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How to enjoy the family reunion - attend someone else’s

June 9, 2019

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, just when you thought it was safe to go down to Norman Bates’ fruit cellar, along comes the family reunion. The very thought is about as comfortable as trying to hail a cab in a major city with a dozen other people vying for the same transportation. The key word here is transportation, as in out of town, the quicker the better. It’s one of those events that carries with it the obligation to attend or forever wear the scarlet letter A.

It's difficult today because no one knows how to define a family anymore. When I see that “Alexa” has not only been invited, but responded to the RSVP, then I’m concerned for my safety on a different level. This is a worry the size of a nuclear submarine.

I know in the past the family reunion was a place to start or refresh those grudges that would keep the home fires burning for years. My mother was a puppet master of who was or wasn’t invited to weddings, birthdays, square dances, dinners or any other function where a piece of paper gains entry.

She also had a whole spreadsheet on borrowed kitchen ware. It might be 20 years later, but you would be forever known as that cousin who didn’t return a shrimp fork. Eventually the shrimp fork would be located in a storage unit rented by the family dog when the woods behind the house became too crowded with stash from the UPS delivery man. It still didn’t matter. The branding stayed forever. No Christmas card for you, just the silent treatment at a time of good will toward men.

One thing I do know about family reunions is to never bring up politics unless you have outfitted everyone with body armor. This is why these events take place in picnic areas with wide-open fields and enough gnats to populate a Third World country.

There is the young side of the family. They manage to use the phrase “global warming” in every sentence. They are socialists in their vision. They are liberal in their ideas. And yet underneath it all is a deep reminder of their commitment, a pair of Ralph Lauren underwear.

To balance that faction is the more conservative side of the family. Here every other word is about taxes or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And yet underneath it all beats the heart behind a sleeveless muscle shirt.

Put this all together and it makes about as much sense as a Waldorf salad. Speaking of which, did I mention Mr. Salmonella, who also receives an invitation and who never misses a chance to romance anything with mayonnaise?

Seating is crucial to your status for the rest of your lifetime. You don’t want to be seen next to an uncle who has a reputation for selling hibachis out of the back of a semi truck. Nor do you want an evil eye from other relatives if you talk to the wrong person, so it’s best to have a spreadsheet of past behavior that may or may not include the phrase,” Will the defendant please rise.”

Yes, you are going to meet all kinds of characters at family reunions, from the uncle who embraces everyone as if the Allies had landed on Omaha Beach to the one who jingles change in his pocket nonstop.

No worries here, though, since I usually end up at the wrong family reunion anyway.

  • 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.