Monday, August 2, 2010

Cousins Make Me Feel Smug

Annie in my glasses

My cousin Annie Brantingham, a professor in Wu Han, took this photo of me in front of a painting I did called Jye Jye Whispers which I painted for yet another cousin, who lives in Shanghai. It is a portrait of my dearest Melanie and her three children. It hangs in her house where many scattered family gather frequently to spend holidays and long weekends. I am especially close to this family because her children are being raised like I was; on the streets and lanes of Chinese villages and not in foreign compounds. Her children, Isabelle, Sophia and Jonas speak fluent Mandarin and are agile in both cultures. We have that in common.

I usually hate photos of myself, but I think I look smug and happy in this one.  Maybe it is because Annie, the photographer makes me laugh and of course, I love her.  At one family reunion  Annie and I entertained  our cousins when we were sent to the kitchen to fix a simple lunch of hot dogs. We soon donned chef hats made out of paper towels and prepared the whole meal as if doing a Chinese cooking show.  We did excessive amounts of chopping and using the word
C O N D O M ...E N T S in every sentence.  It was Julia Childs meets John Belushi's The Samurai. We did our Taiwanese, Cantonese Chinglish accents and laughed ourselves silly.  I have a fear that someday that routine will end up on utube.  

All my cousins are funny and witty so when we are together we have a grand time. I will see Annie soon for we gather in Florida this weekend.  We have had another death in the family.  Three since May, including my Mother.  This time it is our cousin Steve. This photo was taken the evening before my Mother's funeral.  It is of my brother and I laughing our heads off at some story Steve is telling.  He had this unique way of making you feel special, as if you were the only relative he cared about.   I have no doubt that each of us who gather to remember him will think, "I was his favorite cousin." And we will each be right.  We will all feel smug.


  1. That photos is powerful and I love the devil may care look. You look beautiful my friend. I am so deeply sorry for yet another loss. Be gentle with yourself.

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your further loss - my deepest condolences Fx

  3. Hello you, my darling lady! I really like this photo, dear Jeanne Ming! :)

    And sorry to hear about the loss. Wish you smiles. xo

  4. I am sorry to hear about your cousin Steve and I love the personal photos and the stories those happy faces tell. That is the thing. All that happiness. I'm so glad you have had a lot of that. It is our great consoling grace.

  5. Dear Jeanne Ming, I'm so touched with your words and your close relations with your family. So precious.
    Sorry to hear about your cousin. My thoughts are with you.

  6. Dear Jean- I love the photos and the insightful comments. What a great photo!

    Elizabeth S. Brantingham-Newport, RI

  7. Your words and your images are always so powerful and touching. Sorry for the loss.

    take care.

  8. Dearest Jeanne-Ming,

    Continue to let love fly with the same freedom and abandon...and smugness. I must believe that the separation is short although every day without their laughter feels long.

    Thank you for sharing these tender and vulnerable moments with us.


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