I can’t help it at family gatherings – all the noise, overwhelming preparation, lots of food, and gossip cracks me up.
And by family, understand people whose names I still guess after 10 years being around them.
I can only describe an eventful family gathering (this time for Easter) in a comedy of three acts:
THE GRAND ARRIVAL
The noise is growing exponentially.
Doubling with every couple that arrives at the host’s house (my sister-in-law).
Thankfully, I’m not a kid anymore so the aunts (feels like ants, but they’re actually lovely ladies) don’t find me as cute.
But my poor kids and all their cousins…oh dear.
The amount of moist smooching they’re getting from every single aunt and uncle that arrives.
And what with them being hungry, the odour of a vaporising saliva within direct reach of that tiny little nose, is exactly what makes kids run away from old people, or – in worst case scenarios – wipe their faces in their smart pullover’ sleeve.
The party is heating.
And so is the lamb in the oven.
The traffic jam in the kitchen/living room reaches boiling point from undistinguishable chatter, nervous yells from the host out of panic mainly (or because no one can hear her).
Kids are chasing each other.
The kitchen/living room area feels much more crowded than usual, even though no extra relatives have turned up, just the usual bunch.
The giant chocolate Easter eggs look like extra, uninvited, guests.
That’s what it is.
Come to think of it, what did our ancestors give their kids for Easter before chocolate eggs came about?
They probably gave them almond paste and a wooden stick to play with.
Our kids get chocolate eggs, clothes even, and toys.
It’s been nearly three months since the last time they got presents.
The lamb is still heating and so is everyone’s bubbly babble over bubbly beverage.
Suddenly, the host announces, “appetisers everyone” but towards “aizers”, she’s stomped by a hungry mob of relatives.
The relatives surrender to the blissful contact of their taste buds with the oily dip and crackers and take a moment to reboot.
After the last cracker disappears, the babble and gabble accelerates to an ever more potent crescendo from vocal cords that have just been induced with a doze of lifesaving glucose.
Alas, the effect from the dip on crackers won’t last long.
The relatives are hungry.
And while the clock is nervously ticking in rhythm with my crarckerless stomach all the way to 14.35pm, no other announcement since the “appetisers” one has come out as yet.
Like in the last strokes during an individual medley at the Olympics, relatives, kids and all manage to reach the table led by one guiding light in our lives: the roasted lamb!
We’re all exhausted from the violent hunger and the overheated debates about football, politics, or something in the middle.
The roasted lamb triumphantly arrives.
Shiny, generously plumply, stuffed with lots of complicated looking things, and wrapped like a newborn baby that’s about to be handed to its mommy for the first time.
Everyone swims freestyle for the side dishes – peas, carrots, cauliflower and cheese.
The kids, my husband, and I swim an extra fast front crawl to outswim the others and get to the amazing roast potatoes first.
A chorus of clinking and clanking, munching and swallowing develops into a lively allegro above the table.
Otherwise everyone is fairly quiet.
Or gathering momentum.
The energy will return.
It’s just a matter of time for the lamb to kick in.
Everyone’s jaws click-clack like train wagons on a railway…to heaven.
Three of the aunts, however, decide to break the gentle murmur of our happy chewing by suggesting a discussion session on the following themes, in the following order:
– the food
– the weather
– someone’s marriage or someone’s surgical operation, I’m not sure exactly
ACT II – intermission
This is the part where everybody needs to go to the bathroom.
And where everybody is pretty much done with the food, slightly bored, and ready to shake it up a little.
By Act II the beautifully laid table looks like a teenager’s bedroom.
Greasy tableware, empty bottles, stains, crumbs, peas, dirty napkins, reminiscent trail of fried or roasted food, deodorant and sweat (eating is quite an exercise).
Intermission is over with the host announcing that dessert is coming.
The chocolate mousse is unforgiving and beastly.
So good that everyone looks very angry when it finishes.
To distract ourselves from the loss of the mousse, one of the aunts proposes to talk about some people, I believe, no one knows.
However, some of the husbands, my mother- and sister-in-law somehow figure out a way to participate.
The conversation blows me away!
“Mary, no, Sue was married to Martin”, one of the aunties goes.
“No, Sue was married to Kevin”, the second aunt objects.
“You know they’re cousins”, my mother-in-law enters.
“Don’t tell me Kevin married his cousin, ma?”, my sister-in-law jumps shocked.
I just stare on the other side of the table and can’t understand who cares about all this?
The fun thing about it all though is that this is family.
That’s how it should be.
Fun and funny.
Traditional and familiar.
Identical every year, because that’s what makes it tradition.
Where the kids run around.
Where the father cuts the meat or the pudding.
Where the youngest says a little prayer or a few good words the way his grandmother taught him.
Where everyone gossips about silly and funny things;
while people like me roll their eyes, but feel incredibly blessed to have all that.
That simple family lunch.
A precious moment.
A moment that my kids are blessed to have.