Normally, those that are not immediate family members understand that they should stay in their respective zones that are systematically placed at least fifty miles from the next branch of the family, and that the best way to see your relatives is over the phone. Once in a while, however, the planets align, and Satan himself reaches a flaming hand out of Hell to plant one singular thought in the minds of all the relatives of one poor bastard:
Family Reunion. In this case, that poor bastard was none other than yours truly.
The entire ordeal took place over four days. On the first day, everyone was to meet at a park for a picnic and family activities. I foresaw what sort of whoopin' and hollerin' (I live in the Midwest and believe me, this was the kind of whooping and hollering that required you to drop the "G" at the end), so I made some plans with some friends that allowed me to carefully sidestep the physical activities that I hate so much, and arrive just in time for food. There, my parents, who had masterminded this orgy of the awkward, presented me with a bright yellow shirt, declaring that I was, indeed, a member of the family. After studying a few of the older members, I decided that I would "lose" the shirt. I met up with one of many wizened old aunts of mine, this one made herself stand out from the rest of the generic aunts by giving me the evil eye whenever she saw me. I couldn't decide whether it was because I wasn't wearing the reunion shirt, or because I was one of only four people that were under forty, but could talk, at the reunion.
Screaming is technically a form of communication.
After only an hour of what was slated to be a three-hour affair, I knew I could take no more. With that thought in mind, I set out across a small field that bared the signs of frequent "use" by Canadian geese in order to fetch my equally angry brother and tell everyone that I had to go. The exact excuse I used escapes me, but it was good enough to get us out of there. We had to duck and weave, and I had to avoid looking into the crazy aunt's eyes, lest she turn me to stone, but we got to the car all the same. Ah, I'll always remember that look of surprise when a bunch of them turned around at the sound of my tires squealing as I drove out of there in a hurry.
For day two, I was awakened bright and early to the delightful news that we were all assembling to have our pictures taken because apparently, someone DID want to remember the occasion. As we arrived on the scene, I was shocked to discover that there were even more relatives than before. I was starting to figure that some of them must have divided and multiplied right after the picnic, but then I realized that I had not had any breakfast. My sixth sense, which I like to call the "sense of donuts", told me that there was a Dunkin Donuts nearby, so I went to go grab something to eat. I returned with the donuts, making sure to eat them privately so that I wouldn't have to share any of the others, who were undoubtedly ravenous.
Like family unity... but with sprinkles.
After I had finished eating and removed the evidence of such, the next activity for the day was to visit the zoo. Once inside, the idea that animals can sense evil was confirmed by the large amount of screeching and crying (from animals, that is, and not the infants). The tenth parrot screech told me that it was time to go, so I threw together a great excuse about how I had to go looking for a job, which still wound up getting me out of there early.
The third day brought even more fun and excitement, for it was time for my family to go out to lunch to one of the visiting relatives' favorite restaurant. To get there, we had to travel for a while to a place where the streets were given not names, but rather numbers. A place called Verna. Apparently, "Verna" is Tongan-ese for "Bumfuck." The entire town consisted of three houses and the restaurant, which had but one sign on it that read "restaurant" in lieu of a name. The meal itself was altogether boring, so I won't subject you to the details. In short, there were about ten people there, meaning that the whole town was there, and I realized that we were only a river short of making a sequel to Deliverance.
The final day combined all the elements from the previous days into a double latte of pure agony. The reunion was to come to a close with a night of bowling at the VFW bowling alley. Upon seeing the inside of the dilapidated building, I felt sorry for veterans everywhere. Rather than bowl, I thought I'd just look around the bar area. The first thing I noticed were the poker games that offered up nudity as a reward for winning. Why waste my time with those? I belong to the Internet generation; with the snap of my fingers, porn comes to me. Next, I noticed that they had a big screen TV that, for some reason, was tuned to old reruns on the Cartoon Network. I decided that I'd rather watch it than bowl because the characters were more realistic and well rounded than most of my family, like Yosemite Sam and Daffy Duck.
My dad eventually told me that I should come out and be social. I tried to tell him that I didn't want to be something that I'm not, but he wouldn't listen. When I stepped out, my ears were assailed by the sound of one of my eight-year-old cousins singing "Quit Playing Games with My Heart" on the karaoke machine and almost decided to ask one of the veterans that was still armed to shoot me. Instead, I realized that the feeling in the pit of my stomach wasn't me being distraught at the loss of a young mind to the fiends at MTV, but rather that I was hungry. In retrospect, I really shouldn't have tried the pizza that had been waiting in the communal fridge in the bar for someone to bake it. As I bit into it, I realized that the pizza was, in actuality, the work of a master carpenter, as it was made out of fresh pine and wood glue. That was it. After I finished my awful pizza (I was hungry, ok?), I pointed out to my dad that all of the beer clocks on the walls were pointing to one thing: let me go,
damnit! He conceded, and I left.
DEATH be too much to ask for?
So what does this all point to? Simple: to me, the people that I live with and the people I see or hear from fairly often with are my family. The other weirdos that pop up at family reunions are just the gift-giving types that you should avoid at all costs. For you see, you never know just how many members are in your extended family until you start serving fried chicken and start stealing precious bowling time from veterans who deserve it.
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
"Who are all you people!?"
note: Dr. Boogie now has an elaborate system of
disguises and fake identities to use in case of another "family" reunion, and will be posing as his own uncle.