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Serving it up
Driving 25 hours in four days doesn't leave a ton of time for visiting with family. Considering that some of the hours left over should include some sleep, what's left is filled with a family cram-fest of eating, drinking, catching up with everyone talking at the same time, eating some more, competing in some type of sibling rivalry event, more eating and drinking, and dodging embarrassing stories from grade school. Then we eat dinner.
At least that's how it goes with my family. I have two sisters and one brother and we get together at my parents' house in Michigan once or twice a year -- mostly because it takes that long in between visits to build up enough appetite and nerve to do it all over again. My niece, Abby, graduated from high school last week, and we made the trek to the Great Lake State to celebrate with her, and eat enough food to hold us over until Christmas.
One of my biggest problems with the whole excursion is that I'm not tough enough to deal with my sisters. I love them dearly, but at some point a gauntlet will be throw down and I'll be challenged into defending myself in some way. This year, sibling rivalry was at its worse when one of them noticed a pencilled sketch of me on display at my parents' house (in a back hallway). The three of us girls were individually sketched by an artist in a park a couple years ago at a local festival while we there visiting. Somehow, only mine made it to my Mom's wall, spawning the rivalry of the evening. In my defense, I have no recollection as to why Mom would have only my sketch while my older sister had the others. And the whole time I was at the house, I thought it was my younger sister in the sketch, not even realizing it was me.
Now the park artist wasn't the best, and he interpreted my face by drawing smudges all over it, which had my brother-in-law (who doesn't typically get involved in the sister rivalry) calling me "Pigpen", putting everyone in stitches, including me. I pulled out an eraser and tried to clean up as many smudges, wrinkles and wayward marks as possible, but I'm no artist and the thing still it looked as if someone slightly resembling me fell into a puddle on the way to having a portrait done. So that's how the night went. Until we went over to my sister's house and she pulled out the other two sketches. If I looked like Pigpen, they looked like The Thing meets Planet of the Apes. Turns out the joke was on them for a change. (No wonder Mom didn't hang up their sketches!)
So the next time we travel for endless hours to see those we love, I'm going to be sure to pack a thick skin and, of course, a dish to pass.