Easter 2018


Easter 2018 Roll Call, in order of appearance!

1. Dad
2. Sherri
3. Matthew
4. Shobhit
5. Gina
6. David
7. Britni
8. Wendy
9. Rachael
10. Raiden
11. Ricky
12. Angel
13. Beth

This is a decrease of 35% -- basically, a third -- from last year's twenty. Two key reasons for this difference is the two full families who came last year but were missing this year: Nikki, TJ and Cheyanna; and Jennifer and Eric with their three kids didn't come either. They had their own family Easter at home in Shelton. That alone makes eight people who came last year who did not this year -- which means, actually, at least one person came who did not last year. Who was it? Hmm. Looks like it was . . . Britni! In fact, had her fiancée David been able to come, we would have had 14 this year with the two them added. But, David works as a PI and had to work yesterday, following someone around or something.

It occurs to me now, in fact, that Dad and Sherri, who hang out with Jennifer and Eric regularly, might very well have already known they were going to do their own thing for Easter this year -- and that alone would account for them not being included in the Facebook Event invite for dinner. And no one expected Nikki and TJ, who live in Spokane, would be coming every year. Any time anyone from that side of the state makes it over, it's a bit more of an isolated incident.

With that in mind, I get the feeling this size of the group of attendees this year is more likely to become the norm from here on out. Then again, who knows? Brandi could come back for Easter again sometime; anything can happen. The numbers fluctuate for all these holidays through the years, as in the case for the Easter history specifically:

2007: 22 people (estimated, best I could count from photos)
2008: 13 people (in Spokane, with Christopher's family)
2009: 23 people (estimated, best I could count from photos)
2010: 10 people (in Spokane, with Christopher's family, this time without Shobhit (in New York) or Barbara (in Virginia) or Barbara's Spokane friend Becky, all who had been there in 2008)
2011: 11 people (in Spokane, with Barbara included)
2012: 21 people
2013: 9 people for Dad and Sherri, being with Christopher and Katina with their 5 kids in Spokane; just 3 people for me, taking Mom and Bill out to dinner
2014: 14 people
2015: 22 people
2016: 19 people
2017: 20 people
2018: 13 people

As you can see, before Dad and Sherri started taking trips to Spokane for Easter, the Easter crowd tended to number around 20-25 people. Really, that held until the trips to Spokane stopped, and the first year after that -- 2014 -- had a then-record low number of 14 attendees. As it happens, this year is the new record low. People are growing up, packing up and moving away, or doing their own things at their own houses. I guess Eric texted Sherri yesterday afternoon to invite them over for some ham. Sherri texted back that he was too late and they had already had their own ham and it was already done and put away.

In any event, it was a definitively low-key holiday this year. I was stuck when Shobhit and I arrived -- at precisely 9:50 a.m., almost the same time we arrived last year -- by the lack of Easter decorations anywhere outside the house this year. Last year I got photos of carrots hanging from trees, plastic eggs in a basket by the front door, that kind of stuff. Sherri still put out plenty of Easter stuff inside the house, though, so it's not like they weren't festive at all.

There was a moment when Sherri was gazing out the front room window and she said, "I feel like it's about time to go pick up a grandparent." No one has done this since Grandpa McQuilkin was for Easter 2016. For many years -- literally all my life prior, to get specific -- we had him, and Grandma McQuilkin, and Grandma Rhoda (both Grandmas passed in 2011) and nearly every major family holiday. In fact, Grandma and Grandpa McQuilkin's own house was Family Holiday Central for a great many years before that mantle kind of passed on to Dad and Sherri. There is often talk of who might take on that mantle from them, which happened again just yesterday, but honestly, I'm not sure anyone will. Shobhit keeps bringing up Brandi, but her being in Phoenix kind of precludes that. I would volunteer -- enthusiastically, in fact -- but even sixty miles away from the bulk of the family still living in Olympia, you know as well as I do that I'm not ever going to get a bunch of people to drive an hour to my place every year for multiple holidays. That's just not going to happen.

This literally just occurred to me as I was writing this, though: maybe Gina and Beth! They live in Olympia and likely always will. They already host holiday dinners every year, for Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve. These tend to include a traditional group of friends, but I can see an evolution of this to include more family. I'm not going to push this idea onto them -- that might just invite resistance -- but all I'm saying is, I can see a natural shift over the years to a focus on them as holiday hosts. Their house is big enough, is always clean, and is in the right location.

