You can pick your friends…

…but you can’t pick your relatives, as I’ve had cause to tell a few people in the past month or two.  And as I told those folks, that’s a saying in my family – and there’s a reason for that.

Dead Charming posted a quick blog about heading to his family reunion today, and I started to leave a story about family reunions as a comment, but it ended up being a little too long, so I decided to bring it here instead.  Later reading Amy’s post about a family funeral only hastened my plan.

My favorite family reunion story involves my mother’s family.

There’s my branch of the family.  Let’s see.  My grandparents had three girls, who went on to have a total of seven grandkids.

Oldest girl’s children: (both girls)

  • Relatively harmless pothead
  • Psychotic one-eyed crack whore (lost an eye in a drugged-up fight, you know)

Middle girl’s children: (both boys)

  • Eccentrically smart metalhead – once longhaired, now shaven-head [this would be yours truly]
  • Semi-party animal, now budding redneck

Youngest girl’s children:  (all boys)

  • Slightly developmentally disabled “gentle giant” (wouldn’t hurt a fly, though he’s about 6’10” 280)
  • Ridiculously spoiled “golden child,” now an Oxy-head reprobate
  • Several years younger, freaky-deaky possible future serial killer

My grandfather and his brother and three sisters (one now deceased) and their families get together with some regularity.  Those can be amusing.  (Note the mention of the Sunday-before-Christmas gathering on this old blog.)  There’s always my blue-haired great aunt.  There’s my older third cousin who somehow took a mutual liking to me when I was about three and he was probably ten or so, very straitlaced and Christian, and also a graduate of Virginia Tech (but I try not to hold that against him).  There’s my association of other third cousins and their assorted children with various and miscellaneous spouses.  There’s the mixed-race children which still get funny looks from some of the older generation.  Hell, occasionally as an adolescent I sat out in the car reading Tolkien just because I couldn’t hack all the old-people’s-eyes drama.

But also, once a year we also get together with HIS father’s siblings and their families as well.  Now THOSE are the big ones.  We meet in an old schoolhouse, now a bingo hall (of course).  They open the Pepsi machines for us, which as a child was probably the Coolest.  Thing.  Ever.  (Free drinks, and you got to see the inside of the machine, woohoo!)  There’s probably a dozen chickens either fried, barbecued, roasted, or casseroled.  There’s a few hogs’ worth of ham and bacon, maybe a roast beef or two.  There’s a table loaded down with green beans, black eyed peas, turnips and turnip greens, and similar southern veggie, all cooked in butter and smothered in butter after they’re cooked.

And then there’s the dessert table.  Ye gods.

My favorite story is of the first of these reunions that I took Dyskinesia to.  She’d just moved from the Midwest the month before, and was still having a wee bit of trouble decyphering the heavy accents of my rural Virginia family.  We ate our fill of lunch and turned to the dessert table, and I think Dys almost went into a diabetic coma just from looking at it.

See, her Scandinavian family does a lot of fruit stuff.  Carrot cake, apple pie, all that good stuff.  Nothing wrong with that.  But my family is a serious southern cookin’ family.  If it don’t take five pounds of butter n’ sugar, well, it ain’t worth havin, shugah.  About the sweetest thing Dys had generally had at such gatherings was a rhubarb pie.  I think she actually once asked me “chocolate pie?!?” which made me (and all of the people within earshot) say, “You’ve never had chocolate pie?!?!?”  Hell, in my family, they start feeding it to the babies along with rice cereal and pureed peas.  (Not true, but damn near.)

So we both surveyed the Table O’ Diabetic Doom and chose a few select morsels.  I took some banana pudding (mmm, Nilla Wafers), some of my grandmother’s chocolate pie, and some of a chocolate-and-whipped-cream eclair concoction that looked good.  Dys took a bit of the eclair stuff as well.  While I was demolishing Granny’s pie, Dys took a bite of her eclair and said, “WOW this is good.  I mean, if I eat more than this I think I’ll die, but holy CRAP!”  She took another bite and said, “There’s something I can’t place to it, too.”

I took a bite and started laughing.  “You wanna know what the secret ingredient is?” I asked her.

“Uh, yeah?” she said, hopefully.

So I told her.

That’s Southern cookin’, my family’s style, folks.  Mmm-mmm good!

8 Responses

  1. Ah, family. When anyone asks about mine parents I always say they’re dead (they are). When they say their sorry I say,

    “No problem, you didn’t kill them.”

    They jump a tad awaiting a story or explanation.

    “I did.”

    Usually there’s a step backwards.

    “Oh, don’t worry, I was acquitted.”

    I know it’s mean but it stops them from asking any further questions.

    Great story, TB, very funny. Funny how you seem to be the only sane one, huh?

    Well, my brother is sane, just gradually drifting redneck. And my pothead cousin is something close to sane, just excessively dingbatted. The rest – eh. Ooh. Uh.

