Friday, December 23, 2011

On family gatherings...

The last couple of days have been somewhat interesting.  Two of my three sisters sent me gift boxes from Harry and David.  As it turned out, the boxes were identical, so we're now up to our asses in pears, Moose Crunch, cheese, sausage, crackers, and nuts.  One sister also sprung for a bottle of wine.  I sent my sisters thank you emails.  They both wrote back.  At least my oldest sister's note was pleasant.

The younger one, who jumped on the gift box bandwagon after my oldest sister started doing it, suggested that we get together to rent a house at the beach.  She wrote in parentheses that she "knows" how much I hate reunions.  That was kind of a dig.  For the past several years, I've pretty much sworn off family gatherings because they always turn out to be traumatic.  I dread attending them because I usually end up in tears and it takes days for me to recover afterwards.

Someone usually says something shitty or goes out of their way to one up another person.  A couple of my sisters are particularly gifted at making little digs or being funny at someone else's expense.  This isn't to say that I don't own my share of our problems, but when I have tried to explain why I don't like family gatherings, I'm quickly told that I'm too sensitive or overreacting.  

Family gatherings are supposed to be loving and fun.  But in our family, they usually go downhill quickly. The last couple of times I attended them, I made a point of beating a hasty retreat when things started to get shitty.  That worked fairly well, until Christmas 2003, when one of my sisters got a ride with me and my husband to our parents' house.  Things predictably got bad and I decided I wanted to leave.  My sister first tried to manipulate my husband into getting me to cave.  When that didn't work, she threw a tantrum.  By that point, I'd had more than enough.  My husband and I got in our car and left her at my parents' house.  She ended up having to take the bus back home.  It was about a four hour trip.

After that, I decided that no one was going to ruin my holidays again.  But people in my family still seem to want to force these gatherings.  They conveniently forget the time in 1993, when we all rented a beach house and spent a week together.  There was much squabbling that week that culminated in my dad, drunk as piss, hitting me in the face, trapping me in a bedroom, and berating me for hours.  No one did anything to help me in that situation and no one seems to understand that I'm not willing to put myself in that situation ever again.

I don't like spending time with my family because I enjoy peace.  And every time we get together, peace goes out the window.  Maybe I'm selfish for exiling myself from family get-togethers, but I don't see why my needs should always be on the back burner.  Changing the climate of these gatherings has to be a cooperative effort.  And as long as I'm the only one who wants change, things will always end up being the way they always are.  Maybe when my parents are gone, I'll be sorry... but I have a feeling I won't be. 

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