Yet in every family gathering, there seem to be some common players--- personalities that somehow span generations and cultures, transforming each get-together into another keepsake reminder of just why we move 200 miles away from these people in the first place.
So let's pass the fried chicken and take a gander at our talented cast of characters. Perhaps you will even recognize some of these folks from your own holiday events!:
- The Time Traveler- Due to some personal issues with the space-time continuum, this person always pops up at least an hour and a half later to any event than expected. They call and say they're headed out the door, yet still find themselves missing significant chunks of time between the duration it typically takes to make the journey and the time they actually set foot at the family event. A stopover in the Jurassic era? Layover in the Bermuda Triangle? Abduction by aliens? This phenomenon is so mysterious, relatives will automatically add hours onto any ETA data given, just to compensate for the flux. The Government is looking into this phenomena.
- The Storyteller- This is the person who turns something as simple as an oil change into an elaborate tale for the masses. Depending on your storyteller, these tales can have the audience rolling off their chairs or running for the hills. My grandfather was the latter. His hunting journeys were like Last of the Mohicans II: Natty Bumppo's Nature Scrapbook, Now With Even Fewer Action Sequences. They were not memories as much as early 1800s topographic and botanical expeditions, where every leaf, tree and rock got equal attention, complete with sub-story and sub-sub-story offshoots. It could go on for several years. Or until everyone in the audience died.
- The Drama Llama- Whatever the event-- wedding, funeral, annual picnic-- the family Drama Llama knows that the function is actually secretly about him or her. It becomes the perfect time to air decaying grievances, announce bitter divorces, and toss other cherry bombs of intimate angst into the festivities, just to see where the parts fly. Techniques include grand entrances, loud accusations, crying fits and lengthy non-communicative sulking.
- The Negative Nelly- If it's a bright sunny day, the Negative Nelly lets you know it's probably going to rain soon. If you brought potato salad, the Negative Nelly makes a public service announcement that it has too much onion, and you probably shouldn't eat it anyway, because it will clog your arteries and kill you. If you have good news about a pending trip, a marriage or a job shift, the Negative Nelly will greet your enthusiasm with a "What do you want to do a fool thing like that for?"
- The Rube Goldberg Worrier- For any activity, the Rube Goldberg Worrier will come up with elaborate ideas why this is incredibly dangerous and is likely to get everyone turned into charcoal briquettes. "Don't put that macaroni salad there-- it's so close to the edge. It could fall off the table and knock one of the smaller children unconscious with the sturdy Tupperware." "Oh, don't park your car there. One of the kids could throw a Frisbee and not look where he was going and run into the side of it and then burn his face on the hot engine, becoming disfigured for life." You might try to persuade the Rube Goldberg Worrier to just relax and have some fun. But remember, safety proofing the picnic area for a possible attack of locusts between the hours of noon and five is fun. We all have our hobbies.
- Hydroponic Tot- This child has not eaten more than a teaspoonful of anything solid since last Christmas, and isn't going to start now. How the kid has survived to be age five seems to be due to some supernatural ability to draw nutrients directly from the air. No, he does not want a cookie. No, he does not want some of Great Aunt Edna's Jell-O salad. He will test that Jell-O's physics, though. The Hydroponic Tot loves physics.
- Black Plague Betty. This relative chronicles family illness more thoroughly than the National Health Organization. Not only will you hear about her own lengthy battles with heartburn, nasal mucus, elevated blood pressure, diabetes and dandruff, you will hear about Aunt Myrtle's gout, Uncle Cedric's erectile dysfunction and the new pacemaker of her neighbor's nephew's sister's ex-husband's former boss. Black Plague Betty can recall all of this in an instant. She, however, will consistently call you by the name of your cousin, Todd.
- The Flash. This person attends every family event-- but for about 4.9 seconds. Yes, this relative is in-and-out in a blur of baby seats and covered dishes. Once the 4.9 seconds elapse, crisis arises and The Flash has vanished into the ether, leaving nothing but a whiff of Gerber strained peas and an empty styrofoam plate.
So tell me, folks-- do you have your own personal Negative Nelly? Or perhaps you're the family Time Traveler? Or maybe you have another personality to add to the list. Go ahead and share with Cabbages readers!..
The therapy is free.