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All Family Are Equal, But Some Are More Family Than Others

, , | Related | January 17, 2019

(My aunt, my mother’s sister, is a childless woman who has never married. She consequently spends her time telling my mother how to raise HER children. I have just had my first child and named her. We didn’t choose the name for family reasons, but it happens to be the name of my father’s great-grandmother as well.)

Aunt: “I don’t know why all you kids are picking all these new names. Aren’t there any good names on the family tree for you?”

Me: “We really liked this name, and it’s also a character in [piece of classic American literature], and we really admire the character.”

Aunt: “But it has no family value. No respect for family. None of you kids have any respect for family values.”

(Irrelevant, but between me and my siblings, we have nine kids, not including this one, and every single one of them has some kind of a nod to a family member in either their first or middle name.)

Me: “Well, if we’re being technical, my dad’s mother’s grandmother was named [Name].”

Aunt: “That’s not family. That’s your dad’s family.”

“Well Done” For Surviving The Barbecue

, , , , | Related | January 17, 2019

When I was young, we always had family get-togethers at our house, which at the time I was told was because we had the biggest house and yard. While that was true, others had houses that were at least big enough to accommodate everyone. It wasn’t until I was around twelve that I found out the real reason: of all the “local” family members we were the only ones that apparently knew HOW to host a party. My grandmother wasn’t physically up to it, which was understandable; my one maternal aunt and uncle lived in a small apartment; and the in-laws were always so busy they’d only ever want to just order catering when the rest of us preferred home-cooked.

Then there was my OTHER maternal aunt, who whenever (for instance) we were grilling, would always insist on getting her burgers “well done.” Come to find out her idea of “well done” was what the rest of us called “complete charcoal.” The fateful day was when she and my uncle got a new grill and invited just us over to help test it out, which I was all for but my parents, not so much. We get there, and they already have the grill going and all the burger on it. No hot dogs, no chicken, no veggies, no anything else, JUST hamburgers. Okay, I think to myself, it’s a new grill so they’re playing it safe.

Then I tried to remind my uncle, who was doing the cooking, that I liked my burgers cooked rare. “No.” Yeah… So, not only did they like to completely overcook their food, they wouldn’t NOT overcook anyone else’s, even on request! The buns they got were ultra-cheap and had the texture of packing peanuts, and they wouldn’t even allow us proper CONDIMENTS, just a small dollop of ketchup in the middle of the bun and that’s it. Because that’s how they liked it, so that’s how everyone was going to eat it.

They never understood why none of us looked as thrilled with the dried out, burnt, flavorless meat-pucks as they did. They also didn’t get why we never went back to a cook-out at their place, or let my uncle anywhere near the grill at ours.

Auntie’s Opinions = Facts

, , , | Related | January 7, 2019

(I am calling my elderly aunt and uncle on New Year’s Eve, just to see how they are and to wish them a happy new year. My aunt then brings up the Christmas card that my mom sent her which had a picture of my entire immediate family at my younger sister’s wedding last May.)

Elderly Aunt: “Your mom sent you a picture from [Sister]’s wedding, right?”

Me: “Yes.”

Elderly Aunt: “Did you realize that your husband had the nerve to wear a cowboy hat to [Sister]’s wedding?!”

Me: “Yes. Did you know he always wears a cowboy hat to formal events unless he has to wear his military uniform?”

Elderly Aunt: “But it’s so disrespectful! No one from Long Island wears a cowboy hat!”

(She is from Long Island, as is most of my family, but we have mostly relocated to Delaware — where she and my immediate family live — and Pennsylvania.)

Me: “Why? You know full well that he is from rural Kentucky where proper ‘formal’ attire can include a cowboy hat! He was in the Air Force for almost twenty years, and he always wore a cowboy hat to events that didn’t require a military uniform!”

Elderly Aunt: “But didn’t your mother get upset?”

Me: “Uh, no, she told everyone to wear what they were comfortable with. As you can see, he was wearing a western-style formal suit, which would include a cowboy hat. You were also at our wedding five years ago, where he wore that same suit and cowboy hat. We had a fairly formal wedding at the chapel on the Air Force base, if you can recall.”

Elderly Aunt: “But it is so disrespectful to wear a cowboy hat! I can’t believe that your mother and sister didn’t order him to remove it immediately!”

Me: “What is your deal? [Husband] wearing a cowboy hat to an outdoor wedding didn’t offend one single person at the wedding!”

Elderly Aunt: “But I think that it’s disrespectful! He could have worn a top hat or other type of hat! Cowboy hats are just trashy, if you ask me!”

Me: “Then don’t go to Texas or anywhere else in the south or west. When [Husband] and I took a road trip through Texas and other points west, we saw lots of respectable people wearing cowboy hats.”

Elderly Aunt: “But I think it’s still rude!”

Making Light Of The Lighter Fluid Flavor

, , , , , | Related | January 2, 2019

At a family gathering celebrating Independence Day, my uncles were tasked with the preparation of the hot dogs, burgers, and sausages. As the meats cooked, my uncles grew increasingly impatient and intoxicated and began attempting to speed up the cooking process.

Their solutions included adding more charcoal, more lighter fluid — while the food was cooking — moving the grill into more direct sunlight, and ultimately attaching a vacuum to the grill in an effort to increase the airflow.

Their efforts produced a lot of smoke that drifted through open windows into my grandparents’ house, where my ill grandmother was spending the party. Naturally, she came to the kitchen window to yell at my uncles and complain about the smoke. My dad found himself enlisted by his brothers to help cook the meats, a role he carried out with a constant bemused look and sarcastic commentary.

After the standard duration meats take to cook on a grill, the food was served. It was sufficiently burned with an adequate taste of lighter fluid. I had a salad that was prepared on the other side of the backyard, far away from the grill.

Wedlocked Into That Narrow-Mindedness

, , , , , | Related | January 2, 2019

(When I am born, my mom isn’t married. Due to circumstances good enough for another story, my mom becomes a single, working mom. At one point when I’m about four, my mom takes me to a dinner with family at her cousin’s. When everyone else is seated at the nicely-set-up dining room table, my mom’s aunt comes in, sees me, and says:)

Cousin’s Mom: *slightly irate* “I’m not sitting at the same table as a child born out of wedlock!”

Cousin: *recovering more quickly than the rest* “Oh, no problem, Mom. I’ll set the table for you in the kitchen, then, shall I?”