Monday, August 30, 2004

A Family Reunion, part 2

August has been a crazy month with out-of-state travel to two different family reunions. If somehow has figured out an easy way to manage long distance car trips (or just trips period) with a baby and a manageable load of stuff, please share. Or better yet, sell your experiences. You'll make millions.

Anyway, I realize that I am never going to have time to write the perfect blog entry so I might as well just paste in my unorganized thoughts rather than keeping them in little Word documents waiting for that magical moment when I'll have the time and mental energy to make them all pretty.

I had a wonderful time in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin last week (where no one I know lives) at a family reunion with my mother's family. Ellie really enjoyed her 6-month-old cousin (what's the relationship between the children of 1st cousins?) and the rest of us really enjoyed talking, drinking, sharing photos, walking, and playing games like croquet, badminton, and volleyball.

These people are intelligent, and they are master manipulators.

The question is: why do they waste so much time when they could be accomplishing so much? Why are they so afraid?

Little Cornie, ridiculous Cornie, Cornie who never thinks of anything or talks about anything, Cornie who is so boring, Cornie whose faith is so ridiculous that it needs to be shaken at all costs: do you think that Cornie's nieces and nephews know all about her one-time fianceé from 40 years ago? Do you think that Cornie's husband is forced to put on his game face and doggedly psychoanalyze why that relationship was never meant to be? No? I don't think so either. And I wonder, as we sit and ridicule Cornie and she's off living her life somewhere, who really is being ridiculous?

Even in our self-flagellation, even in our guilt over the way it ended, we can't seem to stop ridiculing Cornie, presumably to make ourselves feel better. But does it work? Apparently not, because it's 40 years later and here we are, still talking about her.

This family: so smart, so well educated and well traveled and politically correct with such helpful jobs. And yet . . . so pathetic. When does my life start? Apparently the bit that mattered ended 40 years ago, while I was still waiting for life to begin. Oops.

Still more fascinating to me: Even as I think about them, even as I analyze their thoughts and interactions, I can't seem to stop myself from saying "we". This is interesting, given that this is a family that still refers to my father (and the other spouses) as "outsiders" even though they've all been married for more than 30 years. Even though my mother made the decision to raise my sisters and I far away, as Midwesterners, it seems that I've picked up on that insular family identity.

And yet, these really are people who care, who know, who do important work. And some of them really are still activists, in large ways or small. I admire each of them for something, and I really do enjoy our rare visits together. Here's hoping that it doesn't take another 20 years to organize the next official family reunion.

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