taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Sunday, February 13, 2005

One of my sisters recently eloped to Jamaica to marry her second husband. Since none of the rest of us were present at the wedding, we felt the need to do something, and so my eldest sister and I decided to plan this after-wedding party for her. Which is all well and good, but somehow I got stuck with the job of Invitations.

This sounds straightforward, yes? Go to Target, buy some invites, mail 'em out. But no. No, no, no. It involved a spreadsheet, and a very long guest list, and handwriting many invitations while watching TLC late into the night, and accepting RSVPs (or lack thereof). I screwed up and didn't include a map to the party location, thinking that people know how to use mapquest, but no, that wasn't good enough for the bride.I don't think my invitations or my handwriting were good enough either, actually.

But worst of all--the consequence I had no idea I'd have to live through--I now have to deal, on a daily basis, with the very extended, very complicated, very crazy family I have spent all these years avoiding.

You see, I come from a "blended" family. I have four sisters and a brother, from three separate marriages. Attendant with all of these siblings are THEIR relatives, who are also crazy. Top that off with the fact that my mother herself has four siblings, from three marriages of my grandmother's, and you're dealing with a complete mishmash of expectations, etiquette, ethnicities, and a verrrry long history. A family, like a corporation, has an institutional memory, and ours is about two hundred years long.

So, I get a call from my Nana today. Nana is indeterminably old--she may have had my mother when she was fourteen, or she may have been twenty, no one knows. She's had numerous facelifts and five hsbands (maybe six, since one Easter dinner in 1986 she said "Don't you all remember Jimmy? My third husband? We were only married for two months." No one did, and he's not been brought up since.) Anyway, Nana calls ostensibly to RSVP but more to talk about how my mother is going down the wrong path, and how she (my nana) has to work the crab truck that weekend of the party, and how her husband is sick, and how this baby of mine sounds an awful lot like how I was as a baby--unreasonably large and not very affectionate, evidently.

Then tonight, I went over my mother's for dinner, and find out that the one sister I had the feud with in 1988 is coming to the party but probably won't call me to RSVP, and that no one knows where my brother is, maybe somewhere in Northern Virginia and most certainly in a giant McMansion but no one has his phone number or address (lucky him), and that my rock-n-roll half-uncle from New York is bringing his twenty-five year old girlfriend if he bothers to show up at all.

And then I come home and get a call from my step-uncle--I think that's what he is, anyway. He's my half-sisters' father's brother, anyway. Since my sisters' father is living in Iraq as a contractor, their uncle seems to be the primary point of contact for that side of the family. He informed me that he'd be at the party, but that his mother (who sends me a crisp five dollar bill on my birthday every year, to this day) couldn't make it, since she's 88 and declining and trying to shake a mad QVC shopping habit.

And so I am faced, yet again, with the endless, intricate chain of my family's interactions, the result of decisions they all made along the way, which brought together approximately 100 people, half of whom aren't related by blood but who are all bound up in each other's lives anayway. And the stories we tell, or don't tell, about each other. A lifetime isn't long at all, but it's long enough to affect a lot of other lifetimes, kind of like the butterfly beating its wings in China. Everything affects everything else.

I just hope the party turns out okay. Otherwise it'll be one of those stories they bring out at Thanksgiving: "Remember the time Claire screwed up the party invitations and we had to drink six pitchers of Mojitos all by ourselves? That was the night I got pregnant...." Ahhhh, fate.


At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

they wont know what a mojito is

At 8:57 AM, Blogger The Cybrarian said...

oh MAN, I can't wait! But where's my gd'd map? How can I get there without a map?!

At 9:53 AM, Blogger XLT said...

Can you elope from the reception? I would hide at the Club Charles or somethin'.

At 6:53 AM, Blogger dogfaceboy said...

I do not come from a blended family, but when I describe Passover seder to my friends, most of them swear they saw it in a Woody Allen movie.

I think your family's in there, too. Well, except Kim. She's normal. :) (You know I'm kidding about THAT!)

BTW, your kid can sure eat!


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