Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Gene for Celebration

I have a theory. My theory is that there is a gene for celebration and social inclusion. My scientific study of my family of origin leads me to this theory. The members of my family of origin are strikingly deficient in this quality. I, on the other hand am a throwback, a black sheep who likes to round up all the other sheep and subject them to my Baaa's of endearment whilst eating, drinking and exchanging gifts.

You, my dear readers, have already heard in detail about my Mom who does not celebrate Mother's Day. My Father does not celebrate Father's Day, either. He would die of embarrassment if you even tried. My family do celebrate Birthdays, but in a somewhat awkward and clumsy fashion.

Take my 40th, for example. I was pretty excited about my 40th. I planned to celebrate by going on a 7-day horse trek with a group of people in the Snowy Mountains. To do this I had to:

1. Learn to ride a horse (I had lessons for 2 years)

2. Book a flight interstate

3. Buy appropriate clothing for a snowy climate

4. Book the kids into Holiday Camp

During this planning period, I would have to have mentioned quite a few times that I was excited about the trip, that I was learning to ride a horse, that it was for my 40th, etc etc.

On the weekend of my 40th prior to my trip, we walked to my folks house, which is about 1 mile away. It was a very familiar scene. Mom was turning meat on the BBQ. Everyone else (my Dad, my 2 sisters, our adopted 'brother' Daryl who is a close friend to us all, my 2 brothers in law, and my 2 kids) were standing around on the driveway chatting to each other while the "Littles" (5 or 6 of them) hooned up and down the driveway on tiny bikes.

Now, I am grateful for the fact that I have a family who live close enough by and get along well enough to get together exactly like this. They do it many times a year. I am grateful for that, I really am. But it will surely strike you as weird when I describe what happened next...

My Mom spat the dummy over the BBQ. After literally decades of insisting that the one true way to BBQ is to build a log fire, squint through the smoke, roast your thighs, and char the be-Jeebus out of the meat, she had all of a sudden had enough. She threw down the tongs, cursing. I was surprised, but I put it down to perhaps a hot flush. I got her a beer to cool her down.

After BBQing the meat, I went inside. The table was not set. There were makings of a salad, but no actual salad. I delegated jobs to my children and whichever adults I could round up. Someone made a salad very slowly. The 'Littles' moved their games inside and ran through the kitchen over and over, banging the door every time, pursued by barking dogs.

There was a great deal of commotion when all 16 of us tried to eat at once. We do the Birthday thing possibly ten times per year (some people's Birthdays are close enough to be celebrated in a joint fashion.) However it seems to come as a complete surprise that we need 16 knives, 16 forks, 16 plates, 16 chairs, 2 pairs of tongs, and a couple of salad bowls. Now, if we were eating at my place, you could take it for granted that all the necessary equipment would be organized in advance. At my folks place it is chaos. I don't know why; it just is.

After dinner, my Mom grabbed my Husband, saying "My computer isn't printing. Can you have a look at it for me?" My husband did as he was asked, which entailed tinkering for an hour and a half in my Mom's office with my Mom standing over him. Meanwhile, my sister brought out a cake which she had baked. When we ate it, I realized it was flavoured with something other than sugar. Such as apricot juice, which is not equal to sugar in my opinion. I detected something other than flour in it, too. My sister has been known to get creative with the re-use of bread crusts. Best not to ask, really.

When I bake a Birthday cake, it is always iced. I quite often attempt to pipe the person's name onto it. My cakes always have cheery decorations; even just M&M's will do. I would never make somebody I loved a healthy, sugar-free cake. But there you go. Can't look a gift horse in the mouth.

The eating of dinner at my Folks' always creates a heck of a mess. I grabbed a volunteer and started work on the washing up. My sisters normally round up their kids after dinner and leave, which is a relief, as by 8pm the 'Littles' have gone way past frenzy and entered the sobbing zone. But on this occasion, they stayed. People sat around the table and held the kids who were now sucking glassy-eyed on their pacifiers.

"So, how old are you Kay?" asked Daryl (who can be forgiven for not knowing my age, because he lives in a different State and I don't see him that often).

"Forty," I called out, from my position at the sink.

"No way, are you really forty?" asked my sister who lives 10 minutes away and whose children I babysit all the time.

"Yes she is," chimed in my other sister, "I only realized it when I wrote her card out."

"You're not forty. You're only thirty-nine," snapped my mother, who suddenly emerged from her office.

"She was born in 1969. She's forty," corrected my father. My mother hates to be corrected on anything. She and my father started to bicker.

I held my position at the kitchen sink.

"In case you all hadn't realized, I'm forty. The horse trek which I'm going on? It's for my fortieth. So, yeah, I am actually forty."

