Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew
Airing My Dirty Laundry!
The Five Phases of a Family Reunion
Family reunions are a charming phenomenon, awash in warm feelings and cold sweat. We like to occasionally get together with our kinfolk, those who are at our end of the gene pool. Kinfolk are dangerous individuals who can recite all our embarrassing faults, who know about every youthful transgression, who can provide blackmail material to our children.
If we were smart, once we’d grown up and escaped, we would never go near these people again.
But many of us are drawn to cousinly confabs like moths to dysfunctional family flames. And based on my attendance at several such events, I’ve determined there are five phases to the typical family reunion.
The first is the meet and greet phase. That’s when everyone is on his or her best behavior, all a little hesitant, a little shy. We subtly assess each other, trying to gauge who’s gained the most weight, who’s lost the most hair, who’s driving the nicest car. We all confess astonishment at how fast the kids are growing up.
At my last reunion, most of the kids were teenagers who looked horrified at just being there. They huddled together for protection -- cell phones flipped open, frantically sending text messages to their friends, begging to be rescued. The oldest generation – the grandparents, even a couple of great-grandparents -- huddled together too, quickly getting down to discussing pressing physical matters involving hemorrhoids and heartburn.
That left those of us in the middle – we of the sandwich generation who would eventually get around to talking hormones and hot flashes – to focus on the food, from-scratch dishes made by grandmas who still remember how to cook. It’s always the best part of our reunions. And with the food, we consumed a few adult beverages, and as everyone started to relax, we moved into the Remember When phase.
This is the phase that causes the teens to actually writhe in agony. I remember experiencing agony myself at earlier reunions, but now I quite enjoy the Remember Whens. Many of our most colorful memories include the family rebel -- my cousin Joe. He’s the one we all cluck our tongues and shake our heads over, but secretly admire. And he’s still rebelling. At our recent reunion, his wife told how, just the other day, she had to pay $400 to bail him out of jail after he refused to sign a ticket given to him by a highway patrolman.
Joe’s simple explanation: “I didn’t do what he said I did.”
That set off a merry round of Joe-centered Remember Whens – fueled by another round of adult beverages – in which my crazy cousin denied doing what we all knew he’d done. You gotta love Joe.
At this point, many reunions degenerate into the third phase – church-state squabbling. True to form, my family began discussing religion and politics, and things got heated. First names of presidential candidates were tossed around as weapons -- Hillary-Hater and Rudy-Retard, among others – and then someone brought the Good Lord into it.
“I’ll pray for you,” said one on the right side of the political spectrum to one on the left. “You need all the help you can get.”
Wisely, before things really got out of hand, we moved into the fourth phase – segregation of the sexes. This happens at every reunion I’ve ever attended. The men go one way and the women go the other, and usually, the groups start out by complaining about each other. The men’s conversation, though, only lasts about 30 seconds.
One of them sighs heavily, shrugs his shoulders and says a single word weighted with all the necessary meaning: “Women.”
All of the other men nod their heads in agreement, and then they move on to something more important like sports.
The ladies, on the other hand, will devote hours to dissecting the failings of their men. At our recent reunion, we allowed Joe’s long-suffering wife to go first. She described a problem she was having with one of their horses. This creature has a habit of standing on the front porch of their rural home and pointing his posterior toward the house so that when Joe’s wife looks out the front window, instead of being able to see the glories of nature, she gets an eyeful of an equine end zone.
My cousin, apparently sensing a soul-mate in this rebellious horse, has refused to discourage its behavior. So his wife, unable to coax the horse off the porch, started gently pitching rocks at its feet to encourage it to comply. Unfortunately, one of the rocks bounced up and shattered the front window, and my cousin had the gall to be upset with his wife.
When the women at the reunion heard this story, we were all instantly sympathetic to her. Although most of us no longer live in the country, we all have our version of the marital horse on the porch.
The final phase comes when we are emotionally waterlogged from swimming in the gene pool and – our family ties strengthened -- we say our goodbyes. Soon, the reunions will become part of our Remember Whens. Before we know it, the teens will be the middle-agers, and I’ll be one of the old fogies. Hopefully, I won’t talk about hemorrhoids. But, given my family history, I’m probably doomed to repeat it.
~ © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~
Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at: JackiePapandrew.com
Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2007, (email@example.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]
All Rights Reserved.