Another family reunion has come and gone, with rekindled family friendships and promises that we'll do a better job of staying in touch -- now that we have this newfangled email and all -- though we know we'll barely hear from each other and we definitely won't see each other again for another two years.
The reunion was on my mother's father's side on the family farm that his grandfather built from nothing in rural northeast Iowa before the Civil War. Sturdy, stoic Norwegians all, my ancestors weren't in the habit of reproducing until late in life -- and apparently weren't very fertile until my generation -- because there just aren't many people over my age still alive to come to these reunions. We had 23 people there, 10 of whom were ages 1 to 15 (and my niece and nephew were by FAR the cutest -- not that I'm biased). But we're an extremely friendly, low-drama clan, and we had a great time lounging and visiting and eating (and eating and eating) and admiring the rolling, bucolic Iowa scenery from the porch on the ancient farmhouse that was always so magical to me as a kid.
We also found some ... um ... interesting old photo albums. See, my grandfather was one of five brothers and two sisters -- the last of the fertile Norwegians until the 1990s -- and the siblings spent a great deal of time entertaining themselves by putting on little plays. Plays that involved a LOT of cross-dressing. All of which was carefully documented by some amateur shutterbug.
And while the men of that generation made some butt-ugly women, they had some serious butt-ugly competition among the genuine women. Talk about a genetic horror threatening the distant offspring across the decades. Ouch.
One horsey great-great aunt in particular was RARELY photographed in anything but men's clothing, and she was often seen canoodling with uncomfortable-looking women we didn't recognize as family members. We laughed about her brazenness, but my heart ached for her, all alone a century ago on a painfully rural Midwest farm with probably no one to love and no one even to talk to about her feelings. We do know she eventually married -- in her 50s. And we have often suspected that my grandfather -- and my mother's aunt on her mom's side -- had gay tendencies. Which makes me think there's some kind of recessive genetic component to homosexuality (though I'm the only (out) homo in this generation and it's too early to tell about the next ... but there was one boy at the reunion I'd bet money will make some fella very happy one day).
Poor, lonely homos aside, we also have a family history of strong, enduring marriages, many of which were on display this weekend. And seeing all those happy, stable couples with decades of history together made me VERY aware that I'm 36 and still single with no real prospects for changing that on the horizon. I'm certainly not at the desperate-to-find-someone-ANYONE stage, but I'm more than ready to start my own strong, enduring marriage.
The abovementioned shutterbug showed us one more thing: Our family obviously has a genetic compulsion to take pictures of our cats. And that little tidbit makes an excellent segue into the other newsworthy event of our weekend. My brother-in-law, a borderline cat hater, actually went and picked out a cat as an anniversary/birthday present for my sister. We all road-tripped to the Humane Society to pick up the cat on Friday, but the Humane Society had somehow screwed up the reservation and adopted our cat to someone else. It was really no big deal -- except to my infinitely organized brother-in-law -- and we picked out another kitty. Unfortunately, our runner-up kitty was broken (something about having a uterus) and there was a two-week waiting period to get her to the vet to be fixed before we could take her home. So in the mean time, my sister is prepping her kids about the joys and responsibilities of cat ownership ... and struggling to hide her own glee about having a kitty in the house again.
I got back to Chicago Sunday afternoon in time to squeeze in a three-mile run before heading off to chorus rehearsal. It was my first time among friends since the ugly-photo, faggot-stereotype Chicago magazine Top 20 Singles profile came out, and there was no end to the grief I got from people. (And it wasn't good-natured grief. It was more along the lines of why-does-Chicago-magazine-hate-you-so-much? grief.)
I cannot WAIT for this embarrassing chapter in my life to blow over. I just hope it doesn't get in the way of starting that enduring marriage.