The more people around the better, as far as I'm concerned. Sure, the potential for explosions rises exponentially with the number of people related by blood or marriage in a given space, but it inverses for the amount of time it takes to get to the cool-off period, and the more people, the more food and the more people to cook it and eat it, which also escalates our meals until breakfast involves three separate meats and five kinds of eggs while everyone argues over the best way to cook the potatoes and someone offers pancakes and sourdough toast. You can't be mad while eating your weight in food; the human condition isn't meant for that kind of stress.
Growing up in a volatile family means personalitywise, you are guaranteed to go through many phases of reaction/counterreaction, from embracing high-volatility yourself to reduction sulks in true passive-aggressive style. I've spent the last couple of years in sulk/appease/avoid (once I owned my first laptop, I embraced sulk/avoid like whoa), but my middle sister, who totally imagines herself the calm, cool, logical one, is possibly the most volatile of us all. Nitroglycerin only looks calm until you light a match, and she lives in a world of open fires.
We don't like each other--there's no way we could, our personalities are contradictory and our interests too different, and neither of us know how to bend for each other--but love has so little to do with liking someone it's irrelevant most of the time. It's one of the things about family that's inevitable and kind of ruefully welcomed; outside of betrayal, abuse, violence, emotional devastation, family is the one place that liking someone is the least important thing about them.
Vacations are no-fault explosions as well--it's hard to hold grudges when you're in the middle of a fantasy sequence, complete with crashing waves and bright sun and surrounded in the detritus of towels and small children, which I think is something we need badly in the family. Child's thirteen and Niece is nearly nine, but Niece2 and Nephew are two and we have many years to enjoy burying them in sand, chasing them in waves, building sand structures for them to fall into, carry them into swimming pools and trying to force into naps. Like my dad, I grew up in a family with tons of uncles and aunts, greats, cousins, relatives untyped, and one of the many reasons I've stayed is that I want Child to have the same thing, with the constant friendship and rivalries and stimulation of being around people you may never have chosen as friends but you have no choice but to love beyond reason, that you may sometimes hate and will always catch when they stumble and help them up when they fall.
We're surprisingly child-oriented as a family, too; it's not something I think about often, because the images it invokes are ridiculously mundane and repetitive, sixties television, child-safe, too-careful, boring. My family, not so much; I spent most of my childhood in a variety of bars before my family owned one, but rural bars aren't city bars; the dynamic is completely different. Sunday turkey-shoots, where the afternoon would be spent with the men competitively shooting pieces of paper while the women stayed inside like sensible human beings and talked about their lives and affairs and the kids ran in and out in screaming, laughing packs, sent on stealth missions for quarters and snacks and sodas, because I was one hell of a tactician and I knew which parents ran open tabs and which didn't (mine did; we were careful to spread the burden out, though). There were few places as a kid that my parents didn't take us, and their friends were the same, and weekend long parties with daily keg deliveries and two day poker and craps were common growing up. We owned some property near a lake and weekends were spent there with sixty plus family and friends filling up the small place and no one was sober at Sunday morning breakfasts. Later, when we moved onto the property, we had the parties at the lakefront itself, fishing and swimming and boating and waving at the people on the other side. And kegs. So many kegs.
Our weddings and funerals were epic; that's when we'd be quiet and listen to our parents as the gossip came out to play, voices quiet or far too loud and only sometimes terrible but all so fascinatingly true.
So today, I woke up to my mom and sister having an explosive confrontation with the condo management people; my sister is nitroglycerin but my mom is C4, and someone put them together and then shook them up but good. I don't remember the complaints and ducked beneath the covers so I wouldn't have to listen. When the voices died away, I smelled chorizo and eggs and potatoes cooking on the stove and realized someone went shopping this morning. I yelled at my sister about upsetting the management; she threatened to throw salt in my face if she could find it. Everyone drew lines and took sides and prepared themselves to be mean, because family isn't family if five unforgivable things aren't said and a lifetime of fights and grudges aren't dragged out and aired.
Then the chorizo was done.
I'm not sure anyone remembers we were fighting, much less what we were fighting about, carrying tortilla-wrapped goodness from room to room as plans were made. Everyone split for beach time or shopping time or rest time while I went outside to enjoy the shade, sunscreen myself until I smell of chemical coconuts, and prep myself for winter-white skin meeting the full strength of a Texas July on the coast. That's totally not happening until dusk, by the way. From my spot on the porch, the ocean glimmers in turquoise with sudden breaks of foam white and fades green when it meets the powder blue horizon and the sky seems to have never met a cloud.
The chorizo, I must say, was excellent. As everyone went on their merry way, no one asked me why I couldn't stop laughing.
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