Aunty 9 (Phamly Reunion)

by - November 02, 2017

Photos: Cousin T & Big Brother Pham (with Little Sissy Pham on the side) in 1987 versus Little Sissy Pham & me in 2017

In Vietnamese culture we refer to family members in birth order. So, for example, Big Brother Pham is number 2, I am number 3, and Little Sissy Pham is number 4. It's relative to the speaker so to my siblings I'm sister 3, my nieces Aunty 3, or to elders child 3. And then everyone has their name too so I can be Aunty Ngoc or Jade. And in Mum's Phamly they have their Vietnamese name AND their Chinese name. So depending on which side of the Phamly I speak to I refer to them by their Chinese name (Mum's side) or by their number (Dad's side)... it gets rather confusing so for blog purposes so I will use numbers relative to me.

Mum Pham was the youngest of 10 kids. Aunty 9, being the 8th in line, helped raise and care for Mum since Grandma passed away when Mum was a toddler. Mum loved Aunty 9 and though I hadn't seen her in decades so do I. Her care and love helped shape the care and love Mum gave me. I was ecstatic when Cousin T told us his mum could see us.

So on our first full day in Hometown, we went to visit Aunty 9 in the old flat where The Phamly used to visit every weekend. It was strange to walk the streets and halls that Mum & Dad Pham used to walk every weekend, and then to see the same flat that is in so many Phamly photos. I made Little Sissy Pham recreate a photo from childhood - except instead of Big Brother Pham and Cousin T, we were in the pic. It was the funnest!

It always makes me happy-sad to visit family and friends who knew Mum. I can see the love and loss I remind them of when they see Mum's face in mine. I'm almost the age Mum Pham was when she fled to Germany too. Aunty 9 says I even have the same gentle way of speaking. Ooph, it's like good, firm kick in the feels every time.

In long-held Phamly tradition, Aunty 9 overfed us to the point of bursting...and then took us to an all-you-can-eat buffet with Aunty 6's kids. Aunty 9 was so happy to see us, she spent hours strolling the streets of Hometown with us even though she's only recently out of hospital and not up to her regular strength. One thing we noticed in Europe - everyone is way fitter than Aussies of any age. People are just healthier and more active - obesity wasn't really a thing. Or if it was, we never saw anyone morbidly overweight in our travels.

Aunty 9 and her husband still went for bike rides up until her surgery and his (he was in hospital when we were visiting so didn't get to see him). I remember I used to annoy the crap out of him because he didn't like noisy kids, and I was chubby chaos. Cousin N told me how one time he told me to be quiet, and I had a full tantrum, stormed off into the bedroom, and refused to talk to anyone or do anything I was so mad for hours. What a little shit I was.

Being back in the flat where all these memories were made was surreal. I couldn't tell which bits I remembered from actual memory or from old Phamly album photos or tales. Either way, it was indescribably wonderful to be back at the flat where we hung out every week as kids. So much love and fondness was felt the whole day there.


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