On our walk home I said to my Husband over and over, "You're not forty. You're only thirty nine!" At first I was kind of hurt and kind of angry that even my own mother didn't recognize I was having a significant Birthday, but the longer I said it, the more it became a joke. I am saving that sentence for every other person in my family who has yet to turn forty. And since I am the eldest, that means ALL OF THEM.

All of which brings me to today, the 13th of July. My sister's Birthday. This is not T, my sister who lives close by. It's the other one, R, who lives about half an hour away.

I tried calling her this morning, and I left a message. I tried again this afternoon. It is unusual for her to be out all day because she has three "Littles", one of which is only a baby. Finally I called her cell phone, which went to message as well.

About 6.30pm she called me back, and I wished her Happy Birthday and asked her did she have a fun day. She told me, "Yeah. I brought D (her kid) to a workshop in Newport, and T brought R (her nephew) to the workshop too. So then T and I took our daughters back to the Folks place and hung out and had cups of tea, and cake, which was nice. Then I picked up D and R and we went back to the Folks place again, and hung out some more (the whole afternoon). And then we drove home."

Now in case you have forgotten, the Folks place is only 1 mile from my place. And we are all on school holidays just now, so everyone knows I am free. And my sister R doesn't come up this way all the time. So why didn't my sisters think to call me and ask if I would like to join the tea and cake party? Why didn't my Mom think to call me?

You know, this kind of thing has happened SO many times in the past, it's not even a surprise. I don't even bother to question it any more. My family love me. But they are very, very slack.

The only thing I can put it down to is genetics. I have a gene to round people up, feed them, hug them, kiss them, take an interest in them, and give them gifts in bright colours. My family do not do this very well. I am not adopted. That is just the way it is.


  1. My first husband's family was just like this. He almost cried the first time I showed him how to color eggs - and he never got over his first birthday cake I made him [I couldn't believe they never celebrated anything - and it was slack, not religious]

    I can't count the number of times my family has forgotten or just didn't care about mine - I gave up caring years ago. Age is just a number to me, no signifigance.

    So how was the horseback trip? Should I check the archives? :)

  2. I am so sorry. Birthdays are a big deal! They should be celebrated and the birthday girl should not have to do any chores.

    My husband's parents decided at the last minute not to go to his half-brother's birthday party (I think it was his 50th and yes, it is always "half-brother" because that family does not want to grant anyone any more status than they should have) because they said it was "not as advertised." I have yet to get the details. I'm sure there was a good reason, like they were going to be shooting up heroin and changing sex partners rather than eating cake and opening presents.

  3. but you, my friend, are the lucky one! you have the "good" gene! how lucky your family is to have you.

    i always said you can pick your friends but not your family. it's a shame. i would have chosen differently as well! and not kidding either!

    smiles, bee

  4. The night I turned 30, we had dinner at my folk's house. My youngest brother and his family were there. My sister lived out of state and my oldest brother across state, it was just a small gathering. Mom cooked all day. Dad, never one to help in the kitchen, asked where the salad was. She'd made excellent cole slaw instead, but he wanted lettuce. A fight ensued. They sniped and bickered all through dinner. When the cake, complete with 30 burning candles was brought out, the two of them were yelling over the refrain of the rest of the family singing happy birthday. My brother and I still joke about this, but you know, it really hurt at the time.

    Time will heal the sting of these absent minded barbs.


  5. I've got ten years on you. Enjoy the ride, I'll yell out warnings as necessary.


  6. I feel like that black sheep in my family all the time! I have had that left out experience more than once also. NOT on a birthday though, we do do birthdays.
    If it bothers you, you should ask your Mom why you weren't invited!!! If it doesn't, than good for you :)
    You definitely got the good genes somehow :)

  7. Blah. Come to Canada next year and we will party the shit out of your birthday-for reals. My family is messed up too. No one is EVER home on my birthday as it is the first weekend of August. I *might* get a call or something a day or two later. That, or they lump it in with my baby brother's birthday at the end of August...like, oh yeah, and you too.
    You're way too awesome to be forty btw. I'm guessing 39. ;-)

  8. What an interesting family... my 40th was bittersweet, maybe I'll write about it sometime, but that was 13 years ago...

  9. Oh Lordy! LOL! Your family are what I would call "Celebratory Challanged"! It is amazing that none of them have this Gene, but that you do.....I suppose having lived with this all your life you are somewhat used to it, but Gee...it's your 40th BIRTHDAY..Come On, Folks...Pony Up...lol!

    May you have a Scrumptious Birthday Cake, even if you have to make it yourelf---And have a GREAT Trip, too.