Family Meetings

March 14, 2008
By Antoine Calfat, Arlington, VA

One thing I hate is having to talk to my relatives, especially the elderly ones. Its not that I don’t like them, its just that first awkward conversation with them after a long year away…
“Hi grandma,” you say at first sight.
“Hello Antoine,” she says beaming.
A two-kiss hello.
“Wow, you’ve grown so much,” she will say.
“Only because you’re shrinking with every passing minute,” you think to yourself.
“Thanks grandma,” you actually say.
An awkward three-second now settles, the first of many. Feel free to take refuge in looking around the home even though this place hasn’t been redecorated for 20 years.
“So how’s school,” she will ask.
“Pretty good,” you can always feel free to put as much exasperation and as little enthusiasm here as possible, she will not pick up the hint.
“So what grade are you in now,” at this point many old people will get the sense to grab your arm. They do this subconsciously because so many people walk away while they are talking to them. You are now subject to whatever conversation they want.
“In tenth grade.”
“And how are you liking it?” she will continue even though you are visibly losing interest with every word she speaks.
“Umm, it’s ok I guess,” a second’s hesitation then your natural social instinct tells you to uphold at least some of the conversation. “We moved into a new school,” slips past.
“Really? Wow,” she says. It is sometimes impossible to tell whether they are sincerely interested. “Is it nice?” she will ask.
No, they built a six million dollar school that looks worse than the old one, you sarcastically think to yourself, furious that you kept the conversation going in this direction.
“Yeah, it’s pretty nice” you will say through gritted teeth.
“I bet they built it very hi-tech now right?”
Electricity is hi-tech for you.
“Yeah, they have Smart-boards in every room,” you let slip.
“What are those?”
Crap, you are now resigned to explain to her all about Smart-boards. And so it goes on for about another hour. After that, however, individual conversations become larger group conversations as people listen to other’s conversations for lack of something to talk about…
“… so then I says for him to shut up and pass me the salt!” Uncle Marc exclaims, chuckling slightly and clearly under the impression that he had told you all something very funny.
A few people smile weakly.
Now an uncomfortable silence comes around. Now this is one of the worst things about family meetings. Although these small moments of silence pass quickly they can utterly destroy a conversation. Leaving behind a silence so thick you could not walk through it. However, with so many people in a room, a reckless family member will soon break the silence.
“So how are you doing in school, Alex?” Uncle Marc has bravely attempted to restore conversation. “I hear you want to become a surgeon, you need pretty good grades for that.” Alex is not troubled at all by this subject. He is doing extremely well in his classes. The entire time he is talking you can see his father Uncle Rene behind him beaming at his son with a face so revolting it could make someone sick by staring at it too long. Well, you think to yourself, at least it wasn’t me.
“Wow, that’s great, Alex,” says Grandpa. “How about you Antoine, how are you doing?”
Jesus, why is it that every time that people talk to me it has to be about school?!
Now, at this point, take a moment to look around the room. Yes, see all those faces, the ones staring at you. There’re all expecting you to say something interesting so that they can convince themselves that being together as a family is fun.
“I’m doing fine.”
That wasn’t what they wanted. No one seems interested, perhaps this will be the last of these meetings you hopefully think to yourself.
“Well that’s good, that’s good,” he realizes that talking to you will not be an interesting conversation.
The conversation moves onto jobs, then future jobs. Then pretty much anything else that old people think are important. This entire time however you are simply sitting there and listening. At one point in the large, uninteresting conversation all about something completely pointless, someone will address you.
“You alright over there, Antoine?” Your aunt asks you.
“Yeah, I’m fine” you reply with a little too much exasperation.
Everyone takes your exasperation for tiredness from sickness. “Are you feeling well?” your mother asks you loudly. You now notice that you feeling slightly sick is the most interesting this that is happening here at the moment. This is probably why everyone is so concerned, they just want to do something that is not talking to the people around them. Typical, jumping on the bandwagon.
After another five minutes of questions concerning your health and shouting down your mom’s offers to take you to your inflatable mattress upstairs, you are all sitting around the living room once again. The uncomfortable silence has fallen again. You want this day to end, but it will drag on forever.

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