Monday, September 22, 2008

That Went Down Better than I Expected

The Groovy Grannies
I love my in-laws. I really do, they're totally nice people old Bet and Art. In his earlier days he was 'spunky' Art because he was a very attractive 50 something when I first met his son. He's still the cutest thing since sliced bread and slightly whistles through his dentures and dotes on the woman and he's a damn good cook. She was a weight challenged chatterbox, and still is - a chatter box - she goes to fitness classes these days and looks amazing for her age. I don't think in 27 years of knowing them, I've ever heard spunky Art finish an anecdote (except for the quiet hours when we sit alone and confide) She however, is lovely and doting and has the most amazing complexion for a woman her age. Apart from one early contretemps we have always got on. We have always stayed in touch and I often wonder if I'd remarried, how the new fella might have felt about the close relationship we have with the Groovy Grannies.

Anyway, each October Betty and her siblings (once 12 of them) arrange a "Family Tree Day". This entails hiring a huge shelter shed with barbecues and tables in the less than salubrious
Killeen Street, outside the Auburn Botanic Gardens and haranguing the entire family, in-laws, progeny, family friends to a self-catered day in the sun. Family members travel from Cairns and Canberra,Wagga and Brisbane - just to be there, largely I suspect out of obligation. There are a few who's company I thoroughly enjoy but even they are 'trailing off'. Clearly there are some uncles and aunties and cousins who socialise during the year and form their own little cliques. They know each other but make no effort to get to know the other family members. At last count there were around 100 of us. Directly decended from Grandpa Patrick.

There are races, water balloon fights, 'guess what's in the mystery parcel' , endless raffles with home made prizes such as hand towels with crocheted edges or that painting that Aunty June did or the Japanese Geisha that Paula made in ceramics class (yes I won that one), ice cream, crisps (we call 'em chips) and lollies which of course any kid under 10 thinks is fabulous, Santa makes an appearance in early October just to get the kidlings in the mood and generally it's a good old fashioned family kind of day. I've missed one since 1978 because my birthday fell on the same day and the kids had booked a luxury penthouse in the city . . .trade that for ice cream and a snag in a bun . . I think not baby puppy!

Many an evening we've trawled home with sickly, sticky kids with their 50 cent coins in pocket (the prize for winning your age race but everyone gets one). And just lumped them into bed in their sweaty stickiness because it was easier than waking the exhausted ankle biters up for a bath!

However, as the children have grown this event has become a chore. For me it never was until about 10 years ago. It's nice to meet up with them. They live on the central coast and whilst it's still only 2 hours away it seems like a 'weekend' trip to visit. We do . .but not often. Tell the truth the kids go up there of their own volition more than I. We meet up at Christmas with Ray's brother and his lovely wife and their two horrible 20 somethings and their very nice but slightly nerdy 15 year old. But the Family Tree? There's nothing quite like a table laid with chicken and coleslaw, Aunty Dot's 'daintys' and my 'bread rolls'. Apparently I'm not quite clever enough to bring anything more sophisticated than bread - they'd die if I turned up with carpaccio and watercress salad - so out of spite I choose gourmet breads with weird grains and deliver a package that looks good enough to lacquer and put in a country basket as decoration for the kitchen.

Aunty Vee is one who insists on kissing all the younglings whilst talking loudly and spitting water crackers all over everyone. She's worn high heels since she was 14 and her feet are so deformed she can no longer wear flats. Aunty Peggy is no more but was fun and chirpy and always got my name wrong. Uncle Vince remembers but then is easily distracted by flying things and just wonders off into a comatose rave. Uncle Brian was cool enough but his wife had the same nickname as me and felt that gave her some sort of bonding prerogative and she always invaded my personal space . . you know that metre ring of don't come any closer. Aunty Joan has an air of class about her. She's the youngest and very capable and businesslike and always remembers birthdays but she has her own immediate family to twitter over so the conversations are short. Uncle Leo has the megaphone . . enough said. Then there are a barrage of cousins who do or don't know each other and the new arrivals. There's something terrifying about an 80 year old in high heels walking around each table and bragging about a 4 day infant in her arms "Shit don't drop it" comes to mind but I stay silent.

Anyway, the point is . .I've always ASSUMED that our presence was mandatory. That they'd be shattered if we didn't go to represent! Especially as her Real Estate Agent son could rarely make it, despite having 3 months notice. His two elder fuckwit sons couldn't be bothered . . .(then again they live around the corner from their Grandparents and see them weekly). So it was up to the daughter's in law, Clare, Adam and Jack to be the family support.

