The last time I was in the US was when Obama was newly elected. It was my first time in the midwest–Batavia, a city outside Chicago, to be exact–and my first time staying with my relatives there. On my first morning, my cousin made pancakes. My eldest niece was six then, my nephew two, and my youngest niece just a month old. Eight years later, I was visiting again, this time under a new administration. And again, my first morning involved pancakes, this time made by my nieces, now fourteen and eight respectively, under the supervision of my cousin. The girls did the flipping while my cousin served the plain pancakes with melons, blueberries, and maple syrup. They were delicious.
My American relatives and I don’t communicate a lot unless we’re in each other’s countries, but whenever we do, it’s always fun, comforting, and enlightening. Before my first visit eight years ago, our memories of each other consisted of their summers spent in Manila, where they stayed at our grandmother’s house. I remember my two cousins marveling at how cheap the books in the Philippines were compared to thee US, and how they would stock up on them before returning. They’ve also visited once or twice as grownups, staying at my uncle’s place with their respective families after our grandma passed away.
Despite our sporadic interactions, we’ve somehow remained close, our doors open to each other for however long we want. My cousin, the one whose kids made the pancakes, explained that those summers she and her sister spent in Manila were fun ones, and it’s the memories of those times that have kept us comfortable with each other, despite our geographical distance. It’s what makes it possible to meet again after many years and take up where we left off while getting to know each other at the same time.
My nieces made pancakes again the weekend before I left, this time with chocolate chips mixed into the batter. But my visit wasn’t all about pancakes–when I visited my other cousin in Chicago, she made waffles for breakfast. Clearly, their side of the family has a griddle cake thing going on, something that I enjoyed very much. Now that I’m back home, I can’t eat a pancake or a waffle without thinking about the ones I had in Batavia and Chicago, which not only taste better, but were also made with care. I hope it doesn’t take me another eight years to return.