Summer Is Family Reunion Time
Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means...
Unless you're going to be out of the country for the next three months (not bloody likely this year), at some point you'll attend that great American event, the Family Reunion.
It goes by several different names:
- a niece or nephew's graduation
- Memorial Day weekend
- a niece or nephew's wedding
- the Fourth of July BBQ
Some families even call them family reunions.
But at least then you have a fairly good idea of how the day (or weekend) will play out.
By any of the other names...not so much.
A niece or nephew's graduation
Tickets to the graduation ceremony are usually limited to immediate family members - parents, grandparents, and siblings - so your presence won't be required until the get-together afterward at the home of the graduate. Which naturally is in a residential area with limited parking.
Depending on the size of your family, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk as much as a block. Cool comfortable clothing too, as the only place to sit may be on the patio or porch.
The good news is you won't have to stay long unless you choose to. Drop your gift on the table by the door or attach the envelope with your check to the money tree, congratulate the grad, have a cup of punch and a piece of cake, leave. Pretty painless and you stay on the Christmas card list for another year.
Or just send a gift and a card, or (preferably) a card that includes a check. Cash is even better. Determine amount by whether the grad has finished high school or (finally!) college.
A Memorial Day picnic in a city park:
These will usually be pretty tame, because most city parks don't allow alcohol.
Enclosures quaintly called "shelter houses" can be reserved ahead of time so that Cousin Bubba and Cousin No Neck don't have to go to the park at the crack of dawn to lay claim to the shelter named in the invitation.
Reserving a shelter ahead of time also prevents your family from arriving at the one named in your invite only to find some other family's Bubba and No Neck staked out in it.
City parks will also have at least one playground, and perhaps a swimming pool, to keep the kids entertained. One or two adults (or older teenagers) will volunteer - or be "volunteered" - to supervise the kiddies. Preferably armed with a cell phone to notify parents of injuries if the play area or pool is out of shouting distance of where the family has gathered. Or to call 911 first if there's a lot of blood...or the child is unconscious and not breathing.
Memorial Day Weekend at a lake:
Rife with opportunities to fracture already-fragile familial relationships.
First off, there's the matter of lodging. Some out-of-towners will join the tribal spirit by camping out.
Those who show up with only a tent and a couple of lawn chairs are automatically tagged as 'losers'. Will usually have the most kids, and get no points for showing up in the first place except from the next group:
Those with a pop-out camper or a small fifth wheel. They're frugal, like to spend time in the outdoors, can be anywhere on the food chain, and are usually the most fun to be around. Will also be the ones who bring 3-ring binders full of family history, which will be spread out on the picnic table they've dragged under the awning of the camper/fifth wheel.
Make no mistake about it, those who arrive in an RV with AC and a satellite dish are slumming. Only showing up to preserve their place (or hoping to be mentioned) in the will of the most well-off family member. Everything out of their mouths for the next three days will relate to the size of their bank account(s), investment portfolio, and number of homes and vehicles owned or recently purchased. They'll also have a compact car hooked to the back of the RV for trips to the mall, and for meeting the motel bunch for drinks in town come sundown instead of sitting around the communal campfire.
The motel bunch, of course, are those who consider tents, campers, and RVs a complete waste of money, and wouldn't dream of sleeping on anything but a king-size bed with a remote on the bedside table. They also never show up at the lake each day until they've read the entire New York Times at the local Starbucks.
A niece or nephew's wedding:
Nothing earth shattering ever happens at the wedding itself. It's the reception where people get into trouble. Alcohol has a way of making Cousin Bimbo forget the hunk in the tuxedo is her obnoxious first cousin, and vice versa. Uncle Festus turns into Super Stud and hits on the twenty-something bridesmaids, all of whom are young enough to be his granddaughters.
Even if the reception is outdoors, Aunt Lulabelle will show up in the gown she wore to her prom in 1957...and to every "formal" affair since then. Which wouldn't be so bad if her husband wasn't in the Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts that'll make him stick out like a sore thumb in the requisite "family" photos.
Fourth of July BBQ
Depends on what time Uncle Festus or Cousin Bubbastart drinking and which one is in charge of cooking themain course. If Uncle F, then the hamburgers and hot dogs will be edible. If not, better bring your own bucket of KFC. The only thing Bubba keeps an eye on is Cousin Bimbo's cleavage while the hamburgers and hot dogs turn into chunks of charcoal.
Also be sure to inquire how long the potato salad and coleslaw have been sitting in the sun. Nothing like a case of food poisoning to bring a family together...in the ER.
Play it safe and stick to potato chips and the veggie tray...and your own bucket of KFC. And sit as far back as possible if Cousin Bubba is in charge of setting off the fireworks!
No matter how your family gathers or what they call the occasion, enjoy yourself.
And start saving now so that you can be out of the country next summer!