The Boxes Are Empty But Their Hearts Are Full

, , , , , , | Related | December 23, 2020

I have a large extended family with many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Back in the mid- to late 1980s, when I am in my early twenties, we have large family gatherings around Christmastime. It usually takes place in a relative’s home. One particular year, my aunt moves into a condominium building. The condo building has a public room available for use and she reserves it for our gathering. Since Christmas is approaching, the condo association has decorated the room with a lovely Christmas tree.

As part of our traditions, we have a “grab bag.” Each relative attending brings a gift with a twenty-dollar limit on it. During the gathering, we draw numbers from a hat. There are around forty to forty-five of us participating. The relative who has number one chooses a gift and opens it. The person with number two does the same, but if they like gift number one better, they can exchange it. This continues until the lucky last person opens their gift and then has the choice of exchanging with any of the previously opened gifts. It makes for a lot of fun, as there is usually one gift that becomes a favorite and is chosen and then lost by many participants.

On the day of the condo gathering, we start the grab bag. Several of my relatives open their gifts after choosing one from what is under the tree. It comes to my cousin’s turn. She opens her gift and looks disappointed.

Cousin: “My box is empty.”

Me: *Chuckling* “Nice gag, someone. No problem, [Cousin]. Go ahead and exchange with someone who has already opened their gift.”

She does, and we go on with the grab bag. Several more empty boxes make their appearance, and I begin to get a bit annoyed. One empty box is funny. Four or five just does not seem fair.

In the middle of the process, the condo association president stops by to check on our gathering.

President: “How is it going? Are you having fun? Do you have all the supplies and utensils that you need? There are more in the back closet if you need them.”

Aunt: “Everything is just fine, thanks. We are only having an issue with our grab bag. It seems as though several people have decided it would be funny to give empty boxes instead of an actual gift.”

President: “That’s a shame.” *Pauses* “Wait, where are you getting your gifts from?”

Aunt: “Everyone put them under the tree as they arrived. That’s where we are choosing from.”

President: *Laughing* “Let me explain. We wrapped some empty boxes to put under the tree as decorations. I think that’s what you have been opening!”

We all had a good laugh. Sure enough, by the time we got to the end of the grab bag, there was one gift for every relative!

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Listen To Your Kids

, , , , , , | Related | December 14, 2020

My spouse, son, and I have flown from the east coast to attend an extended family gathering. The day of the gathering is big and energetic, and we all have fun catching up with each other.

Around eight pm, my son comes to me and asks if he can go back to our hotel room, and since he looks tired and I saw him talking and playing with the others all day, I let him. I inform my spouse that I am taking our son back and I think nothing more of it.

My dad thinks otherwise, however, and comes to me the next day.

Dad: “Where were you and [Son] yesterday? I only saw [Spouse] at the gathering.”

Me: “We were there. I was talking with our relatives and [Son] was playing with his cousins.”

Dad: “You sure? I tried looking for you at ten and you were nowhere to be found.”

Me: “Oh, we were in our room by then. I think he came to me around eight and asked if he could go back, so I went with him.”

Dad: “Why didn’t you stay longer? You know we only see everyone else every few years, right?”

Me: “Yes, but [Son] was tired. He was playing and talking a lot yesterday and was clearly at his limit.”

Dad: “He’s too young to be saying he’s too tired! You should have made him stay until everyone else was done!”

Me: “Yeah, but [Spouse] didn’t return until midnight. I really don’t think [Son] would have made it until then.”

Dad: “[Son] is going to be lazy if you keep coddling him like this!”

My dad walked away after that. The funny thing is that I’ve been very attentive to my son’s desire to stay at gatherings as my parents always stayed long after everyone else left and my siblings and I were beyond tired and irritated while our parents chatted. I just don’t want my son to become discouraged from going to social gatherings like I was for a while.

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Do You Need To Be Drunk To Enjoy Your Family’s Happiness?

, , , , , | Related | September 11, 2020

My love and I are going to get married and we have an occasion where we can tell family members in person and we’re not stealing the spotlight from someone else.

Me: “So, the cards will come in a few weeks. Please let us know if you come!”

Aunt: “Of course I’ll come! I love wedding parties!”

Wife-To-Be: “Yes, and we decided to do things our way, so expect things to be different. But what and how things will be different… will be a surprise!”

Aunt: “Oh, that’s okay. Just place me at the bar and I’ll have the best time of my life!”

Me: “Yeah, about that… We decided to keep this wedding alcohol-free. There will be no alcohol served.”

My aunt snaps her head around to look at me. Her smile is gone. 

Aunt: “What did you say?”

Me: “We… asked the bar to not serve any alcoholic beverages.”

Aunt: “But… but… why?!”

Wife-To-Be: “We have our reasons. Besides, we want everyone to have fun and not have to worry about who has to drive.”

Aunt: “Oh… okay.”

Uncle: “Well, we’ll be looking forward to your invitation!”

My aunt and uncle did not attend the wedding; they had forgotten about a planned vacation they booked one week after we told them. Such a shame.

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Wait… So, Who All Is Coming?

, , , | Related | August 4, 2020

My aunt tends to repeat an idea multiple times, even if she heard and understood it clearly. At this family gathering, only my younger sister and I are in attendance. The other three members of my family did not come. This conversation ensues.

Aunt: “Is your mother coming?”

Me: “No, she had to do [event].”

Aunt: “Huh? Your mother’s not coming?”

Me: “No, she won’t be coming.”

Aunt: “Then your dad?”

Me: “No, he went with my mother to [event].”

Aunt: “Oh, he’s not coming, either?”

Me: “No, he’s accompanying my mother.”

Aunt: “Then how about [Older Sister]?”

Me: “No, she had to do something for school.”

Aunt: “Oh, [Older Sister] is also not coming?”

Me: “No, she won’t be able to make it.”

Aunt: “So, your mum, your dad, and [Older Sister] are all not coming?”

Me: “No, they won’t be coming.”

Aunt: “Huh, they’re all not coming?”

Me: “No, they’re all not coming.”

Aunt: “So, it’s only you and [Younger Sister] here today?”

Me: “Yes, it’s only me and [Younger Sister].”

Aunt: “Only the two of you?”

Me: “Yes, only us.”

Aunt: “Only the two of you, and the rest of your family aren’t coming?”

Me: *Facepalm*

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You Can Dance If You Want To, You Can Leave Your Mom Behind

, , , , | Related | August 2, 2020

I am at a family reunion with extended family which, in my case, means people I don’t see at any other time except these reunions.

I am a rather introverted child, so I am sitting in a corner reading a book when my mother and another relative come up.

Mom: “[My Name], there’s a dance tonight. Do you want to go?”

Me: “No.”

Relative: “But it’s $5.00 for two, so if you go along, it’ll be cheaper than paying $3.00 for one person.”

Me: “No, it’ll cost $2.00 more.”

Mom: “No, it’ll be cheaper!”

The conversation derails into a debate about how it’ll be cheaper if I go along. Every time I point out that I don’t want to go, I get told that it’ll be cheaper, and the conversation loops through that again. Finally, frustrated with the circular argument, I give up.

Me: “Fine. If you want me to go, I’ll go.”

Predictably, I have no fun. I don’t dance, the music is too loud, I don’t know anybody there to talk to, and I’m not outgoing enough to try talking to people I don’t know.

The next morning, my mother corners me.

Mom: “Why did you go if you didn’t want to dance?”

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