Maybe because it was the very first one! Maybe because it was organized by a very no nonesense, beautiful, 5 month pregnant mother of 2 (my cousin) with the support of her handsome hubby and a few of us on the planning committee! But maybe its just because we were all so happy to be together in the same room in a long while! Whatever it was...there was no drama, no arguments, no fights - just dancing, laughing and embracing.
This reunion was for my mom's side of the family, both her parents have been deceased for some time, and there are 6 siblings who were raised together. Mum (Solange)- is the eldest, then its Aunt Paulinette, Aunt Yvette, Aunt Nicole, Aunt Fifi and Uncle Charlie is the baby. All relatively normal names compared to mine - not sure how thrilled I am about that! Charlie wasn't able to make it from Georgia and Fifi, who knows what her story is but true to form she's the black sheep of the family. Nonetheless they were both missed! When they all settled in New York, we all lived within a 5 block walking distance. I used to see my aunts/uncle and cousins all the time! And even though we parted when I was about 11 and they were 9 and younger its amazing how similar we are.
To start, I arranged for my cousin to pick me up from the train station - I'm a little at odds with my sister and I've had enough of her for a bit. Also, my other sister and her husband were staying with her and it always feels a bit uncomfortable around them, the judgements I think they're heaping on me - or that I'm projecting on them...Oh, i don't know - still searching for a therapist, people!! And that alone gave me a little anxiety for the evening, so I headed to the hotel bar for a drink.
On my way there - the crew of aunts begins to arrive - I go up to them and kiss them on the cheek and hug everyone, warmly rubbing their back - if you're going to hug someone do it right! Don't half ass and give them a half body hug, we're talking chest and torso pressing in and hold it for a couple of seconds - anything longer and its a little eery! In our culture, whoever's younger is expected to go up to whoever's older and you have to initiate the hello (even if someone's older by .30 seconds, they're still older) - and I don't mind the custom, it takes so little and it makes them happy.
The festivities start with my mum- true to form drama queen - coming outside and nearly collapsing on the welcome table. She makes me get up so she can have my chair and complains of a greuling headache. The music was quite loud and all that bass, I think the dj was American and he doesn't appreciate that Haitians do not love loud music - we like it to be auible, of course - but we like to be able to have conversation and hear each other, more. So, my aunt Yvette comes out with her, like the lookout of the crew and is like "ur mom has a headache, do you have anything".
But she keeps staring at me and I'm not going to back down, so I ask her "why are you staring, do I have egg on my face?" She says," no I haven't seen you in soo long, you don't call or keep in touch so I have to stare and take you in!" Humbled that I even thought I needed to be on the defensive - that was the sweetest compliment of the night- I had this wide smile on my face! I always liked her the best and liked going to her house - she was the most open aunt in that she spoke her mind in a playful but serious way, and we look alike - the same light brown complexion. At the end of the night I got her number, which has been the same for close to 30 years, yikes! And the bad niece award lands directly on my lap for that one!
Back to my mum's headache - I'm like, uh no I don't have pills - and I ask the other girls around - no one has anything. Very disappointing, as ladies - you should always come prepared as if you may be away from home for like a month, more or less. Then I remembered I'm carrying my evening bag but have my bigger bag in the trunk, with all the goodies in it. My cousin and I go get it, bring back a bottle of pills and give her 2 excedrin.
My cousin's husband gets a beer, my other cousin gets drinks for him and his wife...phew, I'm not the only alcoholic beverage drinker - anyway I keep it light, Kahlua and cream. Another cousin MC's the event - she's really good! And we all want this to be a success, so we're a great crowd. She gives out awards for the previous day's picnic activities. A few more cousins do a dance to some hip hop songs, then a very popular Haitian song, its very cute to see the torch paseed on to the younger generation. There's this random group of boys going from party to party singing and they sing.
Then the MC invites the sister's to get up and dance. My aunt Nicole is the first to go up - very telling about what I consider her personality to be - she's the 2nd youngest girl, so she has that syndrome of not being the youngest but wanting the attention the youngest receives, and so is the first on the floor has all the attention to herself for a while before the other joins. Then my aunt P joins her on the floor and hers is more of a serious dancer, showing that she can cut the rug and let her hair down type of thing and that she can still move, so its a bit more skillful and seductive, if you will. But their dance resembles what some African dances look like, bent forward at the hip and moving one side of the upper body forward, arms slightly flailing. We really are from an African tribe - I've never felt that but watching them dance last night, I absolutely felt it to my core. My mum is a bit hesitant - I have to grab her arm and show her I was going to make her go, so she acquiesce's. Hers is a more cautious watching over the younger sisters, not letting herself have too much fun type of dance! Miraculously her headache disappears an she's enjoying herself - 2 excedrin saved the night, child! I never leave home without them.
The floor opens up - we electric slide and some other things. No hiccups to the evening, I'm amazed. But that's what happens when brains, beauty and determination come together. I must say I am going to miss our Monday night skype conference sessions about the reunion. But I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone via phone, email and blog. I love my family, though it hurts like hell sometimes and it pulls at the heartstrings - I am bits and pieces of all of them. Most of all, we are strong willed and determined, as all of us have had to been given our culture and we will not yield!