I always felt that we'd be letting the Groovy Grannies down if we didn't show, but this year . . this year . .I just can't do it Captain. I've re booked the whale watch for the 19th October and tonight, after ringing the lovely Betty to wish her happy birthday - spilled the beans . . it went surprisingly well. Perhaps because the only female grandchild in the clique will be absent . (Who's the favourite then!) Why, because she'll be trolloping somewhere in Spain . . perhaps because my weird ass bread rolls are just no longer kosher and linseed gets stuck in false teeth . . perhaps because the worry that they would be disappointed is all in my head. Her parting words "Well darling, just let me if you can't change the date . . for the catering you know!"

Well that went down better than I expected!

17 comments:

ebony said...

haha. Those events (plus your family) sound really cool! Sigh. But in a way all those family gatherings are always such a fuss...

Grannymar said...

You go and enjoy the whale watch, I think you have well served your time to the 'Outlaws'!

Quickroute said...

Last thing you need is a guilt trip - go watch the whales and enjoy

Baino said...

Ebs . . the thing is they're not 'my' family so it is a bit of a chore. That side of the family is just too darn big!

GM: They're lovely but the Family Tree is not. Plus they've had it at the same place for about 15 years. Used to be on Uncle Vince's airstrip before it was built over. Now that ws fun!

Quicky: Oddy no guilt this time. Probably because she was really OK with the whole thing. The mandatory attendance seems to have been in my 'head'.

Jay said...

No reason why you should feel duty bound to turn up every single year - go enjoy the whales!

You can go to the Family Tree thing next year, and everyone will fall on your neck and tell you how much they missed you last year and 'how AAARRREEE you darling?' all over the place at you.

LOL!

kj said...

fun sweet read, baino. i'm glad you're flying free this year.

:)

Kath Lockett said...

We all tend to put ourselves through all kinds of agonies of obligation and duty....and when we finally decide to say 'no' it's such a friggin' relief.

Enjoy the whales, Baino, and take along some of your fancy schmancy bread rolls to eat on the boat!

Megan said...

Great story, B! I love the mental picture that I get from the idea of lacquered bread!

(BTW I got your facebook invitee thingie and yes that's me. We are now friends!)

Ces said...

Well, your in-laws are good looking especially your MIL, she is an attractive woman. I like your FIL's shirt. I think family reunions can be great expectations and anticipations or burden depending on what it takes to get to the reunions. I personally love family reunions. I love my husband's family, they are exactly like mine and I could spend every moment with my sisters and brothers. We had a reunion last year in Colorado and South Dakota. Next year we hope to have it in North Carolina. I hope I get to go home and see my sisters and brothers next year. At least you don't have cousins who expect you to give them money or gifts. The last time I went home I was visiting a cousin and she liked my shoes and the clothes I was wearing. So I took off my shirt and shoes and went home with an old t-shirt of hers and flip flops. My sisters was horrified.

katesaid said...

Avoiding an expected guilt trip is always better than getting hit with an unexpected one, I think...

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Ha, I remember you blogging about this event last year (where has the time gone!?) So glad you've managed to escape and no harm's done. Frankly, I'd far sooner go whale watching than doing a family gathering of close on 100 - aaaaaargh! You have more than done your duty. Go enjoy the whales - far, far better energy!

Baino said...

Ah Jay . . amongst these old Aussies are some of the WORST Australian accents you've ever heard. They leave old Alf from Home and Away looking like a private school boy!

Thanks KJ. Cleaned the language up a bit too!

Haha Megan, my MIL has a basket of laquered buns on her kitchen bench!

Kate all worked out quite well really. I wouldn't have got away with it if Clare was home!

Oh dear AV am I repeating myself again! I just hope there are whales on the whalewatch this year!

Miles McClagan said...

I was distracted from my original thoughts there by a mention of Alf Stewart...some of my favourites..."I don't believe in no flamin Bunyip!", "I'm toeier than Bigfoot in a Roman sandal!"

What a man!

Baino said...

Struth Miley. . I've never met anyone that speaks like that other than my Auntie Vee and Betty White! "Stone the crows, now go you left wing Greenie yahoo!"

Miladysa said...

How interesting to discover we are related... although my lot do have different names :-D

Baino said...

Miladysa since there are only six degrees of separation, I'm English, my inlaws family also hail from Yorkshire . . who knows . . I'll have to see how efficiently you spit water crackers whilst speaking to judge.

Bimbimbie said...

Of course you could have invited them along to see the whales with you ;)