July 7, 2011 by wcobserver
We like to think of my dad’s extended family in two distinct groups … those licensed to handle fireworks and those who throw roman candles into bonfires just to see what happens. Given the fact that we all know this, I’m not sure why our family reunions are always scheduled around the Fourth of July. But with my family … it’s best not to ask too many questions.
One year I was standing next to my brother at one of these shindigs, when we saw our second cousin, Mark, walking toward us. I nudged my brother. “Licensed?” I asked.
He shook his head and subtly nodded toward Mark’s shirt. “That’s the clothing choice of a pyromaniac,” he said.
I looked at the T-shirt, which read … I’ve fallen and I can’t reach my beer!
“Right,” I replied. “Don’t make eye contact.”
We were wise not to pick Mark as a reunion buddy since, later that night he did indeed throw a roman candle into the bonfire, just to see what would happen. He didn’t have to wait long, especially since the explosion from the fire illuminated everything within 300 feet, which was an unexpected help for my dad, who was grabbing Mark by the neck as he attempted to throw him into the bonfire. He was shouting something about Mark “never reaching his beer” again. This was followed by a “heated” exchange involving my dad and Mark’s dad, which resulted in Mark being allowed to live. I was watching safely from 50 feet away, having already identified everyone in the melee as men who had reached for their beer one too many times.
That’s one of the fun parts about a family reunion, isolating the people who frighten you … and trying to avoid them for the day.
For instance, it’s fun to hang out with Aunt Peggy who’s in her 70s, but still participates in the potato sack race and tells off-color jokes. It’s not fun to hang out with Uncle Walter who has a steel plate in his head, which … in and of itself … isn’t a problem, but makes it hard for him to effectively warn people before shooting his vintage cannon over their heads.
It’s fun to talk to my cousin Christina who shares my love of dental hygiene and has never done a beer bong. It’s less fun to hang out with Uncle Leighton, who curses at the kids and spends several hours into the evening searching, in the grass, for the coins that weren’t located during the family treasure hunt.
So, maybe like me, you’ll encounter some relatives over the Fourth of July who seem to exercise a little too much freedom … who overindulge their right to free speech … their right to pursue happiness … and maybe even abuse their right to assemble peacefully. But then again … aren’t these the moments that make family worth talking about? Aren’t these the moments we’ll ultimately remember?
As for my family … I’m just happy to have a front-row seat for all the fireworks!