Reunions are a combination of an I.R.S. audit and being a contestant in a beauty pageant. You get a financial shake down by virtual strangers and your appearance is judged by people who still wear baby blue eye shadow. Not the stuff of great times. I’m currently enrolled in a 12 step program to recover from a family reunion I attended last week. You know how some lucky families have their reunions at Disneyworld or the beach? You get their Christmas card with the whole family decked out in white linen shirts (with just the slightest hint of a wrinkle) that shows off their sun kissed skin with the sapphire blue rolling waves behind them as an ocean breeze gently tosses their hair to create bouncy volume heretofore only found in Elle magazine cover shoots. Why, dear Lord, am I not related to those people?
Here’s a little snapshot of my family reunion. It’s held in a musty church fellowship hall that smells like it does double duty as a skunk rescue and rehab facility in a tiny, habitually dusty town that couldn’t keep a Dollar Tree Store in business. The most erudite topic of conversation on this Fourth of July weekend was who was hotter Martha Washington or Dolly Madison. (I voted Dolly.) Everyone is required to bring a covered dish and under no circumstances do you bring something that is not made from scratch or at the very least a Bisquick recipe. Four years ago I stopped off and purchased fried chicken en route to the reunion. You would have thought I brought in a vegetable that hadn’t been marinated in bacon grease for 24 hours. Family members were offended that I stooped so low as not to toil in a kitchen pre-reunion breading and frying. In my defense I gently informed the clan of two things. I live many, many miles away from the reunion site and I’m here under duress. Another mistake I made this year was carrying in assorted breads in a reusable Costco bag. I was labeled uppity by some of the great grannies. Everyone knows Sam’s is the only place to buy in bulk from. I guess they thought I was two timing on their great love Wal-Mart (father of Sam’s) by stepping out with Costco. And who are these people to judge me anyway? The family in charge of beverages brought Diet RC to the reunion not Diet Coke! Who does that? Who brings Diet RC anywhere? I would have been okay with Diet Pepsi (kind of), but who buys Diet RC? I tell you who – my cheapo extended family. I was embarrassed and ashamed of them. Good thing I travel with my own stash of emergency Diet Coke.
The whole reunion concept is harrowing. The only good thing that comes out of it is that it serves as a scared straight program for my children. They can see what the future holds when you give in to the pull of the dark side of your gene pool and barely graduate high school. I firmly believe that all family reunions should require the use of t-shirts or at that very last name tags that give personality cues such as, “Hi, my name is Eric and I’m the biggest dumb ass in the family” or in my sister’s case, “Becca, stating the obvious since 1969.” My T-shirt would read, “Dear family, please quit reproducing.” This year one distant relative asked me, “Now are you a new wife, because I remember your husband being married to someone prettier?” My response, “No, it’s just me, older and apparently growing more and more hideous every month. I’m sure next year I’ll need to attend with a grocery bag over my head.” The worst is the Grandma/Nana contingent quizzing you about your children so they can assure themselves that their grandkids are the superior beings at the reunion. My kids claim to fame; they’re the only ones who don’t use a toothpick as a fashion accessory. No one taught the majority of these kids that a toothpick doesn’t live in your mouth and under no circumstances should you be running with a toothpick perched between your two lips. Idiots.
This suffering in no way compares to the finale of the reunion where every “Family Leader” (Translation man with offspring who can coherently string together two sentences after drowning in Bud Light and Jack since 10:30 a.m.) stands up and updates the clan on what his family has been doing the last year. The C.I.A. should be alerted that a new form of torture has been discovered. I have no doubt if you gave prisoners the choice of water boarding or enduring these “Family Updates” that water boarding would be enthusiastically embraced as the lesser of these two evils. Not even the promise of eating lots and lots of pie can dim the pain for me. You have mostly jackasses standing up sharing everything from who got a new truck to the litany of surgeries and medical ailments that each family member is enduring mixed in with lots of political propaganda and conspiracy theories. The thing that makes me choke on a toothpick the most is that a majority of these dudes (except my husband known as the family sissy or fancy pants) pretends that they’re hard core country men. To hear them talk one would think they were out working their ranch lands and herding cattle from sun up to sun down. They only thing they herd are their multiple TV remotes. They don’t even mow their own damn lawns. This bunch is less redneck and more red velvet necks. Which means by the end of each manly family monologue I’m usually beating my head against the sticky picnic table. That is until this year. This year, I did the Family Update.
When it was close to our turn (they go in alphabetical order) I whispered to my husband that I wanted to do our family update. He sighed, smiled and said, “I guess that means I should grab the kids and go out and start-up the car for a quick getaway.” “Yes,” I replied, “A quick getaway will probably be most important.” He got our kids and my son, just 15, muttered, “Wait a minute, mom’s going to do something crazy. I want to stay and watch.” My husband and I looked at one another and I nodded my head that it was okay. He had reached the age where it was safe for him to witness me in all my pot stirring splendor. My husband told us,”You two better run out of here fast because I’ll leave you both behind before I let this bunch hurt my car.”
We agreed to his terms and set back down to wait our turn. Finally, my family was called upon. I stood up and said I would being giving my kin’s report due to my husband being indisposed. After I explained what that word meant I began my update. I shared that my family, praise be to God, had no medical issues to share (you could feel the disappointment in the air), no new vehicles or guns were purchased and furthermore I was not allowing my son to even buy an airsoft gun because I know, based on DNA, that he would somehow shoot himself in the nuts at close range. My son, responded to this by nodding his head in lackluster agreement. I have nothing against guns, but I have a lot against idiots with guns. After getting the crowd warmed up to the partial outrage level I began my work to turn up the heat to full-out fury. That’s when I proclaimed, “I do believe that the moon landing is legit, that 9 11 was the work of terrorists, that the International Space Station is not satan’s celestial lair or a Russian time share being financed with our tax dollars, that George W. Bush is not the greatest president, what, with Lincoln and the first George giving him some very stiff competition. Nor do I find Barack Obama the answer to our prayers. Also, on this Fourth of July weekend I’d like to thank our founding fathers for crafting the legal documents that strip the right to vote from anyone who has been convicted of a felony. I don’t want to mention names, but y’all know who you are.” I was ready for my finale, but I had to make sure my son was in haul butt mode. So, I gave him the signal and blurted out, “And I don’t think Sarah Palin is hot. Attractive in a run-of-the mill mom at the grocery story kind of way – yes, but hot – no. God Bless America!” Some of the men were so mad they were clanking in their rusty folding chairs as they tried to stand up and confront me. Lucky for me their astronomical guts slowed down their ability to go from a sitting to standing position. I grabbed my son by the shirt, pushed him in front of me as a shield, thinking they would be less likely to maim a child and ran for the car. My husband, always the planner, had two doors already open, we leapt in and he took off. His car kicking up a storm of gravel and dust as he peeled out. “Damn it,” I whispered under my breath, “I left my Costco bag behind. My husband chuckled and said, “They’ll probably burn it in effigy.” I shrugged and my shoulders and replied, “Well, they’d first have to know what effigy meant.”
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