“Uncle Bill’s a real pisser.” Your father’s eyes glaze over in remembrance, sitting on his bed.
We haven’t seen Crazy Uncle Bill in years.
Last you heard from him, he was somewhere out west. Big Joe is hoping to see him again at the reunion. It is more of a pot-luck gathering of the sprawling L’Heureux family than it is a formal reunion.
We haven’t had a real one in a long time.
Your father is in his glory, telling you stories about your many aunts, uncles, their escapades, misadventures.
He’s more excited than any of us.
Your mother dreads the impending debauchery. She has tried to convince Big Joe that she should stay home with the younger ones.
“All the kids need to meet their extended family. They need to know who and where they come from, warts and all,” your father says, as he walks into their luxurious bathroom.
“So they know who to blame once they’re all in therapy,” Lizzy Fin says to herself.
“I heard that.”
“Seriously, Joe, I really don’t want them exposed to all that drinking and swearing. And there better not be any fistfights this time.”
“Shit, Lizzy, some of these people haven’t seen each other in years. And old wounds tend to fester, so it’s a safe bet that there’ll always be a fistfight or two.”
“Or three, or four. Jesus,” Your mother says, walking out of their bedroom suite, heading down the hall with a load of laundry.
“Lizzy, you’re forgetting that this is gonna be the last great blowout before Christmas, so something wild’s bound to happen.”
“Really, there’s going to be fistfights!? Coooool!” you say.
Drinking and swearing and fights!?
No way you’re missing this!
“Yeah, it’s been a while.” Big Joe is lost in a reverie. “Now, Jacky, it’s not quite as lurid as your mom lets on but, yeah, sometimes people drink a bit too much and they wind up doing stupid things. We all do once in a while. It’s just people blowing off steam.”
“Like when Uncle Pete set Aunt Joan’s wig on fire with his cigar and Uncle Bob put it out with a garden hose – while she was still wearing it? Or when fat old Uncle George broke the diving board and almost drowned in the pool? Or when Aunt Pamela flashed her boobs at everyone after her brother said she was a pirate’s dream – a sunken chest?”
“Y’couldn’t’ve been more’n three or four back then.”
“I’ve got an elephant’s memory.”
“Well, regardless of all the shenanigans, it’s important to keep in touch with your family, especially big ones, like ours. Christ, I’ve got cousins I haven’t seen in twenty or more years, but I always go with the thought that maybe I’ll reconnect with them. I mean, Clan L’Heureux’s got five generations now, at least, and I’ve got over a hundred cousins. Shit, you’ve gotta have triple that by now. There could be a ton of people at this thing.”
Your father sits on his massive four-poster bed, looking at the array of photos crowding his massive mahogany, rosewood bureau. They are also plastered on the wall around, above it. Relatives peek from every frame, most in proud, happy or wistful poses. Big Joe’s eyes water as he loses himself in memories.
All the people in these photos speak to him.
You suppose they speak to him every day he gets up, sees them.
“Y’know… your mother’s right, in her way. Children probably shouldn’t be exposed to a lot of these people, especially if they’re drinking and misbehaving. But… I also don’t want you guys to miss out on all of the wonderful connections you’ll make just because a few relatives’ll never learn how to behave.”
“Well, I don’t care what Mom says, I’m going. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Your father laughs, looking at you, running a hand over the stubble on his chin. “I knew you were gonna say that. I said the same thing when I was your age. No one was gonna keep me from seeing my family. Y’might not realize it yet, but life’s just a big collection of little things. Kinda like families. Take away even a small part and y’change the whole thing. We’re all just threads in a never-ending tapestry. To understand and appreciate the tapestry, you’ve gotta understand and appreciate the threads first. You’ll see. It’s all about family.”
But will there be fistfights?