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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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welcome to thunderdome: beach edition
children of dune - leto 1
The best and worst things about vacations are family. Which is universal, true: vacations aren't vacations if there isn't one drag-down-knock-out before bonding over crab legs, and I'll be honest, our record is far higher than that.

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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What a gorgeous post.

Also, for some reason, I didn't know Texas had a coast. I'm not very well up on US geography.

We're a gulf state; us, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and western Florida. Texas was also a major immigration point from Galveston; that's where my ancestors disembarked in the post-Civil War years (I want to say the 1870s); my grandmother was born in 1919 the youngest of eight children, and her mother was born here, but grandmother's mother's mother came over as a child from Bavaria, and my grandmother's father was, I think, a naturalized citizen born in Berlin, and that's where he arrived, too.

I think about the first time I was in Galveston and looking at the water, that not that long ago, my family saw it for the first time, too, and what it must have meant for them to stand on Texas soil after crossing the Atlantic.

You picked the right time - a week of sun after two weeks of rain. Heat's gonna get nasty, though, and the mosquitoes will be fierce.

Re: Welcome to the coast

The humidity is amazing, but Austin's been on and off storms, so that part at least I'm used to, and the breeze off teh ocean hits the porch perfectly. So far no mosquitoes, but I think the sunscreen has a repellent in it.

*sighs* I could sit here forever.

I wonder by your journal often enough because you’re a wonderful writer and when you talk about the Child it makes me miss my kids, but in the best way; I was not so much expecting a description of my family (or at least 80% of it, the 20% missing being directly related to being Italians) when I can’t even describe them. Or, often enough, why they’re so damn important. So – wonderful post. You made a complete stranger’s day.

*grins hugely* Thank you!

It's hard to explain, totally, and my family coming from German immigrant stock means we vary between stoic (sulking) and then explosion (shock and awe has nothing on this). Then all is made better with large piles of food. At any given time, if someone will just start cooking something, then it sets off food-related amnesia; by the time the plates are empty, no one remembers what was going on.

I just checked and every pantry here is stuffed with food. *grins* We're totally ready for this.

I'm new to your LJ, and mostly lurk, but I had to tell you--this is a wonderful post. I just came back from a week at the lake with my parents, my four brothers, and all their families (my two sisters bugged out on us!), and, well, yes to all of this. Including the food and water making everything better part, and the stoic Germans exploding part. :) Have a lovely time!

Oh, man -- I haven't been to the Gulf Coast for years. Living in Texas, and yet I've only been twice in my life -- once when Dad was able to get a Continuing Medical Education credit at a conference in South Padre Island and brought Mom and my sister and I with him, and once when I went to see the LotR exhibit in Houston as a sort of fannish small-scale get-together thing and we all went to Galveston for a day as part of the weekend revelry. If I but had any local friends with the time/money/inclination to take a long weekend and just head on south...

Well, but I've got Dragon*Con coming up. Sadly no beach involved, but at least I'll get to run around in a corset wearing fancy goggles and admiring the other costumes.

I loved your post. It was so warm and family open with food and arguments and kids running everywhere.

I would hate it with a passion. My husband's family was always grudge-unforgivable, keep in the hate for years kind of thing. Even with a beach.

Ah families.

As my family chooses to love each other from afar (3 continents!), I really enjoyed reading this. I guess shouting over the phone/internet just isn't the same.

your family tales always fascinate me. i come from a very isolated family - mom was close to her extended family, but dad only had his brother (and his wife and two sons) and his mom by the time he married mom. i haven't spoken to my much older half-brother since my dad died two years ago and that's by design. i don't generally see the point of maintaining a connection with people who hurt you.

but i'm just amazed by big connected families like yours! i think i'd go nuts, though i've often thought that i'd like to be in a relationship with someone who had a big loud family...as long as we had some space between us most of the time *g*. my family vacations were usually to my mom's mom, who lived in a tiny ex-natural gas town in northeast wyoming. just me and my parents and grandma.

a very lengthy way of saying keep the thunderdome reports coming ;)

I loved this.

I'm from a huge, loving, extended family. (I'm - quite honestly - on first names how-are-the-kids basis with my third cousins). my family is HUGE - at 5'7" I'm considered petite - and loud and very huggy. My husband is one of 7 children.

I love family get-togethers.

And I'm glad when they're over, because they're exhausting.

That really /is/ a gorgeous post, and so evocative of what I identify as "Southern Family" (and in most liklihood is just family all over) that I find myself almost tearfully missing my mom, who was our family glue. I also find myself insanely jealous of your Texas coast, which is so superior to our Louisiana coast, with it's non-tourist friendly self. I hope you guys have a vacation to remember.

Reading this made me crave chorizo like crazy. I haven't had a good breakfast taco in too long.

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