Big family gatherings are a rarity in my family, on average there are one or two of these occur every year, what I mean by big gatherings are when the whole family, extended family, cousins of cousins, great uncles and family friends that your parents once knew at school all meet up for a big party. These gatherings aren’t a cup of tea visit, they are huge in comparison. This year I am seeing an influx in these ‘big gatherings’ as aunts and uncles and cousins of similar ages are hitting the milestones, 21, 30, 50 and 80. 2012 has brought many parties, buffets, lots of alcohol and catch-up chats that sound something like ‘the last time I saw you, you were in your dad’s arms’. Which is great because I can’t remember this and embarrassingly the conversation has suffered, as neither of us know where to go from here.
I love the reuniting of families for one night only and a good old knees up, too much alcohol and far too many ham rolls. But when I check my calender and see that one is closely looming I begin to work up a sweat and anxiety increases, meeting family that you haven’t seen in a while and updating them on the past few months or even years of your life, making small talk in an attempt to find similarities of in our lives.
Last night was an example where I perspired quite a bit before a big family gathering, my brother had other plans so I had to take one for the team and go as a lone sibling hence increased pressure. I was going to an Aunts 50th and to make matters worse it had a theme, a pink theme. I don’t have anything pink, I have a pale pink and an off pink but nothing pink pink. ‘Oh well’ I thought I will just wear this light red top with my smart jeans and a nice jacket, surely people won’t be that dressed up, the pink theme conjured up candy floss and big feather boas, something fun nothing too serious.
When I walked in and saw how much effort went into the venue, the table decorations, the balloon arches that were all very pink. Then there were the women, adorned in the smartest dresses coloured in an array of hot pink. The men of the party, who rarely make an effort had gone all out and specially brought pink ties and shirts. I probably brought the whole tone of the party down with my attempt at smart/casual wear when clearly it was smart/formal. Faus pas number one, wear what the invitation says. I felt incredibly awkward, you always want to make the best impression on family you haven’t seen in a long time it doesn’t help when you are the only one in jeans and not a very pink top.
There I was standing in the doorway wanting desperately to run home and change feeling ashamed at my interpretation of pink but, instead I hit the bar. I think it is perfectly normal and really quite natural to drink more than you would usually to help you get through the big family gathering night. A bit of Dutch courage allowing to ease up on conversation, the adrenaline and sudden rush of inspiration to dance and the encouragement to say “hello” to everyone. Nothing at all embarrassing, yes Dutch courage is what I needed. My cousin was another bad influence, she continued to top up my drinks and even made me do a shot of vodka, she’s wild. My wild cousin, mother and me found that the Dutch did give us courage, as we were dancing on the little stage by the DJ booth: “I can’t believe were on the stage!” my mother screamed a fair few times, crazy, tonight we were crazy! Perhaps another faus pas but at least we will have the subject matter to talk about at the next do.
There was once a BBC comedy in the UK named The Royal Family, my family aren’t like that but I can defiantly draw comparisons between their family and mine: Uncles shouting across the table and no one hearing him because the music is too loud, then there is Granddad who waits at the buffet, head of the line, making sure he is first to get food and get too much so can bag up half and take it home. A one-off drunk mother, father, uncles and aunties, a cousin who is a bad influence but fantastically fun and the drunken love that is spread around the room all night long.
I guess all families work in similar ways, we all dread reunions and finding something to wear, we want our pasts and presents to impress and we hope that conversation flows. But the best part about family reunions is there is an acceptance of what you do, who you are and what you drink because in the end we are family and that is OK.