  2. My family tree is filled with spoiled aunts and uncles who think that they are entitled. When my mom’s mom turned 81 I turned 18 so we went to Pennsylvania for her party. I had just graduated and my mom’s oldest sister told my mom that she (my aunt) was shocked that I graduated. My mom asked why (while trying not to bitch slap her) and my aunt said that she was sure that I would end up pregnant at 16.

    When I didn’t go to college, which we all knew wasn’t going to happen when we went to the party, my one uncle (mom’s oldest brother) called my mom and said that it was a shame that I would be the only one of the grandchildren to not go to a Big Ten school.

    Yea, we don’t talk much anymore.

    DAMN. I’m not saying anybody should bitch slap those people, but I AM saying that if anyone ever does, I want to see the videotape. On a loop.

    Holy SHIT some people should be forcibly sterilized without anesthesia.

  3. Wow. Makes my family sound normal. And they’re SO NOT. Love your self-description, “Eccentrically smart metalhead”. Heh.

    HELL YES whisky cookin’! We add a good glug-glug of Jameson to our roasts, meatloaf… whatever’s going in the crockpot. And WTF??? Dys never had chocolate pie in her childhood??? That’s just poor parenting, right there. She was deprived. Seriously, woefully deprived. Also, rhubarb pie was a fixture at our house in the summer. Funny how different it tastes with five pounds of sugar as compared to raw. (Once when I was little I mistook raw rhubarb for raw celery… imagine my surprise when I helped myself to a big ol’ bite…)

    That’s my BRIEF description of myself, heh. At least that’s probably how my family thinks of me. Kinda smart, kinda crazy, into that disgustingly loud music.

    As for the cookin’, heheheh, Dys says watch your inbox. *evil grin*

  4. “Table O’ Diabetic Doom”…lol!

    There isn’t a bigger curse of death in the south than being a diabetic.

    No kiddin’ – if for no other reason than you miss out on all the best food at these sorts of things!

  5. I grew up with this huge network of extended family. On Dad’s side (he has 2 sisters) I have 7 first cousins. On Mom’s side (she has 2 brothers and 2 sisters) I have 11 first cousins. We figured it out a few years ago when my maternal grandmother died that if she didn’t exist then something like 52 people would not have existed.

    Your family parties sound like ours. Except in ours everything is made with cabbage in it, and looks inedible (much early Polish cuisine was based on a dare) but tastes fantastic. Oh, and there’s the lethal combo of vodka and volleyball. And then out of nowhere an accordion appears somehow.

    “Based on a dare…” Bwahahahahah!

    Oh, there’s generally no actual drinking at official family get-togethers. No, sirree. That would scandalize all the Southern Baptists, you know. So most of us wait until Granny goes home, and THEN break out the bourbon.

    And I think I’ve talked before about the bluegrass band that comprises about half of my family on my father’s side. For us, it’s food, presents, and then out comes the banjo.

    And by the way, DING DING DING, you’re the lucky 1000th commenter! You win a… win a…. [looks around] uh, thanks for commenting! 😉

  6. Oh, and you should have seen the first time Todd came to one of our little Polkafests. The Polishness is astounding to me, as a Pollock. He regarded it as an anthropoligical feast, however. He asked me so many questions on the way home about tradition I’d grown up with. Yes, there is a blurry mix between spoken Polish and English. Yes, we really do drink that much vodka. And Yes, I know the uncles were doing shots at 9AM.

    Sounds like a fun foray into cultural anthro to me, too!

  7. I’m with the southern way on desserts…I can handle strawberry shortcake, but that’s about it for fruits mixing with dessert. That’s hilarious that you had to read Tolkien in the car.

    As I am confident that neither my mother (who knows about my blog but doesn’t read it…isn’t that crazy? I would totally read my daughter’s blog if I knew about it) nor her family will read this, they are nutso, whacko crazy. Matt thought I was exaggertating. Until the first family reunion. He’s a believer now.

    Heck yes. Who needs fruit when you’ve got chocolate, right?

    My mom was UN-PLEASED that I ditched the fam to read. I admit, it was pretty rude. I haven’t done it since that one time. But then again, after that, I was able to drive myself and could leave whenever I wanted. And also in my defense, that particular get-together was held in Uncle Elwood’s (not his real name, but his real name is about as goofily countrified) house, which was WAY too small for all those people.

    Uh, yeah, my folks don’t know about my blog and I ain’t about to clue them in. They’d definitely read, and I feel a lot more able to write about different things if I feel like they’re not following along! For the most part (except for my first cousins) my mom’s family are good-hearted people. Old and set in their ways, definitely – including some rather regrettable ways, as my home area was a frontier of what they called “massive resistance” during the Civil Rights era – but generally good folks. As they’d say about others, though, “Bless their heart, they cain’t help that they crazy.”

  8. There’s a part of me that seriously wonders some times if we might have been brothers in another (very recent) life.

    I’m not a big believer in past lives but sometimes…

    Anyway, every single word of this was so damn familiar. The potlucks, the cooking, the cousins, the hiding and reading Tolkien…SO damn familiar.

    In that case, one of us owes the other a bunch of noogies.

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