Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Not To Do At a Family Reunion

This weekend, DH and I hosted his family reunion.  It was not my idea.  I don't like crowds.  I also was raised with certain manners and expectations that apparently a lot of his relatives were not.  So if this post comes off incredibly negative and even bitchy, I apologize to the reader.  I mentioned last week about being so busy getting ready for the reunion that I hadn't had much time to blog; and since I missed posting a challenge on Friday because of the reunion, I kind of feel like I owe my loyal readers an explanation.  So I made myself a little list that hopefully might show what I was up against in this reunion hosting obligation.

How DH and I came to host it goes like this:  Many years ago, eighteen I think,  DH's paternal grandfather died.  All his descendants came for the funeral, and it was decided that the family all needed to get together annually instead of only at funerals (DH's father died 20 years ago, the other time all the extended family got together).  And, since DH's grandmother hadn't had much opportunity to travel to see her grown children, it was decided that this annual reunion would change hosts and location each year, with each of the nine (yes, NINE!!) children of DH's grandparents taking a turn in birth order, from youngest to eldest. Two of those children had all ready passed away, so when their turn to host would come, it would be their offspring who would have the planning and hosting responsibility.

Which means that since this year was my late father-in-law's turn, the hosting fell to DH and his three siblings.  And how DH and I got lucky (sarcastic tone when you read 'lucky') to have it at our house goes like this:

--youngest sister and her husband let their house go back to the bank a year ago after they stopped paying the mortgage so they could 'save money to build a new house' and they currently live with mother-in-law.  Since this is mother-in-laws EX-in-laws that the reunion is for, we couldn't very well have it there.

--brother's place has pretty much turned into a pot farm, with a Cujo dog to guard his plants/profits, so we couldn't very well have it there.

--eldest sister's husband is a hoarder and their property pretty much looks like the set for Sanford and Son (in other words, a junk yard), so we couldn't very well have it there.

-- DH and I have a large property, a huge yard we keep maintained, a clean and orderly home, a large garage, and a pig roaster.  Lots of room for everyone, no junk needing to be hauled off first, somewhere to go if it rained, and we could roast a hog for the main dish.

So, that is how it fell on us, even though I hate crowds, hate chaos, and have no patience with drunk people.  Oh, did I mention there are a lot of alcoholics in DH's family?  Probably not, as I try not to mention them, or think of them, very often.

Long story short, a whole year to plan out the reunion, between DH and his three siblings (I had been told I wasn't needed in the planning), and it comes down to not a whole hell of a lot getting done until the last minute (needing me to  bust my ass put in a whole lot of hours last week).

DH and I wrote up and mailed out the necessary reunion info letter in January, letting people know of the reunion date far enough in advance so they could arrange for time off of work (and have time to save up $$ for traveling, if necessary), the location (our property), and that the meat and one keg of beer would be provided by the host.  It is one day, beginning at noon, with the family business meeting (updating address list, adding new spouses or children to the family tree, announcing of next year's host and potential location) done before the keg is tapped, food served as soon as the meeting is finished, and each guest should bring a dish to pass.  Also, any drinks other than the keg are BYOB, so make sure to pack something for your kids to drink, and yourself to drink if you don't wish to consume the keg beer.  All of which are the original conditions set up 17 years ago when this reunion business began.

That's the background that will hopefully allow you read between the lines of my list below, and understand some of what happened at my house this weekend.  Remember, the reunion is ONE day--Saturday, beginning at noon, everyone should bring a dish to pass and their own beverages.

What not to do when you go to a family reunion:

1.       Bring your dogs, then proceed to stand there and laugh when they chase and terrorize the host's livestock.

2.       Look perturbed when host grabs your dog (which you didn't even try to catch) and hands it back to you.  Especially don't give the weak excuse "He's just so fast I couldn't get him.". Not when the host watched the chasing for two entire minutes before stepping in, then easily caught your dog in a few seconds.

3.       Help yourself to a breakable bowl (which so happens to be part of the hostess's wedding china) from the hostess's kitchen to water your dog with.  Especially when there was a plastic bowl within easier reach that you could have used instead.

4.       Set the breakable bowl on cement, right in the doorway of the garage "so it's in the shade" even though everyone needs to go in and out that doorway to get their food and drink.

5.     Bring your dog, not keep it on a leash, then when it runs off into the 18 acre cornfield and is baying to let you know it's on the scent of an animal, insist everyone drop everything and rescue your dog who is "lost and barking for us to find it."  

6.   Bring your dog, and let it run loose underneath the food tables.  

7.    Show up 24 hours (or more!) early, then expect to be fed and entertained until the reunion gets started. 

8.     Set up your tent in the parking area even though you were shown the allocated area for camping, thus making older relatives have to park further away from the food and seating area when they arrive.

tents of people who showed up Friday night

camper and more tents of early arrivers

vehicles parked around tents of some who set them up in the parking area

vehicles of more Friday arrivers

9.      Park your vehicle right in front of the host's portable poultry pen, making the door to the pen almost impossible to access to feed and water the birds, let alone move the pen to fresh grazing.  Then act annoyed when asked to please park in the parking area.

10.   Show up with your dish to pass and expect the hostess to cook it for you.

11.  Bring a dish to pass, then require the hostess to provide a dish or platter large enough to serve it on and something to scoop with.  

12.   Tap the keg early, before the scheduled time, then request the host make a beer run at 10 p.m. when the keg goes dry.

13. Not bring anything for your children to drink and expect the host to run to the store for juice, pop, etc. for your poor thirsty children.  Refuse the host's offer of water from the tap in the house.

14.   Let your children run, indiscriminately, through the hostess's flower beds and vegetable garden.

15.   Let your teenage children throw balls against the host's metal-sided barn.

16.   Let your preschoolers run around unattended, in and out of the host's house, when the reunion is outdoors on 40 acres of land, with a large garage and shaded patio for people to sit in out of the sun. 

17.   Let your older children run around, yelling and screaming, until one a.m. or later.

18.  Without asking, put up signs on the doors to the host's house that say "Use Porta-Potty.", then tell the hostess you are helping her by posting the signs because "there's too much traffic going in and out of the house".  Proceed to come in the host's house yourself every time you need to use the bathroom.

19.   Smoke, then toss your not-stubbed-out cigarette butts into the host's yard, flowerbeds, etc.

20.  Smoke in the host's garage, where all the food is.  Leave cigarette butts on the floor.

21.   Allow your 17 year old child drink beer (and get drunk), even when the host expresses concern about this.

22.  Bring fireworks and set them off without consulting the host first.

23. Bring your ipod and speakers, and proceed to play your music at the same location--and louder than--the music from the playlist that was made for the reunion, which includes a variety of genres and nothing considered vulgar or offensive.  Even after being asked, twice, to turn your music down or listen to it somewhere else, keep playing it right there so everyone has to hear it.

We had a few people show up on Thursday afternoon, four hours before DH got off work. (Who then kept asking me why he wasn't home and how soon would he be home.) We had about three dozen more show up on Friday evening. For a reunion that began at noon on Saturday. Of those early birds, six live out of state. The rest of them live within three hours of us. Easy enough to get up Saturday morning, drive here, and not be late for the family meeting. (I've done that often enough and never been tardy, even when I had babies and young children to wake up and travel with.)

So, that's all I'm going to say about the reunion. Other than that my tongue sure hurts from being bitten, and I'm sure that today more than one of my in-laws thinks I'm a real uppity bitch.

But you know what? At this point, I really don't care. Because at least I know how to behave when I go to someone else's home.

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