There is an undeniable sense of guilt-ridden déjà vu as I write these words: “I’m sorry for the absence and the lack of posts of late”. I’m not sure where the cultural custom owes its roots, but for guilty Chinese children confessing their sins, the customary stance is to have your head bowed, pulling on each earlobe between thumb and forefinger. So consider this my cathartic figurative earlobe pulling session.
It’s not for lack of blog content to write – there is certainly plenty of that building up. This year will forever be memorable for me – for both intensely joyful and heartbreakingly sad reasons. I feel the entire year has blustered along at breakneck pace, with a dramatic crescendo in the last few months. If the saying goes, when it rains it pours, then with the close of the year looming, we’re just wading our way out of a flash flood. We’ve attended 6 weddings and a funeral this year.
As I’ve mentioned in some of my recent posts, the Co-pilot and I got engaged midway through the way and are now up to our eyeballs in wedding planning. So on top of the 6 friends’ weddings we attended, we actually held our own “wedding” of sorts too – so I guess that’s actually a total of 7 weddings this year. We had our tea ceremony a few weeks ago, a very small intimate ceremony with only our immediate family in attendance, so as I like to call it, we’re “Chinese married” now as until Western influences infiltrated China, the Chinese tea ceremony was the only recognized and legitimate Chinese marriage ceremony. Certainly when my parents were married in a small rural village in China, they only had a tea ceremony.
The tea ceremony is usually an intimate but not exactly ‘casual’ affair. Essentially in a nutshell, the groom takes auspicious gifts and offerings to the bride’s family home and offers them in exchange for the bride, then tea is offered to family members who upon drinking the tea accept the new couple and provide them a gift and blessing in return – or at least that’s what happens for Southern Cantonese tea ceremonies. Sounds simple right? Well, when held in the traditional manner, there are strict rules, processes and family hierarchies to be observed and respected. For the uninitiated, it’s a veritable familial minefield – offer tea to someone out of hierarchical turn or bring something regarded as an inauspicious gift say, and noses could be put out of joint permanently and the simmerings of a bitter family feud could be seeded.
Thankfully though, all went well on our tea ceremony – we actually really enjoyed the old school traditional elements and thought them very sweet. For instance, I had to sit in my old bedroom in my parent’s house and wait for the Co-pilot to collect me and lead me by the hand out to where our parents were waiting to start the tea ceremony. An act we both had to giggle at since I’d effectively left the house in which we both cohabit in a day earlier to drive to my parents’ house just so the Co-pilot could drive out there the next day with pomp and parade and take me back to our home. These days in Western societies often both the tea ceremony and the Western wedding ceremony and reception are all conducted on the same day – but we really appreciated having the separate day for the tea ceremony. We definitely spent more time enjoying and savouring the significance of the process than we would have otherwise if it were on the same day as our Western wedding. But crucially, the tea ceremony was very important to my parents and now in their eyes we’re now married. That other Western ceremony with the white dress thing – the one that happens to be the legal requirement for marriage in Australia – they think that’s just a formality.
Of course a post wouldn’t be complete without a photo or two so below are a few of us from our tea ceremony (deliberately obscure to protect me from being thumped for revealing identities). One is of us being ushered by my mother, her iron grip propelling us forward to where the Co-pilot’s parents sat waiting for us to offer them our cup of tea and kick off the tea ceremony; and the delicious whole roast pig (of course there was one) – one of the traditional gifts the groom offers the bride’s family at the tea ceremony.
On a more somber note, on top of the particularly stressful and angst ridden professional work year; our inner circle of family and friends have been plagued by more than our fair share of serious health issues this year – not to mention my own little collapsed lung episode. And just a week ago, someone so very dear to me passed away after a long, protracted battle with illness and a part of me will be forever lost with them. It wasn’t unexpected yet still such a rude, surreal shock when it happened that I was left feeling that time had cheated on me. I am left full of regret of heartfelt monologues left unsaid, actions gone wanting, a last hug and kiss unfulfilled. I now know there are times when even “I love you” and “I miss you” feel like flimsy, superficial, throwaway expressions that don’t begin to adequately convey the true depth of emotion. Life and time aren’t accommodating to one’s personal expectations of how sequences should play out and it is a painful reminder that there is no reason to save up all your expressions of love for when the time is right. The time should always be right and today is as good a time as any – but you don’t learn these lessons until the opportunity is no longer there.
I can’t remember another year that I’ve felt so very glad to be over. With joy, happiness, love and grief so intertwined, ‘bittersweet’ would be an apt description. So my new year’s resolution is to ensure I spend more time with loved ones and with the hindsight wisdom of “Carpe Diem“, to communicate and demonstrate love whenever the desire takes me. I wish everyone a truly fantastic new year and a very healthy 2012 filled with an abundance of bliss, happiness and of course good food!