The Holiday Feast

May 30, 2007 at 3:18 am Leave a comment

My parents had always kept me from my extended family.   Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was intentional, or at least maliciously.  Father’s side was very dysfunctional and conservative, and felt just as negatively about us as we did for them.  Mother’s side was just out of the way.  We would be down in the area visiting my grandmother, but only on weekends, and rarely found the time to drop in.
Growing up I was thrilled; an only child, and a Virgo at that, I had little interest in having happy family get-togethers with strange people who ask and answer the same twenty questions every year.  I didn’t know these people.  Being a teenager, there was very limited cognitive storage space allocated towards learning the life stories of strangers.  There were more important things to remember, like the lyrics to hundreds of songs.
A little later in life, when my frontal lobes had developed to the point where I’d realized the world did not revolve around me, I started paying attention to other people, became my own reporter in order to really get to know others.  This was an interesting transition for me, since I’d egotistically assumed that every life had been rather similar to mine, and if I remember my own experiences (which I honestly lag at that), then I understood everyone else’s.  Suddenly, it was the other way around: in listening to the experiences of others, I not only may interpret my own, but also be reminded of who I am.  Oh yeah, and I get to know someone else in the process; that’s important too.
Much to my chagrin, I was informed that I would be spending the evening with a cluster of my extended family, and to make matters worse it was a dinner party.  Generally I have no qualms with dinner parties, but the anti-social part of my character seeps out before I reach the car, and I remain fairly closed and longing for home unless I’m handed a bottle of merlot and a funnel.  After feigning ill, I realized I would really have to suck it up and go.
I was a little jealous of my mother’s cousin’s house.  It was old, beautifully kept (they had not painted the interior wood-work which I respected wholeheartedly), and a nice size without being show-y.  The décor was a little too frilly for my taste, but who am I to judge?
Immediately I was bombarded with questions about how well my grandmother was doing, and how school was – at that point I had been single for so long, the questions regarding my romantic life were non-existent.  Suffice to say, the responses were bland as a reflection of the questions.  I was pretty bored after about five minutes, but luckily someone handed me a wine glass.
The dinner conversation was fine, stimulating actually.  One cousin was living in Dubai as a teacher, and her mother made a living as a sculptor, and while I missed what her husband did, I was amused to find he was just an old hippy. Maybe beatnik by the getup he was sporting.  I had no idea these people, my relatives however distant, were actually mildly enjoyable to be around.
Then the children showed up. One daughter, a year or two my junior, is attending college (maybe) and working at a local discount retail store while raising her daughter.  This is not something I’m jealous of (okay, she lives in that house, so I envy her a bit) since I’m disinterested in both local discount retail outlets and childbearing/rearing.
The other daughter is tall, olive skinner, and rather beautiful (which could be why my uncle constantly hits on her, shudder).  This I hated her for, since her look was something I could never pull off.  She does something very interesting for a living, but I honestly don’t remember what it is.  But I do remember my surprise and pang of jealousy.  Aside from her boyfriend (who was not my type, and at the time I was happily with he who was so my type I might have been dating myself), her life seemed rather perfect.  I tried to avoid conversing with her as much as possible and slinked back into the other room with the old folks.
Several large bottles of wine later, as we were all getting to know each other by way of an interesting card game, my mother’s cousin (and the hostess) leaned over to me and queried my love of smoking.  I quietly assured her of the situation, but made it clear my mother knew nothing.  She laughed a little and then reworded her question. Oh, I see.
After searching frantically for a lighter, I found myself outside in -20 weather without a coat or shoes, borrowing flame from the daughter who made me feel like the personification of the fat lesbian.
It felt rather strange, shivering as we were, drunkenly smoking pot, hoping my mother wouldn’t notice our disappearance.  My mother’s cousin explained to me that her family was “not like other families,” which was beginning to become clear.  Sure I’d met my share of mother’s who smoked pot with their daughters or sons, but I’d never done it myself, nor had I done it with someone so close to my own family.  I’d never smoked a cigarette with my brother, but here I was sharing a joint with a woman who could very well be my aunt.  Would be easier if she were, only to avoid having to refer to her as “my mother’s cousin.”
So as usual, when I’ve rejected something based on an assumption (this being that my mother’s family is boring and sucky) I realize that the opposite is reality, and I feel boring and sucky in comparison.  Though I like to think of myself as someone who is open minded, I know that I’ve got a long way to go.  But everyone has something they should improve upon, so that’s okay.

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Entry filed under: , This That and The Other.

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