The Ban Be clan in their Carrol Gardens bakery – Brooklyn
My family is my strength and my weakness ~ Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
How happiness relates to family is one of the most complex things in the universe. Humans are often a mystery to us. Our everyday interactions with others often leave us shaking our heads. The most innocuous of interactions can anger people, or even leave us ruminating over an interaction for days. Add in the additional factor of loving someone, of them being part of your family and everything gets amped up like it’s on steroids. The good things are better and the bad things are way worse. Often, your family are the people who know you best, so they know all of your buttons. That can result in the best of surprises or presents, or it can send you into incredible levels of pain, frustration and rage.
It’s important to define what family is, I know it seems obvious, but I may not define it like everyone else. Most people would say family are your blood, the people you share genetic and familial commonality with through birth and marriage. That’s not how I define my family. I’ve written about it many times on this blog, my childhood wasn’t wonderful. I remember being one of the first kids in school with divorced parents and all the angst, fear and madness that went along with that happening. After the divorce there was never a lot of money, sometimes not even enough. I grew up in a tough neighborhood so I know what it’s like to get my ass kicked, to run from trouble, to know real fear. But it wasn’t all bad, I had people who cared about me and for me. The lessons learned being a street kid have served me well. And as all children do, in all circumstances, I had fun. It’s what I admire most about kids, no matter how bad things are, they find a way to play, laugh, have fun and be amazed by the world.
Throughout my life I’ve had family members who have inflicted great pain upon me and so as I got older and learned about the idea of selected family that is how I’ve lived my life. Being a part of my family isn’t an exercise in genetic inheritance, but a matter of being someone I care about, who cares about me. As such I have family who are not blood, and blood, who are not family.
I want to focus today on some of my family. My little brother is fifteen years younger than I am, I always told my mother I would have a brother, she would laugh. So when he was born I got to name him. My father split again, shortly after his birth, so I helped raise him. We have a unique relationship, he is part brother, part son in the way we interact. My brother is one of the few people in my life who I have never been angry with, never felt betrayed or let down by and I’m incredibly proud of him. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have three of the most adorable kids you will ever see. During the pandemic his wife started making some family desert recipes and selling them. They became popular, REALLY popular, to the point the business has moved from the apartment to a storefront.
From something she did on the side, to a full family business that now also employs my brother. Even their soon to be three year-old daughter has a job, she’s the Chief Baby Officer of Ban Be Bakery and the unofficial mayor of Brooklyn Heights. The bakery has gained some attention and fame as the first Vietnamese-American Bakery in New York City. Their cookie tins have months long wait lists, their pop up events sell out in hours.
My sister-in-law and brother are serial entrepreneurs who, like most business people, have had several successful and unsuccessful ventures before seeing this current one take off. They are both amazing people, my tiny sister-in-law is brilliant and feisty and stands up for what she believes in, her 17.21 Instagram page featuring and promoting the accomplishments of Asian Women will soon become a book. My brother is an artist, graphic designer and web designer who has worked with Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic, he’s one of the kindest and gentlest humans I’ve ever known. They are also amazing parents. They amaze me how they do everything they do, and do so well. My pride in their accomplishments is obvious and their success makes me incredibly happy. They were featured this past weekend in the New York Times Metro Section.
Interacting and managing your own personal happiness is always complicated. Never forget that your first and foremost responsibility is to you, your significant other and any humans you have created. Take care of that first and you’ll have happy days my friends. ~ Rev Kane