As a teacher, one enjoys a slightly longer holiday than most people–though”enjoy” may be used somewhat rhetorically, considering that our entire break is often divided between seeing our families and racing to prepare for classes saddled upon us with little warning.
The family reunions, at least, should be pleasant… shouldn’t they? Not always. But do they have to end like this?
Your last evening with the person you raised from the cradle, and whom you may not see again for half a year… and he and Auntie fight over what movie to watch. Auntie gets up and announces that she’s returning to the hotel. Well, you can’t have that… so you try to make peace, to introduce compromise. You think you’ve pulled it off. Yet you can see that College Lad is still smarting from the treatment. He wants to remain civil, but… but this eventually requires his departing to say his goodbyes to a high school friend. Doesn’t know when he’ll be back. You wait up, fighting to keep your lids open and listening to Auntie ramble on about you know not what. Finally you surrender, send Auntie away with apologies, and pass a very uneven night which only partially relieves your exhaustion.
Why do these things happen? Did they always happen so, or was there once a Silver Age when family members were all politeness and consideration? I find myself asking more and more if life was once better as I get older. Many times, a little reflection strongly recommends the answer, “Yes!”
In this instance, though, I’m skeptical. After all, I’ve had my own run-ins with “the family”. I spent one Thanksgiving evening about ten years ago walking around the neighborhood in the rain because of a tantrum thrown by someone over having to forsake the Dallas Cowboys game for the dinner table. And in this instance, I think my boy’s response was similar, and similarly guiltless. He had been rudely issued an ultimatum and identified his mounting annoyance soon enough that he vacated the premises before more words leaked out. That was the better choice.
But why do these things ever happen at all? They’re not supposed to happen, are they? Something in me wants to believe that it’s just our family–that we somehow got a raw deal; but I’ve heard too many stories from others to think that peace reigned supreme behind all of those warmly glowing windows drifting past me on a rainy Thanksgiving evening.
If a wagon has a wheel that’s out of kilter, the wagon still rolls. But it grows ever more wobbly the farther it goes… until, eventually, the wheel breaks free in a great crash. So it is with people and their oddities. The older they get, the better they learn to protect and indulge their strange tendencies, and the more out-of-whack these grow. We’re supposed to acquire wisdom with age, but it doesn’t always happen; and, indeed, I’m afraid it rather rarely happens. Especially if we fall into the habit of giving into ourselves and making adaptations instead of corrections, we become more like spoiled-brat children just when we were supposed to have become wise elders.
I hope I never learn to protect my little lunacies that well. I’d rather die early than live to be a cranky old fool.