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The Joy of Family Reunions

It’s that time of year again. Neighbors try to outdo each other in Christmas decorations. Little kids drag their parents to go see jolly old fat guys dressed up in big red pajamas. The mall is suddenly packed with people gift-shopping, all with that certain frenzied gleam in their eyes as they compete to get the last X-Box or talking Barbie doll. Woe to the parent who goes home empty-handed. So much peace, love, and generosity clog up the air, it’s almost suffocating. But the holidays are not complete without the renewal of familial bonds. It’s time for that mismatched conglomeration of people masquerading as your family to come together in that joyous occasion known as The Family Reunion.

So the preparations begin. Dresses you don’t remember buying, and for that matter, why you bought them, are dug out from the depths of the closet and stuffed in a suitcase. Jeans, or anything even vaguely comfortable, are banished from sight as another pair of itchy stockings are thrown into a suitcase. Manners are dusted off and practiced in order to maintain that facade of sweetness and maturity we have all managed to fool our relatives into believing.

Thus begins the cheek-pinching, the “look how big you’ve gotten” speech which causes you to wonder whether they mean tall or wide, and the all-important “How’s school”. This is a query to which you will no doubt have an automated reply to by the end of the reunion since our lives are perceived to only include school. More depressing however is the fact that this year it’s true. In such a way does the auspicious occasion begin.

Soon after the greetings are over, it quickly becomes apparent that you’ve been invited not for your witty conversation, but for your baby-sitting abilities. Under the pretense of being the oldest cousin, and therefore looked up to, all the kids are foisted upon you. It’s always amazing to see the transformation from sweet, cute, angelic kids to the trouble-making, tantrum-throwing, spoiled little monsters they become. You know it’s bad when, as you sit listening to the melodious strains of “Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire”, the wild impulse to skewer little Joe and stick him in the fireplace comes to mind. Such instances cause you to seriously reconsider having kids.

But just when that frozen smile on your face is on the verge of cracking, when you know if you don’t get out quick, you’ll throw yourself or someone else out the window, it dawns on you that it’s the very last day! Wonder of wonders, the torture is almost over. It’s actually possible to taste freedom, of being completely alone in your own house without anyone or anything getting in the way of your complete and total relaxation. As the clock ticks closer to getaway time, the change in everyone is miraculous. People begin to positively ooze sweetness as the closeness of departure releases the milk of human kindness. Soon, it’s time for goodbyes. After a whirlwind of kissing, hugging, and smiling until your face hurts, the reunion is finally over. As you’re leaving, you thank God that the joys of family reunions are another twelve months away.

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