the back forty

Now, don’t I feel chagrinned? Here I was talking about my family and the weirdness about today’s cookout, and then it turned out to be a surprise belated (by 353 days) 40th birthday party; apparently my mom had wanted to throw me a 40th birthday party last year, but with my dad hospitalized in Richmond that month, she and I celebrated alone with dinner near the hospital.

When I arrived at the camp, my dad was blowing up black balloons, which I then ended up hanging from the black crepe paper already strung from the ceiling (I’ve got pictures on the digital camera, but no easy way to upload them to my dad’s computer or edit them, so I’ll append them once I’m back home); Mom was paying me back for the same theme my sister and I used for her own 40th birthday. They had hoped I’d not come over until the rest of the family already were there, but I had thought when they left earlier that the subtext was that they wanted me to come over sooner; so much for clear nonverbal communication.

It was a great day, and I was truly surprised; I don’t usually mark birthdays or holidays, so I didn’t expect this at all, particularly just about two weeks’ shy of my 41st birthday. We had lots of cookout food, some of my sister’s great homemade desserts, and cake. The kids went fishing, and the rest of us engaged in my family’s signature n! conversations, where n is the number of people present at a given gathering, and where the winning argument or opinion that holds sway is likely to be merely the one that is loudest or otherwise commands the most attention. My sister said at one point that she wishes we were Greek, having seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or Italian: I noted that I didn’t really see any difference between our English/Irish/Scot/Welsh/German/Dutch/French melange and the stereotypes of large Mediterranean families.

But given the couple dozen other voices talking at the same time, I’m not sure she heard me.