Monday, September 22, 2008
That Went Down Better than I Expected
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!