Tuesday, July 12, 2005

We Really Are Family

Unlike the rest of the blogiverse, I decided not to do an official Independence Day rant just out of sheer brain fatigue. Luther Vandross is dead, London has been terrorized, the major countries of the world except for the U.S. are trying to do the right thing (big surprise, eh?), and I've just learned that a friend of mine belongs to yet another groovy-on-its-face modern church built on the Biblical infallibility platform. I'm just tired.

I would, however, be remiss if I didn't extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the London bombings, and my love and support to the U.K. We live in fucked-up times, and this New Yorker feels your pain, and sends you good vibes and deep prayers.

So, although I'm skipping a well-deserved criticism of ersatz Americana (somehow, I can't believe that schlocky flag-o-rama clothing and a diesel Japanese dude gorging himself on hot dogs is what our Founding Fathers wanted us to remember), I'd rather focus on family, the one thing that truly connects every human on the planet. I spent July 4th with my best friend and her family, including my soon-to-be 3-year-old goddaughter(who is beyond adorable), and I've just returned from my partner's family reunion.

My family doesn't have reunions. Thanksgiving dinner usually happened at my house, with my mom making no less than a dozen dishes, and at least 4 desserts. Both of my parents, one of my brothers, and one of his sons, were all born in November, so it ended up being a combined celebration. And, you can probably imagine what it looked like. The table is groaning with turkey, roast beef, spareribs, ham, lasagna, stuffing, rice & peas, potato salad, baked sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, green beans, tossed salad, corn muffins, crescent rolls (to this day, I STILL love Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!). Wash that all down with fruit punch, rum punch, a jazzed up carrot juice drink made with stout (among other things), and chase it with Jamaican fruit cake, pumpkin and apple pies, and birthday cake. No wonder I'm so friggin' fat! Sorry, I digress. Shove all this down the throats of myself, my younger sister, two older brothers, three aunts, a reluctant Jehovah's Witness family of cousins (didn't want to celebrate a holiday, but all four of them could put a plate away), an uncle, two sisters-in-law, two nephews, and three or four hangabout cousins or family friends that got in the car with somebody, and you have instant family reunion.

My partner's family reunion wasn't that different, except that at this particular event, most of us left hungry after the two PLANNED meals (and out $75 for our trouble). The highlight, for me anyway, was spending a slightly tipsy evening with our generation of cousins. Over five or six rounds of shaken vodka cocktails and a variety of chicken wings, the wife and I were essentially read the riot act because we didn't invite them to our wedding. And this is what they were upset about:

You assumed we were as closed-minded as some, but we're family, and you didn't give us the chance to show up for you.

I'm just as shocked as you. I've gone on long enough, so I'll summarize what happened almost five years ago when we were planning our wedding. My soon-to-be mother-in-law was okay with our relationship, but not the wedding. After all, a wedding tells the world that you are officially a couple. She didn't tell us from the beginning how she felt; she even led us to believe that she would come as late as TWO WEEKS prior to the wedding, and then just announced she wasn't coming. Mind you, her only child is getting married. So, she suggested we not invite the family because they wouldn't be supportive, and we acquiesced. And, we heard about it all this weekend.

Family is about showing up. Family is about the ties that bind you. Family is about knowing there are difference between you, but not caring about them or allowing them to be more important that what makes you similar. Family is unconditional. My wife isn't allowed to go to family events without me, unless there is a really good reason why I can't be there.

There will be another family reunion this year, if I get my way. It will take place in November when the wife & I renew our vows in front of our friends and family, the entire family.


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