Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My families are different

My mom's and my dad's families, that is. My dad's family mostly lives in Oregon, so I see them on a fairly regular basis and keep in pretty good contact with them. My mom's family is from Florida, so I see them somewhat less frequently -- in fact, many of them I hadn't seen in a good decade ago until last weekend.

Last weekend, of course, being my cousin's wedding, I had ample time to do the traditional matrimonial catching up thing. My cousin is pretty cool, so it was a bit of an oddball wedding. Nothing too dramatic -- the groom and the groomsmen all wore Converse shoes, for example, and the wedding cake was adorned by the fellows on the right, there. Also, the reception tables were laden with cards entreating us to give them marriage advice, fill out madlibs, and draw them pictures. I drew a picture of a cowboy riding a dinosaur.

The weirdest thing for me, though, was getting a comparison of the Kelly (mom) vs the Barker (dad) side of my lineage. My dad's family are very reserved, quiet types. Our family reunions tend to be sit around the dinner table kinds -- we sing Jubilate Deo before meals, followed by nature walks and family performances (generally piano recitals). Alcohol is never present. My relatives are doctors and middle-school music teachers and renaissance studies students -- we go out to plays and classical concerts for recreation and spend time fretting about politics and social issues. My paternal cousin's wedding was a much more traditional affair, in a church with a much more conventional reception (no sparklers!).

I didn't realize 'till last weekend that my mom's family is somewhat different. This was perhaps most dramatically driven home during the reception, during which my 67-year-old uncle could be seen on the dance floor, enthusiastically dancing away to "Hey Ya!", by OutKast. I also chanced to learn that my aunt is planning on attending a Nascar race for her upcoming birthday and recently attended a Larry the Cable Guy show. And apparently my great aunt worked as a Target greeter right before she retired.

I don't know that there's anything really significant to read into that. I just thought it was funny that I was completely oblivious to it until just last week. And that's all I have to say. I probably have other interesting anecdotes from the wedding that I am not currently remembering, but you'll just have to imagine them for yourself.


  1. Anyone who doesn't shake it like a Polaroid picture during that song isn't alive.

  2. Ok, here's what I'm imagining- A mosh pit full of aged punk-like types drunkenly slamming against each other whilst Dead Kennedys blare from the speakers. I'm imagining that.
    Also, many people are inexplicably wearing Viking hats.

  3. No Dead Kennedys or Viking hats, although there were some Pixies and some glow sticks...

  4. Families are funny like that. My Dad's family was very small: no cousins, just his parents and his brother. Now it's just his brother. My Mom's family isn't big (just six cousins total, including my brother & I), but the adults did keep in touch with their cousins, so there were second cousins and first cousins once removed too, and compared to Dad's family it feels HUGE. We have exactly the same distinctions: on Dad's side, family affairs were quiet, alcohol-free, often around some cultural event (like taking my Grandmother to the Nutcracker or the "Singing Christmas Tree," which she loved despite everyone else pretty much hating it - though prob'ly no one mentioned that they hated it). On Mom's side, family affairs are LOUD, like crazy-loud, and you can't hear for the laughing and story telling. The beer flows freely, the food is grilled to juicy perfection, and they always center around either a holiday or some kind of personal celebration (a birthday, going away/coming home party, graduation, etc). When my Dad's parent's were still alive, Thanksgiving and Christmas sometimes felt kind of schizophrenic, going from one place to the other.

    I think it may be the result of how "opposites attract," or something. I would never have though of my parents that way, but when you look at their families, they came from very opposite social traditions.

  5. Yeah, I always thought of my parents as "Mom" and "Dad" (well, actually, "Nora" and "Paul", but I'm weird like that). They've always been an atomic unit, so the idea that they were separate/different growing up always catches me by surprise. Which is hardly a novel or insightful thing to say, I suppose, but is nonetheless true.