It seems ages since we could enjoy big family gatherings. The sort of get-togethers where new babies are first seen by all the family and older children are hugged and told how much they have grown. Great uncles and aging aunties, that rarely visit, dust off their finery and make the effort to travel to the event, bringing an aura of mothballs clinging to their seldom worn “good” clothes.
There is usually one of the married children who owns the biggest home so this is where the meeting of the clan will be held. Anyone who can find a place to sleep, stays at the main house, distant relatives are put in hotels and there is usually one member of the family who rolls up in a camper and parks in the driveway.
It is almost always the eldest daughter who takes control of the entire planning of the event, she plans the sleeping accommodation, meals and entertainment, and prays for good weather so most of the meals can be eaten outside. She is in charge of menu planning and usually fields out various dishes for others to bring, to include them in part of the “main dinner”. Her siblings may resent her organising their part in the affair, but go along with it, rather than argue.
Seating arrangements take the most planning, senior members of the family are seated by priority of their importance in the lineage. Great grandparents usually are cosseted and given comfy chairs, where they can have easy access and elbow room. |Next come mom and dad, they are also given good seats but mom, usually insists on having easy access to the kitchen, so she can help. The fact that her married children have everything under control is of no consideration, she has always been in charge of the kitchen and finds it hard to not be involved.
There is nearly always a “children’s table” which is definitely a place where no self respecting teenager feels they belong, however newer in-laws and younger siblings are sat where ever there is a space and have to make the best of it.
The selection of chairs is weird and wonderful and is a bit of a lottery. The home has six dining chairs, given, of course to the older generation. Bedroom chairs, piano benches, patio furniture and even a step stool are utilized for the meal. One of my weirdest dinners was spent tottering on the highest perch of the step stool while my neighbour sat at a low piano bench, so I was able to see right over his head. I towered over the table while his chin was almost resting on his plate.
Dining family style is great if you are seated at the end of the table however, if you are stuck in the middle you spend most of the meal passing dishes of food back forth to the other diners. If you are lucky, you can help yourself as food goes back and forth but a relaxing experience it certainly is not. Trying to field questions from seldom seen relatives, while anxiously keeping an eye on your offspring, who are squabbling at the other table, is difficult. One of your children is flicking peas at his sibling and you just know that a full blown food fight is brewing. However, you can’t reach them to give a warning, so quietly gesture to your mate, who is nearer to the kids, but ignoring your facial gestures to sort out his children.
Hopefully, someone else’s child will be admonished for bad behaviour and you are able to give warning grimaces to your kid while attention is focussed on the wrong doer. Just when you think the problem is solved, one of your children manages to upset the gravy boat onto someone else’s lap, so you have to disturb four other people to climb out from your spot, while you deal with the situation.
Yes family get-togethers can certainly be stress filled but, even so how nice it will be when, once again, we can gather with all our relatives and celebrate the joy of being part of a family.