To wrap up our summer, we spent a family holiday weekend on a lake in Wisconsin. A multi-clan family holiday weekend.
Which can be tricky.
My clan—the Lohs? We are the quiet, non-confrontational ones, the nerds! Our idea of an exciting family activity is playing Scrabble. The biggest conflict comes when we argue over whether "aa" is still accepted as the Hawaiian word for lava. We might top off that "fun" by playing Pachelbel's canon on slightly out-of-tune student violins.
Then there was my partner Charlie's clan, which was our host for the weekend.
These are hearty, outdoorsy Midwestern folk. Picture a massive stone lodge with bear pillows, lamps festooned with deer antlers—antique salt and pepper shakers in the shape of a cannon.
Fireworks had been a long family tradition, but as those had just become illegal, a new entertainment was an indoor piñata— Hanging from a living room beam— Perilously near the deer antlers, I thought— when a blind-folded Charlie smashed it and produced a candy explosion, his clan's four dogs attacked each other— One had to go to the ER to get stitches!
This practically undid my fragile, younger daughter. I took her to get a breath of fresh air outside. . . this did not help, as my newly vegan teenager was suddenly treated to an up close and personal view of an entire lamb twirling on a rotisserie spit over an open fire. An uncle from Charlie's clan said his only regret was that it wasn't a lamb from his own farm— "We'd usually bring our own, but we couldn't risk driving the frozen carcass through Canada."
My daughter's eyes widen, and I quickly usher her back inside to avoid any further psychic damage. Thank God her 16 year old sister is doing something studious and calming, at the dining room table. Homework. What's the project? It's for government—a collage about what she thinks are today's most pressing political problems in America!
Now, of course, all of the young people in Charlie's clan gather round — They're taking AP classes in high school— They're in their second year in fancy colleges— One has just become vice-president of the debate club! How free our young people are today, in family holiday settings! To vociferously argue hot button topics no sensible adults would touch.
In alphabetical order, they covered abortion, guns, immigration, religion—
And statues! Confederate statues!
"It was Lincoln who freed the slaves!" says one. "But Lincoln was a Republican!" says another.
Followed by Trump vs. the world. Bernie vs. Hillary. And finally, of course, angry tears.
Thank God the evening ends on something everyone loves. Chocolate cake.
But for next time, I'm thinking, a little Scrabble! Standard dictionary.