Thursday, July 28, 2005
The "Family" "Reunion"
You know, I really hate visual quotes, but sometimes they're just necessary.

Every summer, Willem's family has a reunion. But it's not really his whole family, it's just a small branch of his mother's side. And it's not really a reunion, because it's the same 18 people every year (4 of whom arrived in my vehicle) and every year it is precisely the same excruciatingly boring experience. Hence, it's neither true "family" not true "reunion."

We didn't go last year, given my bedrest and all. Someday they will forgive me for that. Someday I might even care.

No, not likely.

This year, we weren't plannin to go, again, given that it was scheduled for July 16 and we bought our house on June 28. Especially since we had to do some unexpected traveling at the end of June, so we really didn't start to move in until July 1. But Willem's uncle has been retired for a few years, and has decided to take out his excess energy on poor, unsuspecting trees - that is, he's a woodworker. And a truly fabulous one, I must admit. He's done some really nice projects, and what's more important to me, he really seems to enjoy them. His most recent was a wooden, motor-powered boat, which he decided he would launch at the reunion. So, fine. He's always been good to us, this is important to him, so we'll go. Fine. Not thrilled about it, but we can manage.

Willem's mother, incidentally, never actually bothered to call to find out if we were going, thereby GUARANTEEING her a way to be cranky at us. Either, we don't go, and she doesn't know in advance, so she can complain about that, or we do go and she doesn't know in advance, so she can complain about THAT. How smart is this woman?!? Seriously, I'll never be able to get ahead of her.

The reunion is held at Aunt Barbara's house on Long Island. Why? Because she has a gorgeous house with enough chairs and no one else has ever bothered to arrange anything different. But the problem is, other than sufficient chairs, her house has NOTHING TO DO. There's a TV in the basement, which all of the men gravitate toward just to pretend they're watching The Game (the specific sport doesn't seem to matter). And there's a swimming pool, but it's sized such that by the time you get three children - Emily, her 14-year-old cousin, and cousin's inappropriately dressed friend of the year - into it, it's too crowded. And c'est tout! No cards, no board games, no yard games (because it's all on a hill), no structured anything.

Which, you might think, would be okay, given that we only see these people once a year. We should have PLENTY to talk about, right? HAH. I am able to dredge up about 10 minutes' worth of interesting conversation over the course of the day, if I am generous and include the discussions about where to find the soda. Apparently, listenting to other people is a big no-no in that family. So, after five years of marriage-membership in this clan, no one knows what I do for a living - they ask, and then immediately are stricken deaf. Willem has already abandoned me for the television, so I am left sort of aimlessly wandering between groups of people who don't listen to me and who don't say anything different from last year.
For instance:
AUNT BARBARA: Oh, hi, Kate, how are you?
KATE: I'm good, thanks.
AUNT BARBARA: What have you been up to?
KATE: I finished school and we bought a new house.
AUNT BARBARA: Oh, that's nice. Done anything new lately?
KATE: I finished school and we bought a new house.
AUNT BARBARA: Oh, that's nice. I'm still teaching at the same school. Still teaching fifth grade. My sons are still America's leading outstanding citizens, although they don't seem to be feeling very sociable today. Hmm. I wonder where they are. [PAUSE] Oh, Kate, I meant to ask, what's new?
KATE: I finished school and we bought a new house.
AUNT BARBARA: Oh, that's nice. Excuse me, I'm going to go find my sons, they really should be socializing more. They are just wonderful boys, you know.

Actually, I don't know, since they do a fantastic job of showing up for the first ten minutes and then evaporating for the rest of the day. Smart kids.

It took us about 6 hours to get there this year - three to drive to the ferry, and then the 1-our ferry ride took 2 hours given the heavy fog, and then another hour on the oher side. We stayed for three hours, and then it became apparent that Willem's uncle had forgotten to research what sorts of permits and permissions one might need to launch a boat in a private marina, so he wasn't allowed to actually put his boat in the water anywhere. Well, gee, Phil, we had a fantastic time checking out your boat in your garage last Thanksgiving, whaddaya say next time we just look at those pictures again and skip the drive, huh?

So, a wasted trip. I ended up throwing a small but effective tantrum onto Willem's head, so that instead of staying overnight we came home late the same day. Willem was concerned that his family might think it was rude. I doubt they even noticed we left.