So last weekend I went to Cowtown to a family reunion (my father’s side). Most of the people there I’d not seen in eight or more years.
The weekend was a good reminder of why that is so.
When you come from small-town midwest farm stock, one of two things happens: Either you stay or you get the hell out. My father got the hell out. His four siblings stayed.
Problem isn’t that they stayed there. Problem is they never decided that being racist assholes was a problem.
When my dumbass, self-righteous cousin Annie yelled that my baby cousin Brock had wantered into “The Black People’s Room!” it would have been enough. But when her MOTHER leaned over to tell a stupid and derogatory joke about black people, as if I would think it was funny, I left the table.
You know what?
It’s not funny. And if it had been about rednecks or racists or pigs I’d have thought it just as tasteless.
That was a small part of the weekend, on the first day. I was never so glad to have my children around as a distraction. They were gorgeous and sweet and well-mannered. And I kept them at a good distance from too much of the adult conversations, just in case someone said something despicable.
I hate that people disappoint me, even those who have never done anything but. This was not abnormal behavior on that side of my family, but it’s still embarrassing and hard to admit that I’m related to these people.
It’s frustrating when I think of how, when my siblings, cousins and I were young we’d spend summers exploring the creekbeds running through my grandparents’ farm, swinging on ropes from barn rafters and playing king of the haystack.
Grownups smoked cigarettes and sat around making racist comments while we caught lightning bugs and popped honeysuckle flowers onto our fingertips and worried about when we’d be forced to bathe again.
We lived in childhood fantasies, giving little thought to adult things. We were kids. We were the same.
And now we’re adults.
And we couldn’t be more different.