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Family Gatherings: A Comedy of Drama and an Endless Well of Anxiety.

Family gatherings. Just those two words fill me with dread and I start reaching for the anxiety meds. It's not that I don't love my family. I do. Desperately! But sometimes the collective parts are like a high-stakes dramatic production, complete with a cast of characters, unexpected plot twists, and enough drama to rival Days of Our Lives. In this blog post, I'm going to pull back the curtain on the chaotic world of family get-togethers, where every interaction is a potential powder keg waiting to explode. From the subtle snubs to the full-blown meltdowns, saddle up as we take a ride through the ridiculously undulating ride that is a family gathering.

Shoes on or shoes off: My brothers and I grew up in a household that boasted of rooms we did not enter. White sofa. White carpet. White...well, everything. We were allowed to stick our heads in the room, but if any part of our body crossed the threshold, we were toast. Burnt toast. Our shoes came off outside even if there was no porch overhang. Your shoes stayed outside. Rain or shine. Nothing worse than a soggy shoe liner after a spring shower. Ugh. So when I grew up, got married, and started my own family, I thought yeah, I get to be the boss and if I wanna wear shoes in the house, I'm going to pirouette all the way down the hall in my cowboy boots. (I was so naive back then! It would seem my husband grew up in the same kind of household, but he swore an oath to the Keepers of the Shoes. Now, when we have a family gathering, there are shoes lined up for miles. Big shoes, size twelve. Little shoes, size toddler. Let's face it. Every family gathering is an opportunity to die on that hill. I can assure you, wearing shoes in the house or not isn't worth the debate battle comin', but if I see someone who might have slipped through my husband's shoe radar, I turn a blind eye and focus on the battle to come--the seating arrangements.

The Battle for the Head of the Table: Let's start with the most iconic scene of any family gathering – the seating arrangement. You've all seen it. Normal Rockwell's picture of the perfect Thanksgiving dinner where Dad is at the head of the table carving the perfect turkey. The place settings are perfect. The food is perfect. The clothes are perfect. Everything is perfect. Just to be clear, that does not happen in my house. Whether it's Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas or someone's birthday bash, if the shindig is at my house, there's only one Head Wrangler at our table who just happens to wear two hats. (Remember the shoe police?) :) Add a Head of the Table hat too. If someone accidentally sits in the seat at the end of the table, you will politely, but firmly, be asked to move. Sometimes, it's a scene straight out of a sitcom. Ever picture the characters of Gunsmoke sitting around the Thanksgiving table? Do you really think Marshal Dillion is gonna let Festus sit at the head of the table?

The Passive-Aggressive Potluck: Next up, let's talk about the gastro-culinary chaos that is a family potluck dinner. I've tried to organize potlucks, but in the end, no matter how specific I am on what my family members should bring, they end up bringing whatever they want. From a large bowl of macaroni salad Cousin Martha brings (it will literally feed the Headquarters Battalion's seventy-six hundred members.) Then we have Aunt Cindy's potato salad. Always a hit, but add Aunt Barbara's mashed potatoes and we have enough starch to glue a Hummer to the ceiling. In addition to the carbs, we run the gauntlet of gastrointestinal landmines. My daughter can't eat dairy. My sister can't stand eggs. My grandson won't eat meat that isn't range feed. What? And of course, there's always that one relative who can't resist making passive-aggressive comments about everyone's cooking skills. Thanks, __________ (Fill in the blank) you know you have them too!

The Great Debate: Politics, Religion, and Other Taboo Topics: This is the creme de la creme of the fuel that will lead to the blazing inferno. If you are a member of a strong-minded, strong-willed Christian Southern family, you know that no family gathering will be complete without a healthy dose of controversial topics. Whether it's my brother's staunch political opinions unpopular with at least half my family, or our niece's newfound passion for eliminating water bottles from landfills and oceans (a worthy cause by the way) starting with our family get-together where there is never enough Red Solo Cups (R.I.P. Toby Keith), there's always someone ready to stir the pot and ignite a fiery debate that threatens to derail the entire gathering. Before any family gathering, I study up on topics to change the subject, but often, everyone leaves in a crazed state of mind utterly convinced that everyone else in the family is wrong or crazy or just plain mule-stubborn and they vow to never darken anyone's door again. But the minute a new gathering is proposed, everyone is all in and ready to bring their uninvited dishes.

Conclusion: Love them or loathe them, family gatherings are whatever you can make them. The truth is, we all love our family. We can also admit there are times when we'd like to choke the living daylights out of... well, you've been there. And that's seriously, perfectly okay, as long as you don't really choke anyone and you remember that right or wrong, good or bad, crazy or sane, family is family. And when your Aunt Agnes is throwing mashed potatoes at Aunt Sue because she criticized using margarine instead of real butter, pour yourself a stiff bourbon, sit back, and take it all in. Line your empty glasses up in a row and raise the last one to the awkward silences, the heated debates, and the unforgettable moments that make these gatherings the stuff of legends. After all, what's the meaning of life without a little drama? (Be careful not to mix your anxiety medication with your bourbon. Or at least space them out. :)

Here's to family!




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Peggy McKenzie

Peggy McKenzie is an Amazon #1 Best Selling Western Romance Author.


She started her writing career at age 61 and has authored over 20 books in just 6 years. She has sold more than 20,000 copies worldwide.

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