Family history is character forming.
It's always good to be prepared, something I have strongly believed in from all those years at Girl Guides although they never really could prepare me much for creepy Uncle Ivan. Actually, things tended to get worse whenever I wore my Girl Guide uniform around Uncle Ivan, but that's another story now. It's all buried in the past, as the family says. And I digress.
What springs to mind is, are family get-togethers something we should really be looking forward to? Because like with every heart-warming mind-numbing act of social interaction--like kissing the dog on the nose--there are such a great many inherent dangers involved, it's critical to avoid the horrible ugly truths.
To begin with, it's hard to talk about--never mind to--your relatives without them getting their feelings all tied up in knots. Somebody is sure to take offence. Before you know it, ten years have gone by and you still haven't got an invitation for supper. Not that that matters very much considering some of those suppers. But I do believe it might be nice to have options on Christmas Day.
Should I even whisper a word about my relatives here? Lord help me because my niece is a lawyer. (My sister never stops reminding me about that. Kind of gives you a bad feeling after a while.)
Anyway, I just can't resist. There's too much darn fodder for this column.
One of the most awkward family events I ever attended was when I was a teenager and our family was at the funeral of an elderly male relative. It was an open casket service and we could see that the throes of death had not been particularly kind to the man.
Quite suddenly, my mother informed us that part of the religious ceremony would involve close family members going to the front of the room one by one and--I'm not kidding. I wish I were but I'm not--kiss the lips of the dearly departed as he lay in the casket.
As you can imagine, each and every one of us close family members, especially us kids, were really looking forward to this moment.
"I'm not going to!" my younger brother announced out loud in church. The rest of the congregation pretended to not hear. "Shut up! You are TOO! Be quiet!" whispered my mother through gritted teeth. Sighs of annoyance rippled throughout the room. I'm sure everyone just wanted us to get on and be done with it. They had their own memories to contend with.
I looked over at my older sister and she looked back at me. We both knew my brother, being a boy, would get away with it. We also both knew that we as girls, would absolutely NOT. We steeled ourselves.
My brother grinned because he knew this too. Even though he was only seven years old, he was as sly as a commodities trader.
He began to make tiny kissing noises.
That's when I heard the first "heh heh" sounds come out of my sister's mouth. Uh-oh, I thought. Not good.
I glanced at my sister over my shoulder with a single raised eyebrow while the minister intoned about what a wonderful life my grandfather had led, a long and full life dedicated to the service of others. When others in the audience nodded their heads sagely, my sister chortled. Then she began to giggle like a banshee. Soon she was red-faced and doubled over with hilarity, almost falling on the ground.
My father took my sister by the scruff of the neck and yanked her out of the room. My mother had a look on her face that indicated impending infanticide.
Afterwards, it was hard to describe the broad range emotions in our family car post-funeral, unless of course, you happened to have a family somewhat like mine which I was told, was not unheard of in the Greek Orthodox faith.
My father sat stone-faced behind the steering wheel as he drove us all to McDonalds, an essential post-church family ritual. My mother hollered at us kids in the back seat all the while looking straight ahead at the road and telling my father how to drive, her hand frequently darting out to brace herself from impending impact. My brother giggled insanely into his jacket collar and stuck his tongue out at my sister. My sister sat in humiliated silence.
Deep down, I knew things were going to get better and that's all that mattered.
Hopefully McDonalds would take away that God-awful feeling of stone-cold mustiness that still lingered on my lips. Corpses were not the most pleasant things in the world to kiss, I assure you.
It was yet another day of happily-formed childhood memories.
I am positive it was the beginning of my escapist career as a humour columnist, which is another apparently good reason for writing this column, I want my family to know. I'm sure it was the beginning of quite a few things in my life, no doubt..
I'm not quite sure what any of this has to do with looking forward to our family getting together again for our next holiday, but I know it does somehow, even though the fog of time really can be a blessing.
Easter is coming and the past will come up in some form or another at the dinner table. Someone will start making fun of someone else, then there will be sarcasm and giggling, and finger-pointing and pot-stirring.
But these days there won't be any hilarity or fond memories afterwards, because I just know my sister will threaten to sic my lawyer niece on someone else and that will be the end of that.
Too bad, I think. So much for yet another warm and fuzzy family tradition. Maybe next time we will all just hit the McDonalds.
--C.P. Weary is a Kitchener-based writer who pens a humourous column about a small-town newspaper. Comments are welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.soweary.com.
[c] Copyright 2010 C.P.Weary.
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|Title Annotation:||The Scoop|
|Publication:||Paris Chronicle (Paris, Canada)|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2010|
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