Gina just finished her first week at a new job as Policy and Finances Coordinator for the Olympia Police Department. She told us all the story of how her shift to this job, from a job she was very comfortable with working for the State for many years, happened quite organically, thanks to a connection with a woman who worked there, who happened to be the mother of a friend of Gaia's, the Italian exchange student they had last year, who lives in their same neighborhood. I guess the woman really wanted Gina to apply and was very persistent. And in the end, it worked out -- including an apparently "significant" (Gina's word) salary increase.

Anyway, I texted Gina on Saturday to ask if there was any chance she could take me to see her new workplace, and if she was even allowed to do that. She never texted me back, but when I asked her about it after she arrived yesterday she said she had texted her boss that morning to ask, and was told she could do it! But, then Gina decided to have a beer, and after that she said it wasn't going to happen, because she would not go into work after having a beer. I think that's kind of next-level paranoia (one beer is nothing, and she was acting just like herself), but then, it was also understandable given that she'd only been working there for a week. Still, it was rather disappointing, especially after having gotten my hopes up. She had even told David after he arrived that she'd been given the go-ahead to give a tour, but then David left much sooner than expected when his ride back to the police academy he's training at in Burien came and picked him up. Apparently he's going to be a Sheriff's Deputy in Clark County. So: oh, well. There's always my Birth Week to try again, and that's less than a month away now.

Slightly related though, an interesting conversation happened yesterday, before David went home. David is the only one in the family specifically working in law enforcement (well, if you exclude Gina working at the Olympia police headquarters, I guess), and also having been in the military -- these two things have long created a scenario where, although it would perhaps be unfair to say Sherri is more proud of him than any of her other grandchildren (or any of her children, for that matter), it's not that far from the truth, and it would still be accurate to say there's no other grandchild (or child) she's more proud of than she is of him. She literally reveres him.

Somehow, police shootings came up in conversation -- and specifically the recent one, of Stephon Clark in Sacramento. And immediately I'm just thinking, . . . Oh, god. This is not going to go anywhere comfortable.

Not everyone was around for this conversation, but plenty were, all sitting around the table in the dining room: Sherri, Gina, Britni, David, me. Had either Beth (I'm not sure where she was at that specific moment) or Shobhit (who had been down watching TV in the family room, I think) been part of the conversation, it might well have changed significantly, but who can be sure? Britni, I really must commend, for her immediate instinct to be pragmatic and give people on all sides the benefit of the doubt. She actually said, "I fully support Black Lives Matter, and the police too . . ." This was the kind of conversation where someone could very well have piped up with an ill-advised "All lives matter!" statement, and I suppose I should give credit there: no one said that, thank God.

The focus naturally turned to David's opinion, since he's training to be a cop, and the first thing he said, clearly uncomfortable, was, "I don't want to be having this conversation." And in all fairness, I really can't blame him for that. But, his next statement was to criticize Stephon Clark for pulling out his cell phone in a way that made it look like a gun, the clear implication being that the man, who was both armed and innocent, was himself to blame for his own death. And this cannot be stressed enough: details matter, and none of us at that table had enough details at the ready to have any truly informed insight on the matter.

Sherri, clearly speaking first and foremost as a grandmother whose primary concern is for the safety of a beloved family member, all but commanded him, "David, if you see someone point anything at you, you shoot." I can only hope that's not how he's being trained at the academy, which is presumably not run by doting grandmothers.

And I really must address something else that was said during this conversation, which bothered me so much I won't even say who said it, because I don't want to come across as unfairly shitting on one individual here. Talking about the number of police shootings of black people in the media -- of course, no one here mentions how often these black people are unarmed, and shot in the back -- this was actually said: "How often do they report when white people are shot? You never hear about that!" The clear assumption here is that the police shoot unarmed white people just as often. The media isn't biased against the black community, they're biased against whites. Never mind how often you actually do hear stories of police effectively de-escalating dangerous situations with white people, who tend to shoot instead when the suspects are black. It's less convenient to think about that, and more convenient for someone to pull non-existent statistics out of their ass, something for which there is zero evidence, and declare that police departments only seem racist because those shootings are the only ones the media reports on. I'll tell you why the media doesn't report on unarmed white people getting shot: it's because it doesn't fucking happen. If it did, those white people's surviving family members would get lawyers the people in decimated black neighborhoods can never afford, they would get tons of money out of police departments, and that would get plenty of media coverage.

