Like an unremitting , proliferating virus, here it is again. My invitation announces that the “15th Annual Bricker Family Reunion” is being held at the Shangri Ha Hotel in the Royal Room.
Please come; it will be fun,
It’s our time to meet and greet.
If you don’t show, we all know,
Rumors unfold, stories will be told.
Come to our meeting, take a beating,
Smile, take a slug, then we’ll hug.
Missing several of these family extravaganzas has been a blessing. Why travel 2,122 miles for a family fight night? The last happy hullabaloo rocketed my spaceship right out of the country. I cherish every mile of separation. I could no longer stomach hearing about another story about cousin Jean’s job promotions or how Bill practically runs the whole company despite the fact that he just works as a shelf stocker or how Jennifer is pregnant with twins but she stills weighs less than me. My family members are a vivid testament to the virtues of controlled family planning.
These family reunions, bolstered by generations of prevaricators, skillfully pour enough glistening varnish into the cracks of their lives that they could make sandpaper gleam. My favorite historical rewrites include: Jeff quit high school because he finds the “contextual experience” to be below his intellectual acumen, Lori drifted through a drug phase which is a “commonplace” event, but now that she works as a pharmacist, she couldn’t be happier and Alice is going on her fourth divorce because in contrast to rest of us, she knows how to execute decisive action when it is necessary.
After the tenth family reunion, I’m so maligned and abused that instead of admitting myself to a mental hospital, I commit myself to a rigorous exercise and eating program. My boot camp instructor thinks my regime is too radical but you can’t argue with the results. Besides, I am offered a job from this very same instructor who questions my program. Completing my MBA establishes that I have more challenging employment options than that offer. Can you hear me Jean and Bill ?
After three years, I achieve that Hollywood-like aura and it’s worth every droplet of sweat I’ve shed and every inflated dime I’ve spent. Here I am, new and improved. Goodbye to eyeglasses, hello to aquamarine-blue contacts lens. After dropping the fat, I buy a prefabricated body and face that’s been expertly reassembled. “Barbie” would be jealous of the finished product. My stockbroker fiancée loves the outcome and , of course, he loves me. Oh, Jennifer, just want to inform you that I now weigh ten pounds less than you did when you were in high school.
Rereading the card, I see it says: ” RSVP regrets only.” Is this invitation a cryptic allusion to my main regret which is being saddled with this unsympathetic and judgmental family? Oh that’s not what the card means when it says regrets. You should let the sender know only if you are not coming.
Two months later, I decide it’s time for a reckoning. Josh, my fiancée cannot come because he is required to attend the annual shareholder’s meeting. That’s good. When he witnesses the cast of creatures climbing around in my family tree and he sees the “nuts” fall, he may have second thoughts about me.
It’s show time. Wearing a gauzy purple dress with matching Manolo Blahniks shoes sets the stage for my entrance. While checking my artfully-applied make-up, one more time , I take another gulp of champagne to foster my liquid courage.
Slightly stumbling into the elevator, I press the button for the ballroom area. As I enter the hallway, a good looking guy waves from the reception room door and says: “Welcome.” There are at least a hundred people in attendance. This party is happening. Good conversation flushed with booze flows. People are dancing, laughing and sharing the problems that have occurred in the past year. No one is spouting idealized family memories. By 11 P.M., the festivities are drawing to a close. We all say our goodbyes and as I exit the room, I see a sign saying: “Rose Room.” Walking down the hallway, I saunter by another ballroom and my cousin, Jean, yells hello. Smiling, I recognize that I’ve been at the wrong family reunion and it never felt so right. I keep walking. I have to get my rest. Tomorrow, I’m having brunch by the poolside with my new family.