Summer is rolling along and it’s family reunion time

July 13, 2014

The family reunion is considered a summer classic, right up there with other sophisticated gatherings such as a good old-fashioned saloon fight or my favorite, the office Christmas party. And we all know how those turn out; mostly you can’t ever show your face at any corporate office ever again.

Each year, the family reunion seems to get smaller and smaller, though, with members sending in excuses like summering in Pakistan. When questioned, it’s tough to remember because you’ve had so many thoughts running through your mind, until that light bulb goes off, yeah that’s it, the reduced rates and all. When in actuality, the thought of facing all those rumors, innuendoes and relatives might seriously make you consider a vacation in some Third World country. You’ll go to any lengths to avoid that uncle who jiggles coins in his pants pockets and asks if they’ve landed a man on the moon yet.

There is a lot of pressure to attend these events, too. Organizers do not take no for an answer. After all, a lot of potato salad is at stake here. In my case, the organizer usually is the same cousin, whom I haven’t seen on a one-on-one basis since she was promoted to drill sergeant in the Women’s Army Corps. We weren’t too worried about her influence back then, since she was stationed in Georgia and rarely got home.

Once she was discharged, though, she took over the reins of the family events. We could all come up with excuses for holidays, but come summer, that family reunion loomed large. Sure, we had visions of folks hanging around the barbecue, eating hamburgers and corn, kids swinging on ropes over the lake and the sound of laughter from a game of horseshoes or badminton.

Like I said, those were mainly visions and usually from watching commercials for Coca-Cola and especially Mountain Dew. I have a case of the same soda in my garage and I still get nothing from it.

Instead, the folks who arrive on the scene are sporting all kinds of T-shirts with political sayings, which gets pretty dicey after a couple of cases of Bud Light, shorts that are too short and disappear in some part of the anatomy, and hairpieces that look like a robin’s nest that fell out of a tree. It’s not a pretty picture and certainly not commercial-friendly material.

But beyond appearances, there is the most important aspect of the family reunion - old grudges. Now these include things said but unconfirmed from the past, invitations to weddings and birthdays allegedly not received, and allegations of food poisoning, usually from the last family reunion, which may or may not include hotdogs. And when I say the past, we are talking about at least 20 years ago.

Not returning items is also grounds for not speaking to another relative, usually lasting in the eight- to 10-year range. I can remember a pie pan my Aunt Kitchy swears she gave back to my mother, her sister, only to be spurned for the next decade. Eventually, my mother found the pie pan on the back shelf of the pantry. It still counts, though. The pie pan was made of tin and cost 50 cents. The grudges and not speaking over slights are always passed down through generations, so you may not know who you are supposed to sit or speak with. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting alone under a tree with a guy wearing a work-release shirt. It’s best to get that scorecard straightened out before you arrive; a lot could and probably did happen.

It’s always best to show rather than send your regrets. You are prime fodder for gossip if you renege. It can’t be that bad, unless you have uncles with first names like Vito and Luigi, who pull up with a bunch of hibachis that just happened to fall off the back of a truck and into the trunk. You’ll want to be there for a show of solidarity. No worries here; no photos are allowed.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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