I am of Russian descent. We are an alcoholic emotional expressive bunch. Family gatherings are always slightly over-the-top: tears and laughter are never far apart with us.
Two experiences in particular stick out in my mind.
Case study #1: inter-generational Cards Against Humanity
My cousins got me Cards Against Humanity for Christmas. For anyone who doesn’t know this game, it is a politically incorrect, vulgar, raunchy version of Apples to Apples. Each player takes turns judging the other players’ submission of a card containing the best noun or action to complement a randomly selected scenario. For example, at a game of CAH that was played this Thanksgiving, one of the scenarios was “Pardon me, professor, but I couldn’t complete my homework because of _________“; various submissions included “AIDS“, “extremely tight pants” and “fingering“. (“Fingering” won, as my aunt judged it to be a most pleasurable reason for not doing one’s homework. Her daughter seemed slightly taken aback at that logic.)
Last Christmas I played this game with 2 of my Boston cousins, their parents, my aunt’s sister and my father. I was by far the least successful player – further proof that I am vanilla. However, even though my younger cousins were beating me, neither of them were achieving the success rate of the older generation, my uncle and father in particular.
We drank two full bottles of sherry: classy drink for a non-classy game.
My father began reading out his cards with a Russian-Texan accent (he has never been to Texas). It is disturbing to realize one’s father is familiar with certain sexual slang, but to hear him read out cards with such interesting content as “cunnilingus” and “cooler full of corpses” in a Russian accent adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the experience.
My eldest cousin, aged 26, walked in on us, and paused, shocked. “What is going on? Are you playing Cards against Humanity with our parents?!?!?!?”
As nobody particularly paid her attention, she glanced at the two empty bottles of sherry: “Oh no.”
Another pause, as she watched her mother pick up all the cards and prepare to read them out loud. “Oh NO.”
And as her mother, stifling giggles, read aloud the various card submissions, my cousin ran out of the room, covering her ears with her hands: “NO NO NO NO NO I CAN’T HANDLE THIS!!!”
That reminded me of the time my best friend earnestly explained to me that her parents (happily married for 30+ years) had only had sex 3 times: once each, to account for her and her two brothers. When I politely suggested that in all likelihood, her parents had had sex just a few more times than that, my friend firmly told me no, impossible. She was 23 at the time.
Case study #2: hypothetical bridesmaids
A few years ago, I was visiting my cousins in Quebec, 3 girls with whom I feel very close and have often referred to as my almost-sisters.
My eldest almost-sister confided that her middle sibling, Cousina, despite being in her very early twenties, had started building a wedding file on her laptop. This was surprising: although Cousina was in a long-term relationship with a stand-up guy, she seemed a bit young to be thinking about marriage. Furthermore, out of all the cousins, she is definitely the most flighty, sometimes incapable of deciding on just one outfit for the day, so why bother building a wedding file? Her opinions on all aspects (excluding, hopefully, the guy!) would change drastically with time.
Cousina ignored my teasing and proceeded to share some of the details of her hypothetical wedding, such as size and location. She didn’t want too many bridesmaids, just me and her sisters; I started to cry, overwhelmed by her assumption that I would be part of her hypothetical future wedding party. This resulted in a cousin group hug, with many sniffles and watery laughs.
Having regained control of my emotions, I asked the crucial question: what colour would the bridesmaids dresses be? The answer, orange or green, displeased me. I proposed as an alternative the colour purple – much more flattering for my skin tone.
Cousina sternly reprimanded me: I could not argue with her about her choices – it was her hypothetical wedding after all!
Abashed, I subsided. My cousins and I then spent the rest of the afternoon at the kitchen table, each with our own laptop, comparing and contrasting online wedding dresses. Our parents looked on, bemused.
Fast forward 2.5 years and Cousina got engaged in March to that stand-up guy. Yippee! I have high hopes that she will still include me in her wedding party. Sadly, she still hates the colour purple.
Not so flighty after all, it seems!
Conclusion: my family reunions are always entertaining