For once I thanked my feeble gut as I leaned on the powder room door, playing with five tiny light switches lined up like boxed lozenges, each one serene in their sole purpose to illuminate the sink, toilet, mirror, or room. I was avoiding the long dinner table outside – where my ears had been plugged with memories lost on me – eager to elongate time alone.
Outside the door the clan had gathered, a blend of Irish-Italian sugo. Mangia meets slàinte and it was loud. The bathroom was quiet except for the sound of clicking buttons.
The reunion of my husband’s cousins began at a Toronto tavern, where I met or heard about the Mikes – brownie Mike (also known as tennis Mike) and Vancouver Mike. I already knew old Tom and young Tom but had never met Tim or youngest Tom. I’d heard about Toronto John – not to be confused with Ottawa John – and had met the lovely Maryann and Joanie (cousins, not sisters), but not Sarah. Thank goodness for the familiar Ottawa cousins – Gerard (who prefers to be called Gerry, I learned at this event after knowing him for 36 years) and Elizabeth and her genuinely Irish husband Ronan, my dear sisters-in-law Meg and Ann (who could arguably be called the glue of our Ottawa family group), and my smart, kind, and important nieces, Katie and Joey. Did I mention Patrick and trombone Roberta? There’s only one Patrick although they all may be Patricks in spirit.
Somehow I got lucky and married into this exuberant clan, crazy-glued on to a tree with so many forks and twists and layers and skins I doubt a dendrochronologist could figure it out. But when the clan goes into memory mode it’s impossible to keep up. In truth, there’s no need to ask questions because one story riffs off another and I’m the staff, the lines on the paper, the audience, the laugh track. Still, it was fun to watch and listen to the one-upmanship, enjoy the hugs, drink the wine.
While pushing buttons on and off in the powder room, it occurred to me that marriage is kind of like adult adoption. You join a family that you have no genetic link to. Maybe you come from a different cultural or racial group. You link arms, sway to the music of your new family and find yourself kicking in the wrong direction or bumping hips because you shifted left when everyone else shifted right. Eventually you kind of fit in although from time to time you’re still introduced as Sue from British Columbia even though you’ve lived in Ontario for nigh on 40 years. Or worse – they say you’re from Vancouver when you’re really from Vancouver Island.
See? I can’t shake my own clan roots despite the years, which is the reason I ended up in the bathroom playing with the light switches.