On Friday, I went to Tomoko Pinckard's (Jane and Anne's mother) memorial service. Although I did not get to know her as well as I would have liked, it was impossible not to cry during the service. Since Jane and Anne are both friends, I knew their speeches would affect me. At first, I almost thankful that most of the service was in Japanese, but despite the language barrier, I could not remain dry-eyed. Seeing these stern, formal Japanese elders, especially Sumiko, Tomoko's sister, overcome with emotion, was sad. I remember the first time I met Tomoko, at a late night Dealership show last year on the Cal campus. We sat together, and she seemed immensely proud to be watching her daughter rock out. She remarked that that the band had improved immensely since their first gig, and giggled with me at Wetherall, the drummer's "beer hat" (don't ask). Later on, we would up walking with her and Justin H. (Jane's other half) up Bancroft back to the car. He appeared to be dragging her up the street. I thought to myself, "She's such a tiny little lady. What's he doing, tugging on her arm that way?" Then I saw that she was grinning from ear to ear, so I figured she was okay with it. When he got up to speak at the service, he recounted this story, adding that she had asked him to pull her up the hill, and laughed as he did. I don't know too many moms that are that cool. When I would visit Anne at their home, she would greet me with a huge smile and a nod, then leave us to our devices.
Later that evening, friends and family gathered at the Pinckard house for food and and drink. Anne opened up her vodka infusions, and Sumiko broke open her homemade plum wine, made from fruit cultivated in her own yard from Japan. I met Max, my fellow author from the cheese diaries. Along with the other editors (Ryan and Anne), Justin C. and Brian [my "gay husbands/boyfriends] (a la Carrie Bradshaw)], who flew in from LA for the memorial service we discussed cheese, and later talked about the bonds of family and friendship.
The next day, Zack and I were invited to Justin H.'s for an informal family barbeque. We enjoyed the afternoon sunshine, sitting on the treehouse-like back porch, while listening to Sumiko recount tales in in broken English and Japanese of Jane and Anne's exploits during childhood visits to Japan as she wove baskets from the yard's vines. Zack had to leave for a prior engagement, and at first, I wasn't sure if I was intruding on such and intimate family moment, but our hosts were warm and welcoming, and I remembered Anne's words from the night before. "What I've learned from this entire ordeal," she said (forgive me for paraphrasing), "is who my friends really are. Blood is important, but your family is what you make of it. It's your friends. You can choose who they are."