I can't tell you how many times I've read a story of a scenario in which a white suspect is taken into custody and I've thought, If that guy had been black, he'd be dead. Or at least shot.

This is the problem that I saw around that table yesterday: a family of white people, talking exclusively to each other about the behaviors and interests of people of another race. How often do any of them actually talk to black people about what it's like for them just living in America on a day to day basis? They have no idea. I honestly believe I have a better idea than they do, and even I have no idea! Honestly, the amount of white privilege going unrecognized around that table could have blown the walls off the house.

But, what can I do about it? Alienate everyone there by being combative? They pretty much all already know how I feel anyway, which made it a little weird. To tell the truth, it wasn't that different from twenty years ago and Ellen DeGeneres came up in conversation, and Aunt Raenae dismissed her out of hand as "Ellen Degenerate," as though the presence of an openly gay family member right in front of her made no difference. Granted, this is less personal to me in the case of yesterday's conversation -- I can't get too preachy about it given I'm just as white as the rest of them are. This time I'm not actually a member of the oppressed group being discussed. Hell, not even Shobhit is -- although his presence absolutely has tempered some of the racial language people in my family used to use. (No one calls a cab driver "towelhead" anymore. Sometimes you take progress where you can get it.) But for a nonwhite person, Shobhit definitely enjoys more privilege than most. Indians don't have the same specifically American history that, say, African Americans or Latinos do.

So Britni attempts to be diplomatic in her conclusion by saying, "All you really need to know is, don't be a dick!" Gina readily agreed, and it was all light-hearted and seemingly something we could all agree on. This, however, I could not just let pass. "It's not that simple, though. There are types of institutionalized racism that people don't even realize is happening." This was met mostly with silence -- perhaps partially as a matter of granting me the same courtesy as I had been meeting everything said with silence up to that point.

And then Britni, God love her, said, "I agree completely!" And I felt she was truly sincere, not just telling me what she thought I wanted to hear. I have to say, I've been more impressed with Britni than I have been with many, just in terms of comparing her current self to the attention-starved hellion she'd been as a kid. If anyone deserves an award for "Most Improved," it's her. She's about to go back to school, to study for teaching special education. That makes me particularly proud of her.

If I had any major character flaws through much of my life -- okay, I've had many -- a big one has been a tendency to assume a lack of education means a lack of intelligence. Before Danielle went to college to become a nurse, I made this mistake with her: she'd demonstrate an understanding of a concept that impressed me to a degree that it was kind of insulting. Why should that be surprising? The same applies to Britni, who never finished high school. I spent way too much of my life feeling -- and therefore acting -- superior, just because I thought I was the smartest one in the room. And who knows? Maybe I am! Probably not, though. I don't think anyone in my immediate family, or any of their descendants, is likely any less intelligent than I am, really. Plenty of them are more accomplished: Gina just got her second degree, which is far more than can be said of myself -- I may have been the first in even the extended family to graduate from college, but that was twenty years ago this year. Who gives a shit about that anymore? All I've got is a measly Bachelor's Degree -- in English, no less! In real-world application, that’s about as worthless as degrees get. And I have zero desire to go back to school, which is how I have felt for all of the past twenty years. Hell, I would absolutely concede that even David is more accomplished than I am at this point, and he's only 28! What he's done is certainly more impressive, by a pretty wide margin.

And to be clear, I still feel valued, and I still feel like my parents are all proud of me, and are just as proud as they have ever been. There's just also plenty of room for pride in other people; I'm not better than any of them. And this is not a specific comment on anyone in my family, but on a culture of white supremacy in a broader sense: I will still say that this is the difference between myself and those who resent minorities who fight to make gains in a society literally designed to keep them down, as though those people are infringing on their own rights. I can actually make room for other people to be valued, instead of insisting that those people are reaching for something unearned. I wasn't as skilled at that in the past, I'll admit.

Anyway, that's enough of that. The conversation passed, it wasn't that unpleasant, and the day was quite nice in spite of the low turnout. I even mentioned to Dad how low key Easter had been this year, and he readily agreed with me. "Still pleasant, though!" I said.

