Forty people eating and talking around picnic tables under the walnut trees in a family orchard. The aunts named Gertrude, Elsie and Helen, the uncles Chet, Ralph and Jim, and all the rest of the family bringing together food and laughter. No liquor needed to added to have a great time in the 1950’s. I still remember great music, fun games and running free on the farm when everyone decided it was time for a Sunday picnic. There was no drama and no one really expected much from the other people there. The host provided a house and everyone else brought the food and merriment.
For some reason family get-togethers are no longer a picnic. Families live all over the world and when they come together or try to come together there are underground stresses and tension is in the air. Maybe it was better that no one was allowed to use the house, outhouses were common and you drank water out of the hose when you got thirsty. The host or hostess was not expected to provide everything and if there was anything to alcoholic to drink it was cheap beer, not the $10 for six you have to buy now or fresh made lemonade.
It was post-war and everyone was just happy to be alive. Bring that forward some fifty years and it is a different world. There not lots of aunts and uncles around, there are combined families that really don’t know each other and don’t seem to want to try to know each other. Everyone has their own agenda. They arrive at the host house with nothing in hand, as they are family and you as patriarch should take care of everyone, even if they are grown adults.
This summer has been interesting. I have my six year-old granddaughter for the summer, which is lovely, but a little tiring at my age. Thank Heavens for Summer Camp, where she goes weekdays and has a wonderful time.
My three sons and one wife came to visit the same weekend for the first time in many years and it was great to catch up. We went to bed early and they spent the night by our new beach side fire pit. I discovered in the morning, that our fire pit can get too hot and melted the boards directly under it, so I placed concrete pavers to alleviate the problem and cleaned up the mess left behind.
The next weekend, my husband’s two sons, one wife, his daughter and husband with two daughters arrived. Once again, we did a big barbecue and provided lots beer and wine. The girls and my husband and I retired early while the group stayed up most the night around the fire pit. Once again in the morning, I cleaned up the mess discovering a few more burn marks and said nothing to any of the group.
I am discovering at a rather old age that family get-togethers do not often go as well as one might think. It certainly is not the 1950’s, when even adult children respected their parents. They seem to think house rules are not meant for family members, and a couple think the house belongs to them too, even though none of them were raised in this house that I designed and built while single after my own sons had lives of their own.
It is a concept I am having a hard time wrapping my head around. And now at the age of almost sixty-eight I have been called a “Fucking Bitch” for the first time in my life because I would ask you take you shoes off in the house, please don’t take good crystal to the beach, please only eat in the kitchen, dining room or outdoors and dogs are okay to sleep above in my studio, but not on our new carpet. My sons have no problem with this; and I guess the bonus is, I can take one thing off my Bucket List, being called a Fucking Bitch before I die. Got to find humor in life.
It is so easy to write a quick email when you are angry and send it. Phone calls may actually give the party on the receiving end a chance to explain themselves before they are crucified via email. There is no turning back with email. Press that send button and it is history. Letter writing and thank you notes are virtually a thing of the past. Social Media rules the day, and I am not sure it is such a good think.
Recently I blocked a couple family members that told me how much, not just that they hated me, but how much they hated me, and they wonder why I blocked them on FB. Really, do I need to share what makes me happy with someone that dislikes me that much. I don’t think so. It is an interesting place to be in our culture, as never before could hate be so easily shared. I am not sure blogging is the best venue either and maybe just writing in a journal and keeping it to yourself is better. There are consequences for everything we do, but what is funny is that there are consequences for what we don’t do and people think we did.