The obligatory family photos are rarely a smile and say cheese affair in my family. If my Nanna isn’t demanding the entire family yell out SEX so loud that the dogs three streets away start howling then my father is pinching my mother’s butt with the sort of enthusiasm that would put a teenager to shame. It’s a sideshow.
And I love this slightly confronting quirkiness.
At my Nanna’s 90th on the weekend my mother threw a few cups of metho on our excitable natures and this picture was spawned. “Be silly,” she yelled as if we were not already crazier than a colony of bats at sunset.
Things got out of hand very quickly. My father seemed to forget his three adult children were around and made a lunge for my mother’s breast. One brother ruffled my hair while the other dodged a nipple cripple I directed at his chest. My mother was still squirming away from my father when I donned my cape and rescued her with a swift tweak of my father’s nipple. All highly inappropriate, really. Nipple cripples are for cute boys, definitely not fathers!
But a weekend of crazy relatives has revived my independent soul.
My brothers tripped me over, bought me beers, blamed me for their hangovers and refused to give me piggybacks. My cousins put me firmly in my place. “You’re not 65kg anymore,” one slandered me in a very sporting way. My eccentric Aunty Wendy chopped onions with swimming goggles on. Uncle Dave demanded that I make him coffee. Aunty Gaye told us all about her pineapple-tart dramas. My father claimed there was no way he was driving home when Uncle Rami’s wine cellar was open. Uncle Rami took the clan out on Sydney harbour in his boat. I conned my young cousin into wetting her precious curls in the freezing swimming pool. All the babies howled and laughed in their simple, easy manner. My mother, of course, told me I needed to be less flirtatious with boys. And Nanna, she just wanted to hear more about the swag hopping.
At dinner I was able to order two entrees for myself and then steal a little off the other eight main meals on the table. I know no better way to get the most out of a Turkish restaurant.
It was a perfect weekend and a startling reminder of how comfortable families are. I liken a few days in Sydney to slipping into trackies and uggs after a night out in tight jeans and heels.
The get-together was particularly important for me as I have been spending so much time alone, making my way through the contents of my wine cellar at whatever pace I choose.
I’m not brilliant at keeping in touch with my family. I regularly forget my brother’s birthday, although admittedly it falls directly after Christmas when I am usually broke and trying to sleep off a serious case of roast chicken bloat. One year I called him about an unrelated matter on his big day and when he pointed out my faux pas I was so surprised that I just told him that I’d given my present to Mum, who was visiting at the time.
They searched high and low for the non-existent present, which provided endless laughter for me, but was not much of a treat for my brother. Here is the beauty of family – he can’t do anything about it except laugh it off, otherwise he won’t get a present next year either. It’s a highly satisfying scenario.
My father and I regularly chastise each other about forgetting to return emails while my grandfather is looked over on most special occasions. But Granpa does get a phone call every time he remembers my birthday. Last time I called he referred to my stature as short and thickset, so it’s little wonder his phone number is not ingrained in my memory.
Should I be making more of an effort with the rellies?
Of course I should. That’d only be fair considering the support all of them would give me if I ever had a problem with my plumbing or my car or needed help to figure out why my zucchini plants have white spots on the leaves.
Then again, the distance can make things less intense. It’s a nice treat to be teased by a familiar face that you haven’t seen in 18 months.
At the end of the day none of the chatter matters, they’re stuck with me.