It wasn't so much that I made a point of avoiding a family reunion this past weekend as...oh, okay, I did avoid it.
In fairness, I had things to do. Paul had a baseball game, then we had to see Super 8 (which we both enjoyed) and, for about a minute during the day, it did occur to me that the two of us could drive to Dawson and take part in this big family whoop-de-doo, but it occurred to me also that I'd have to keep explaining to everyone who Paul is, because aside from my brother John and my sister Ann, nobody would have any idea.
Which is kind of odd, because he is of course mentioned here quite a bit, and in status updates of Facebook, and various other places where I hang out online. Paul, Janie, the dog and cats, assorted exes and various friends--there's a regular cast here (even though some of them are kinda like Jeff Conaway on Taxi and disappear once it becomes obvious they're not working out), and regular readers of this site are presumably as familiar with them as viewers of MASH were familiar with Hawkeye, Colonel Potter and that guitar-wielding guy Loudon Wainwright played in three episodes.
But--well, look, I was going to go off on a pissy little tangent about how nobody in my family reads my blog, but that's not really the point. The reason I avoided this thing is, I hate--HATE--family reunions. I'm five years younger than my closest sibling, and my cousins are older still, and whenever I'd get dragged to one of these things as a kid, I felt profoundly alone and abandoned because there was nobody for me to talk to, nobody paying attention to me, nobody comforting me as my sense of isolation overwhelmed me and sent me off to cry alone. Also, even though I was only five or six or seven, I still sensed the weird stifled emotions that were always present when everyone tried to play nice. (I couldn't really give you all the details, but my oldest brothers hated each other--I recall one epic Quiet Man-style donnybrook that raged down the stairs, through the dining room and living room and out the front door--but at family get-togethers, they always smiled and talked to each other. Knowing what they were like at home, and being too young to understand the protocol of events like this, the disconnect fried my tiny brain. It was like they'd been replaced with pod duplicates.)
It sounds facetious, or like a too-pat TV-movie style explanation, but the family reunions I was forced to attend as a kid probably had a lot to do with the fact that I wound up in therapy by the time I was in seventh grade. That is, they took the feelings of isolation and despair I already had as part of my day-to-day existence (again, five years younger than my closest sibling, plus parents who were already into middle age by the time I started school, plus an isolated rural home surrounded by abandoned, rusting farm equipment, the type of heavy-handed symbolism that would cause any rational viewer to roll their eyes if they saw such nonsense in some shitty indie picture) and ramped it up to unbearable extremes. I remember kicking and screaming, begging Mom and Dad to let me stay home, I hated family reunions so much. I dreaded them for weeks in advance, my heart pounding, unable to sleep. And nobody seemed to realize just how profound that dread was, any more than they noticed me at the actual functions, sitting in a corner glassy-eyed, sinking in a Bergman-esque well of despair.
So, yeah, I'm an adult now, and presumably better-equipped to deal with these things, but you know, the last time the tribe gathered en masse was at Mom's funeral, so it just seems that these things are destined to have depressing subtexts for me. In other words, I could have sucked it up and gone to this thing, or I could have spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon hanging out with an eleven-year-old who makes me laugh and gets all my John Williams references.
I'll stand by my choice.