The big family get-together


Aaaahhh, it’s Christmas and in New Zealand that means a summer holiday, time to relax, preferably by a beach or pool. For some the holiday involves a big family gathering. We are a huge family and we love our occasional maxi-reunions, but not at Christmas. Then we drift off in different directions for smaller gatherings, which are seldom fraught. And anyone introverted or restless can slide away now and then for a breather.

But for some families, such events are a problem every year. So for all who struggle to cope with the crowd and the ritual, here’s a poem, shared with the permission of poet Adrienne Jansen.

The big family get-together

It’s like swimming in the ocean
when the Titanic has gone down —
trying to keep your head above water,
trying to grab the food drifting past,
trying to think of things to say
when talking about the weather
is not appropriate.

~ (c) Adrienne Jansen

from Keel & Drift (2016) Landing Press
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Photo by Keri-Lee Beasley, CC BY-NC 2.0. Athenree Estuary near Waihi, New Zealand

15 thoughts on “The big family get-together

  1. Very enjoyable poem with its humorous overtones (for me, at least!). My NZ friends from Wellington (Breaker Bay) will be visiting their parents (including my best friend forever since I was five) here in the USA for Christmas.

    Meanwhile most of my birth family has now passed away, and I am the oldest one alive. My two sons, one of their girlfriends, and my youngest brother (15 years younger than me) and his wife and two children, a senior in secondary school and a second year university student, will be meeting for dinner at a nice quiet restaurant on the 27th to celebrate Christmas and my 65th birthday, which falls on the 26th. My other brother, 8 years younger than me, and his family will all be traveling elsewhere during the holidays.

    I miss the old days of the huge family get-togethers at my parents’ house with all three of my brothers (my older brother died sadly of cancer at age 56), their families, my parents, an aunt or uncle or three, a grandparent or two, and always several of my mother’s foreign students (she was a university professor of languages). But time passes, and traditions change. I am happy for what still happens! 🙂

    Have a Very Merry Christmas, Rachel! 🙂

    From your blogosphere friend in the frigid Northern Hemisphere–Timi

    1. Hi Timi! It’s lovely to read about how you will be celebrating Christmas in two days. We are both so lucky to have functional families where get-togethers are a pleasure, not a painful duty. I can hardly imagine your parental home with so many people packed in for such huge gatherings! They must have been unforgettable. I love your positively attitude to inevitable change. Have a marvellous time with your (other, older) NZ friends! And a very good day tomorrow.

      1. Thank you Rachel–you have a great Christmas as well!

  2. lifecameos says:

    A very apt poem ! Thank you !

  3. The perfect poem, Rachel. Thanks for sharing it and that lovely photograph. Merry Christmas!

  4. Ha ha. Have a wonderful Xmas. We’re having a trans Tasman one today all Kiwis and Aussies.

  5. Love the pohutakawa in the pic.

  6. gertloveday says:

    After years of thumping the table and shouting, our extended family has now reached a stage of bonhomie. Still plenty of shouting but enthusiastic rather than argumentative. New boyfriends and girlfriends being introduced to the family come out saying it wasn’t nearly as bad as they expected.
    Happy Christmas!

    1. Whew, that’s good. And thanks, I have had a gorgeous Christmas. Same to you.

  7. My family has had its years of intense Christmas gatherings! Since then, relationships have shifted, and I’m happy to report that we are all peaceful and calm now. Prefer this so much more…

    1. How excellent. Family rows are no fun at all.

  8. Robyn Haynes says:

    I’ve been fortunate at Christmas. Although the celebrations have changed over the years, I’ve not experienced the tensions others have spoken of. The poem is very expressive.

  9. Aunt Beulah says:

    What a great poem. I’ve been there and done that at large family get togethers where I’m related by marriage. But when it’s my family, my siblings and our spouses and children, it’s full steam ahead, let the good times roll. I love every minute of the chaos.

  10. Jodine says:

    Oh how I muss NZ some days

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