Not all family reunions are, well, shall we say, “familial.”
Despite the two-dimensional, everything-works-out-in-the-end, sitcom model of American life, some relatives are just not cut from the same cloth. Gatherings can more resemble armed camps across a kitchen table, rather than a joyous reunion of long-parted siblings longing to catch up on the past year’s goings-on.
Alex, her oldest brother, was always hell-bent on proving how much he knew, accuracy be damned. He over-talked, was excessively loud, and foisted his I-could-be-with-someone-more-important-than-you attitude on everyone from the moment he strutted into a room.
She was yin to his yang; righting the “injustice,” alone she would step into the fray and engage. Of course, this further amplified the conflict; but it drove her nuts to let him push his way around, ignoring everyone else’s needs.
This year, however, she would not be sucked into his dark drama vortex. Since her divorce, she was working on accepting things as they were rather than how they “should” be. Therapy, a fitness program, and losing 33 pounds; was allowing her to reclaim her life. She would not let her boorish brother steal that away — not tonight, not again.
Mustering a Herculean effort, she engaged Alex in small talk only, and the family reunion fared better than usual. He jabbed, she sidestepped; he blew hard, she refused to blow back.
Once the clan dispersed, sans spectacle, the quiet of the house collected around her, and she replayed the events in her head. “I should have told him off! He thinks he’s the only one who knows anything! What gives him the right?” Her inner dialog grew more bellicose and she pondered all the things she could have said — but didn’t.
She might be getting in touch with her “better self,” but she was far from “perfect” and she realized how agitated she still was. Sure, she kept the peace, but at what price?
The kitchen clock chimed midnight; yet she was as awake as if she had downed a convenience store’s inventory of energy drinks. Not knowing how to disperse that excess agitation, she found herself nibbling from a pyramid of dark, cubed, walnut fudge blocks that graced the center of the table. As the sweet texture melted in her mouth, she lost track of Alex, floating away on a cloud of sugary goodness.
“I really need to stop eating,” she thought, while reaching for another chocolate block. “It’s wreaking havoc on my diet.” Yet she had to admit, nothing soothed the image of Alex like chocolate.
She could stop right this second, take back control, and be angry; or chow down on fudge mountain, feel great, and look like a blimp. THAT would sure give Alex something to crow about, wouldn’t it?
That’s all it took.
Impulsively, she grabbed the plate, rushed to the sink, and poured into it a cascade of fudge bricks. The thought scampered across her mind to reach in and save a few, but she refused to give in and — while still empowered — brushed the remaining cubes into the drain.
The dilemma remained however, how to deal with her pent-up tension?
She thought of Alex and pictured his smug mug. She imagined his condescending tone, “Now, now, don’t be so emotional.” Her blood boiled again.
Reaching for the garbage disposal switch on the wall, she emphatically, dramatically flipped it, and listened with satisfaction to the grinding from beneath the sink.
“Not this time!” she said as she quieted the racket. “You don’t control me anymore.”