Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Every Labor Day weekend since we've been married, my husband's family has gathered for our family reunion. Family reunions are such a funny invention -- totally great, of course, but they often bring out the awkward in someone... usually me.
A few years ago, one such instance happened during mealtime on day two of the reunion. I had brought my usual homemade treat to share with the fam, which, I should mention, I had brought for at least the past 4 years, at the request of several in-laws. They are Grandma Porter's Cinnamon Twists and they are absolutely divine. Really, they are seriously delicious, and while I know each of my sisters and my mom honestly believe that they know how to make them best, I would win in a taste/presentation test, hands down. Sorry girls, it is what it is. Bring it.
Anyhoo, as we were all enjoying my Twists, one member of the family (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) came up to me and proudly announced, "Well, Marianne, I believe you are the most improved cook in the family!"
...What's he/she saying? I've been the painfully unaware, but widely undisputed worst cook in the family? What, do I have a reputation as the one most in need of improvement? "Blah, don't let Marianne make anything, have her bring the cups." Is that why they always assign me to bring chips at all the family gatherings? Because they think I can't cook? Well this is a tiny bit awkward. ...Except that it's kinda funny.
Don't worry, while I really wanted to burst out laughing and halfway wanted to get offended and say something snarky, I DO actually adore this person, and the rest of the clan come to think of it, even if they think I can't cook; so the sliver of grace in me rose to the surface. I winked, raised my Twist at the intended complimenter, and said, "Why thank you!" And I've made sure to volunteer to bring the chips at every function ever since. I'll kill them with kindness. Or chips.
Then there was the year of the peaches. A few years back, someone began the tradition of bringing a large box of freshly picked peaches. Mmmm. LOVE peaches. But I believe this was the first year they had been brought, and it seemed like every time I turned around, someone was talking about the peaches. I couldn't get through a meal without four people asking me if I didn't love the peaches. "Oooh, Marianne, don't you LOVE these peaches?" "You better go get some more peaches, Marianne, these are the best peaches EVER!" "Hey, everyone, aren't these the greatest peaches ever harvested in all of creation?!"
Okay, they were good peaches, but come on, can't we talk about something else? Like the weather? Or how to change a tire? Or politics? Yeah, I'd even take politics over peaches. I mean, how many ways can you agree with someone about a tasty peach, for heaven's sake? "Yessirree!" "You bet!" "Mmmm, MMMM, these ARE good!" "I know, I could talk about them all day, too!"
Okay, so I'm sure I was being weird about it. But on the last day, we always gather for a "what we liked and want to repeat next year" meeting. And of course, someone said, "Oooh! I loved the peaches, make sure you bring some next year!" And of course, that brought several more, "Oh, I DID love those peaches!" "Yes, those were the best!" "I'm thinking of trying to marry those blessed peaches, they were so delicious!!" etc. etc. etc.
Well that about did me in. So I leaned over to Dave and whispered something like, "Oh. My. Lands. Are we STILL talking about the peaches? I mean, I know they're good, but my heavens, how long can a person rave about peaches?! Every time there's a lag in the conversation, someone's bringing up the peaches!"
Only it turns out I wasn't really whispering. I was doing that loudish whisper, the kind they teach you to do in theater, so the guy in the back row can hear you, even though you're whispering. So as I turned from his ear, I realized everyone was watching me, and, of course listening to my non-whispering.
So, gracefully, I'm sure, because I'm always graceful if nothing else, I said something along the lines of, "Well, COME ON! They're just PEACHES! How much to we have to talk about it?? They're PEACHES!"
Yep. Awkward. I'm sure everyone was thinking, "Sheesh, Marianne must not like peaches. Write that down: 'Bring peaches, but not enough so that Marianne feels like she needs to eat some.'"
I'm kidding. They all handled my awkwardness well -- which was sporting of them. I think some of them have a little bit more grace than I do.
I have about forty more of those stories, but lest I finish on a note that really seals the deal on my awkwardness, I'll finish with one about my kids instead. This one's from my family reunion. Every year, we go camping at the same spot up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It's a great little campground, with tons of trees and shade, and paved roads, so the kids can bring their bikes and ride around the trails all day. Unfortunately for my kids that year, we hadn't brought our bikes.
The cousins usually want to all sleep together, all the girls in one tent, all the boys in another. This year was Slade's first time sleeping in the boys' tent. There were four or five of them squashed into a little tent probably made for 2 or 3, so they were having a hard time settling down. After two or three times of someone coming out to complain about something or other, I headed over with my brother to see what we could do to help out. As I approached, I could hear one of my nephews trying to explain his hogging of the space. As I squatted down to peer into the tent, my brother said to his son, "If you don't settle down, so help me, you will lose your bike privileges tomorrow."
It was suddenly deathly quiet in the tent. No one moved, no one spoke -- until Slade broke the silence with, "Is it a new bike?"
You could almost see the little wheels turning in his head, imagining himself riding around on his cousin's shiny bike. That's my boy.
It's a bit of a tragedy, really. This year we won't be able to go to more than a day or so of the reunion. I'm not sure that's enough time for my awkwards to show up.
Oh well. There's always Christmas.