on the way with plenty of delicious, Filipino food and they were coming to say hello. My first instinct was, “What?! But I’m still in my pajamas! And my house is all out of place from cleaning! Yikes!!”. My husband sensed my anxiety and rubbed my shoulders, “Don’t worry…” he said gently, “Family is family. They don’t care about such trivial things”. Nonetheless, I raced into the shower and hurried to straighten up before they arrived. Just then the phone rang– it was my dad. I quickly explained my need to hurry and tidy up my house. I complained about the lack of time given before they arrived and my urgency to get everything together. “Have more tolerance” my dad said softly, “Perhaps it is a cultural difference. Did you ever think of that?”. I stood in my living room and really paused. Maybe I was worrying about absolutely nothing. Maybe the difference of R.S.V.P.-ing and simply dropping by was a cultural difference and I needed to have more understanding. I thanked my dad and hung up the phone.
As they all marched through the door, each holding a pan of amazing food, I melted at the compassion and warmth they brought into our home. Over the course of the evening, laughter filled every corner, two languages became music in the air, and everyone had an amazing time. Two cultures from opposite sides of the globe met under one roof and there was a single world that united us all: love. Family really is family. And I feel absolutely blessed.