Jason and I are planning epic cooking festivities for Thanksgiving. He's attempting to make turducken at Stanford. If successful, there will be a repeat when we're both home. We'll do things other than turducken, of course. I'd like to try my hand at baking again, and perhaps even attempt pie... we'll see what ingredients are good in town when we get in. I wonder how far we'll have to drive to find a farmers' market.

My cooking skills - pretty good this time last year when I was sitting in East Boston with a wok and a fridge full of vegetables to get through each week - have atrophied as I've started to travel more and use them less. It got to the point where I made soggy bok choy and stick-to-the-pan dumplings at Karlie's due to misjudging timing for the former and putting things in the wrong order for the latter (oil in pan, frozen dumplings brown in oil, then add water and steam - not the reverse). That'll be a nice chance to hit the recipe books and brush up again.

Have I mentioned that I love my brother? There are some things in our lives that will probably only ever make sense to each other; we ride the boundaries between similar sets of worlds in similar ways. We're wildly different people: he's social, I'm shy, he's cautious, I'm impulsive, he's shamelessly chill about accepting help, I'm fiercely independent, and if we were both flames, he'd be warm and cozy in a fireplace with marshmallows roasting whereas I'd be a raging fire trying to devour all candles in the world from all possible ends at once. But we're different people in the same kinds of hopping-between spaces.

And one of the nice - difficult and sometimes lonely, but nice - thing about being the oldest in my generation is that I can to some degree act as a scout for my cousins. (There are a lot of us; my mom has 7 sisters, my dad 1 sister and 2 brothers, and all but two of all those are married with multiple kids.) When I do things - and then tell those stories - sometimes their world opens up a little. And as they grow up up (a couple are in college now) they start branching out into paths I haven't trod either, and my world opens up a little, too. So it's less lonely over time. And we swap parent-coping tips and such, as kids are wont to do. I wonder what our kids are going to think of us, however many years from now, when one of my nieces or nephews stumbles across this post in the far-off hypothetical future. (News flash, kids: your crazy aunt Mel was also crazy back in 2009, and she appreciates you helping an old blockhead like her keep up these days.)

And we take turns distracting people. As my cousin Mark prepares to move out of my parents' basement to his first apartment, the quality of my life increases because everyone is paying attention to him. My grandmother went through her mental checklist: the boy has a job, a car, and an apartment... what's next? Well, thanks to Mark, last weekend may have been the first time since starting high school that I've had a visit home where the conversation was about somebody else getting married. ("What about Mallory*?" somebody asked. "I've given up on her," my dad replied - jokingly, but I still had to resist the urge to cheer.)

*no, I don't usually answer to that name except under compulsion of filial piety, as in this case.

The Philippines will be interesting; I have an escape valve because I'm going to have to clear out for a good chunk of time to work each of the two weekdays I'm around. So I can skip all sorts of social engagements on account of that. (Particularly the ones that involve dressing up.) But there's still the wedding to contend with during the weekend. The Ceremony of Ridiculous Length, of course; when you combine Catholic and Filipino and Chinese "you people are together for the rest of your life" traditions, you get a really, really long to-do list and a lot of prayers for comfortable pews. Then the various formal events attached; Willison's getting-hitched festivities will apparently be epic (the wedding has at least 6 godparents).

It's harder for me to mode-switch into being able to do that stuff as time goes on and I grow into being part of a different world. Sometimes I just get... tired. Why do I always have to be the one that runs back and forth between all these worlds? Why do I always have to be the one who translates? Why is the burden always on me to explain? And then I remember: I should be thankful that I'm blessed with the ability to slip between worlds and speak their languages and build those bridges. And unto whomsoever much is given, of her shall be much required. And I can go a long, long way before I get tired - and a long way past that even when I am.

Family. You love 'em, you know? What can you do? It's where you come from.