Most of us have them hanging in that special place down the hallway - even I have several professionally framed ones up on my dining room wall in special pride of place. Different generations of a single bloodline sitting together laughing and talking, there'll be that ubiquitous graduation photo with cap and gown, the crucial wedding shot where the bridebites her rouged lips looking nervous while the groom beams blissfully with eyes bloodshot from last night's hangover. Sometimes looking at the rows of photos, I feel that little pang in my heart.
Don't get me wrong, I haven't recently been orphaned and deprived of the singular pleasure of having a family around who loves me. I do have that at the moment with my almost uncomfortably large brood of aunts and uncles, cousins and relatives. Uncomfortable would be a severe understatement for them since come Chinese New Year or any other festive celebration, there's always a rowdy, boisterous army of kith and kin ready to wreak havoc back home in Penang.
But when it comes to the smaller, more intimate occasions, Christmases and birthdays, it's always left to my brother and me. Although he has started a small tribe of his own, it certainly doesn't match those of my parents. Doubt there are all that many in this reproductively challenged generation of singles and doubles that could possibly match up to having a football team full of siblings ( and that's with a few backbenchers too ) ... but sometimes I do wonder what it's life to have more than a handful of brothers and sisters bickering and quarrelling over the most trivial matters. You see them on serial familiy dramas all the time... barbaric hordes of family members diving for that final piece of chicken wing, squabbling sisters pulling hairs over that first place in the shower come New Year morning, brothers brawling over control of the all-powerful remote.
In her more pensive moods, my mother would confide that she wished she could have more children and I've never disagreed. Reason enough for me to keep in close contact with my plethora of unruly cousins - who unfortunately enough now live in all farflung corners of the Asia-Pacific region :) Always wondered what it's like to have a big sister giving unsolicited advice and possibly tossing the large hair brush at me when I don't listen. Or a little brat of a brother who's gonna sneer and complain that my secret porn stash has been clogging up the hard disk. Or that little sister who's gonna steal my MP3 player and not return it. Ever.
Me, my brother and my sister-in-law...:)
Say what you will but trust me, it certainly beats having the same regular partner for Monopoly and Uno month after month :) Is it any wonder that after being involuntarily thrown together on a daily basis for twenty years, my dissimilar brother and I started developing in wholly opposite directions? Even my sister-in-law wonders that we could have come up from the same womb with the same upbringing - and sometimes even I start to think that one of us just might have been switched at birth.
Every once in a while my sweet little niece ( well, that's when she's not throwing one of her hissy fits ) comes over and asks me when she'll ever have cousins of her own ( possibly instigated by her subtly matchmaking mother ) and I find myself unsurprisingly at a loss for an answer. What do I tell her? How do I tell her? Do I lie by telling that her bachelor uncle's vehemently opposed to the institution of marriage and the act of childbearing? Or do I tell her the sadder, convoluted truth - that this country certainly isn't ready to face the chilling spectre of a gay man adopting?
Yeah. Family portraits. They do make you think.
Not gonna leave everyone feeling depressed and down in the dumps of course, especially since news of my nomination has put a queer smile on my face :) After all, it's certainly not my style to wail and moan over things we can't change... and hey, it's not all doom and gloom in the queer world since every once in a while, if you're lucky enough you do meet the one guy who becomes your family.
Just ask Kevin Walker.