My Tribe

family at Grandmom'sIt a Sunday afternoon and I am walking through my uncle’s house listening to the many conversations being had by my family.

Yesterday, we met at a nice Italian restaurant for my grandmother’s 92nd birthday party. Since many of them – myself included – come from out-of-town, we are trying to get in another day of family fun insanity by having a barbecue.

There is nothing better than having a weekend filled with family fun. It usually results in a whole new set of issues to deal with, dregs up a repressed memory or two, and leads to a gain of ten pounds.

Further, when it’s over I drink enough alcohol to actually understand Keith Richards.

At today’s party we are a bit louder than we were at yesterday’s, a little more rambunctious. This is because while yesterday’s party took place at a nice restaurant, today’s takes place at my uncle’s house.

So? You are probably asking.

Well, yesterday we were in public, today we are not. There is nobody non-family to impress or worry about today. There are no witnesses; we can be ourselves. We can eat like the bipedal wolverines we are. We don’t have to dress to impress, so it’s pants with elastic waistbands (aka: eatin’ pants). We can go for seconds, thirds, or the fabled fourths.

We are a loud tribe, an extroverted group of friendly, short-legged Hobbit-like creatures barely concealing the misanthrope within. When we are together at a restaurant, we tend to draw the attention of those who don’t raise their voices in public or those who might not understand why the difference between spaghettini and spaghetti is a topic worthy of heated debate. We can shout at each other about football with chicken hanging from our canines. We can say all the things we want to say without fear of damning stares and awkward glances from fellow public-goers.

Everyone has a weird family. Everyone. Everyone has the uncle who makes inappropriate jokes, the aunt who gets too close for comfort, the cousin who wears a tinfoil hat and takes The X-Files just a bit too seriously. Despite this weirdness, the best part about family is that they are the only group on Earth in which you truly belong. No matter what groups you join in your life, your family is the first one.

They are your tribe.

I walk around the house, eating carbs and observing my tribe in their natural habitat. The discussions are free, unrestrained, and weird. Overheard:

You think that priest was going to defrock for you? You’re not defrockable. (Grandmom to Aunt)

I wanted to stab that British fucker in his British neck. (anonymous)

Your boyfriend keeps talking to me while I’m eating. You gotta tell him to stop doing that. (me)

I need to get a rub for my tuna. (from the category “it’s got to be a euphemism, but it’s not”)

I have to put my daughter down for a nap in the car. (Cousin)

Get away! I am trying to sleep. I hate hotdogs. (Aunt to everyone in the living room)

It’s a great time. We laugh and eat and make fun of each other. We talk about the food so much that an outsider might think we needed to visit a support group. When the party ends a few hours later, our tribe splits up with genuine sadness. It’ll be a while until we can all meet again, until then we will become our quasi-restrained selves to go back into public, but it’s not the same.

We all go off in our different direction, ten pounds heavier and thinking about Christmas.

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