As usual, Shobhit and I were there at the house by far the longest -- about eight and a half hours. We arrived just before 10 a.m. and left shortly after 6 p.m. Everyone else, with the exception of Angel, was gone by 4:00. Many of them had other dinners to hit, including Wendy (Sherri's sister), who I believe left first; and even Ricky and Rachael. David left shortly after Wendy did because his ride was there -- he didn't even stay for Easter dinner. Gina and Beth might have stayed later, except Gina was feeling exhausted after a week of fighting a terrible cold -- probably another reason the tour of the police headquarters didn't happen. Beth, for her part, was not there long either, as she had a meeting to host in Seattle which apparently only two people showed up for. It sounded like between the time Gina arrived and the time Beth arrived, Beth was mostly just driving, to and from Seattle.

In any case, by 4:00, the only guests left were Angel, Shobhit and me. By then I had only gotten 14 photos so far during the day, the most recent four just taken to fill out the full Easter photo set on Flickr. I took several pictures of holiday decorations around the house, which, although they were technically filler, turned out for the most part to be very good photos. I then took the shot you see at the bottom of this entry, which included Shobhit, Sherri and Angel, and was the one photo I posted to social media while I was in Olympia. Dad and Sherri got a new carpet. They also got a new coffee table and end table. Those couches are at minimum 33 years old -- Dad and Sherri say they got them when Brandi was a baby, and Brandi was born in 1985 -- and they are in astonishingly good shape for being that old. Our cats would shred them in a week. They've lasted that long mostly because of how little they get used -- mostly sat on only during the three family holidays that happen per year; the entire time they have had a family room with other furniture that got used far more regularly, even at the old house they lived in before 1993 on 12th Avenue. Angel joked that with three holidays a year for thirty years, that makes ninety: "They've only had ninety butts on them!" That's clearly fuzzy math but whatever.

Sherri said at one point, "This is definitely an old people's house now." She's kind of right -- but it's also very well put together, I think. I quite like the photo below in particular, as it shows how nice their house really is, especially with that new, very nice carpet.

I did get one thing accomplished that I wanted to get accomplished yesterday: I scheduled my Birth Week Bike Ride with Dad, which is to happen in Puyallup on the Sunday afternoon after I stay overnight with Jennifer in Shelton on Saturday, April 28th. Assuming that works out -- we tried it once and it didn’t work because when we were going to go there last August, we wound up doing a path in Olympia instead because the traffic had been so awful -- then it's convenient for me, actually, as Puyallup is maybe about half the way back home from Shelton already. I guess Gina and Beth have both expressed interest in riding this path as well, and it would be very cool if they could manage to join us.

Anyway, that's how my Birth Week will begin. I still plan a theme of botanical gardens, but the gardens will have to go full swing after that first weekend. I really want to get portraits of myself with each Birth Week participant with flowers blowing behind us, though, so hopefully we'll find some flowers on that bike path.

Shobhit asked me to drive both directions yesterday, and on the way down, a minor miracle occurred: I only had to take the car off cruise control for about five minutes through central Tacoma -- otherwise, I was on cruise control the entire distance on I-5, both between Seattle and Tacoma, and between Tacoma and Olympia. I had never managed that before, and I bet a big part of it was our decision to leave as early as possible. We didn't really rush, either -- we just got up to get ready to go as soon as we woke up, and we were still ready to head out by about 8:45. Given that we were the Easter attendees who came from by far the longest distance away (60 miles; Wendy, who lives in Centralia, came in second, at 26 miles), and had no other place to be, it made sense for us to be there by far the longest as well -- I get down there so seldom, mostly just for holidays anymore. We hadn't been to Olympia since Christmas.

Shobhit asked me to drive back as well, and the drive went pretty quickly in both cases. By the time we got to Seattle, we suddenly found ourselves under a deluge of hail -- rarely have I seen so much come down. Once we parked in the garage, the car looked like it had just come in from a snowstorm. It all stopped just as quickly as it began, though, and melted almost instantly. We took all the stuff upstairs -- even more leftovers than the amount of food we took down, including leftover macaroni and cheese Sherri gave us that I just ate for lunch -- and then I spent the rest of the evening editing, uploading, and captioning photos, both on Facebook and on Flickr.


[posted 12:17 pm]