I know why families were created with all their imperfections. They humanize you. They are made to make you forget yourself occasionally, so that the beautiful balance of life is not destroyed.
Last night, I decided to sort through older videos that I hadn’t gotten around to uploading on facebook. I came across the clips from my cousin’s wedding last month. There were so many happy memories made in the course of only one night. It was beautiful to see again how very much in love the bride and groom were, and watch my parents dancing to their wedding song still as happy (if not more) as the day they were married. One of my videos was ruined when the hired photographer stepped in front of my camera. This brought back another memory that I had meant to write about earlier, but had forgotten in the course of my extended vacation to LA and Texas.
To understand the context of this anecdote, I’ll give you a little background on my crazy, wonderful family.
My mom is an only child, so this shindig was on my dad’s side. My dad is one of four children. He has two sisters and a younger brother who passed away three years ago. His oldest sister has a son and daughter who live in Key West, and his other sister has three rambunctious sons who all reside in Arizona. The eldest of her sons was the groom and the first out of all the grandchildren to tie the knot. They were supposed to get married two years ago, but he had a momentary lapse in judgment and called off the wedding. They were clearly still in love, and when we went on our family reunion cruise, he kept telling us how he made a huge mistake and missed her, etc. So we were all extremely delighted when he proposed (again)…especially because she’s such a sweetheart and we wanted her to be part of the family.
The groom’s mother, my aunt, was divorced and remarried last year. I met my new uncle for the first time at the wedding. He’s a pretty quiet, mild tempered guy, who sort of just kept in the background because of all the awkwardness with my aunt’s ex husband and his family present.
We arrive at the country club and it’s absolutely breathtaking. I immediately take out my Nikon and start snapping pictures.
It’s the first time we’ve seen my aunt (mother of the groom) since my uncle’s funeral, so we wanted to take pictures of my dad and aunts together.
As I am taking a picture of MY parents… the hired photographer, a short woman with a permanent scowl who resembled (I kid you not) the witch from Disney’s Snow White (the disguised witch, not the queen)… storms over and says, “If you want your picture taken by the PROFESSIONAL… that’s what I was hired to do.”
So whatever…I don’t think anything of it. She and her partner, a man with a much friendlier disposition, are taking random pictures inside the country club of the family and friends. I want to take a picture of my grandparents with my dad and aunts as it’s a tradition whenever we’re together. I find a pretty Christmas tree and have them stand in front of it. Photograwitch sees this and sidles over. I ask my grandma to stand next to my grandpa in the middle, and the photographer witch says, “Excuse me…I’m the photographer. I’ll tell them where to stand, thank you.” !@#$
My dad is outraged, and says, “Let her take the picture, we’ll stand wherever she wants us to.”
This silences photograwitch. The nicer one comes up to me and says, “She doesn’t mean to be rude, it’s just that we don’t want people looking at different cameras in separate directions,” which I totally understand because it annoys me, too. Anyway, I make a point to stay out of their way for the rest of the evening, preferring candid shots to group poses anyway.
The ceremony is breathtaking, and my cousin and his bride both start laughing during their vows. Their smiles could have been seen from miles away. It was so joyful. I kept thinking to myself how lucky I am to have been brought up in a family filled with so much love.
During the reception, we were all mingling on the deck of the country club admiring the gorgeous view of the mountains, when my aunt (mother of the groom) comes up to me and says, “Did Bill tell you what that bitch said about you?” I’m confused, and reply no.
Apparently, the photograwitch had approached my aunt’s husband, not realizing maybe that he was part of our family as he had been a fly on the wall all evening, and said, “Who does that f*cking Chinese girl think she is?” Bill said, “Actually, she’s my niece and part of the family.” Photograwitch is dumbfounded and stutters, “Well…she better stop getting in my way or I’m going to leave,” to which Bill replied, “Why don’t you?” Photograwitch skulks off to bitch and moan to her partner.
Hearing this makes everyone incredibly angry. They all start talking about how unprofessional the woman is, etc… while I wander off to ponder why her behavior upset me so much. I started tearing up, and went to collect myself out on the lawn. This was my family. The one place where I never had to question whether or not I belonged, because I was so loved. I’ve had the confused reactions from random people I encounter, but never to the point, where it would be seen as unacceptable for me to be taking pictures of my own parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brother… And I know that it wasn’t just the fact that I was taking pictures. It was a wedding. EVERYONE was taking pictures, some with even better or more imposing cameras than mine.
I cried thinking about how the last time I saw my aunt was at my uncle’s funeral, and how I had wanted so much to document this event– to cherish the happier moments in our family’s history. That I didn’t know if my grandparents (or any of us) would live to see the next grandchild get married. It astounded me… broke my heart… that this woman who knew nothing about our experiences, would single me out and deny my right to participate as a member of the family. My eyes might be smaller than theirs, but I spend more time with my grandparents than any of my cousins. I’m absolutely devoted to every member of my family, no matter how hard times may be or awkward our situations. Who does this f*cking chinese girl think she is? Someone who deserves to be treated with more respect than this supposed “professional” has offered me… that’s who.
Stephanie two years ago would have shrugged this incident off as mere ignorance. But the Stephanie today knew that her comments were reprehensible and she deserved to be called out for her insensitivity.
I waited with my cousin (who had offered to kick her ass for me) while both photographers finished their shoot. I left my cousin and walked up to her calmly and collectedly. She rolled her eyes. I said, “I just wanted to apologize for inconveniencing you or getting in your way earlier this evening…”
She started to open her mouth to respond, but I continued.
“However, I don’t think it was necessary to bring my race into the equation. And for the record, I’m not Chinese. I was adopted from South Korea, and that’s my family in there. What you said to my uncle was hurtful and disrespectful.”
She was stunned. “I didn’t mean…”
I turned and walked away.
Later that evening, I sat down for dinner at my family’s table. The nicer photographer came to take our picture. He pulled me aside and said, “I’m so sorry for what happened earlier, but I want you to know that what you did tonight was classy and you handled yourself with a lot of maturity.” I thanked him and sat back down with my relatives.
As much as I complain about my family’s idiosyncrasies, I am blessed. I have grandparents who have been happily married for 60 years, my parents for 30 years, aunts and uncles who treat me like one of their own, and cousins who make me laugh more than anyone else in the world.
When people look at me with confusion, pity, etc… after finding out that I was adopted, I know that despite what anyone might say to or about me, I would rather stick out like a sore thumb in this family than blend in with any other.