Two baby boomers, a lumberman, a chemo patient, a Russian, a writer, and a two-year old walk into a one bedroom apartment…
Sounds like a bad joke, right? Or the beginning of a Coen brothers film.
This weekend the family came to Portland. Thursday night Momma, Dan, Abby, Chad, and Paige piled into Dan’s work car, the Mercury Grand Marquis (the kind of car Whitey Bulger may have preferred for transporting bodies), and made the ten hour trek to Portland, Maine, arriving early Friday morning.
Walking out of our apartment building, Fil and I were greeted with the biggest, CHEESE smile and two-handed wave we’ve ever seen. Paigey could not have been happier to 1) get out of that car and 2) see Aunt O and Uncle Fil. From Honey Crisp apples to four bags of Bedford Candies’ pop corn, my momma packed it all. It was hugs and kisses galore before everyone booked it to the apartment to use the bathroom.
Now, my family is certainly not for imposing on anyone and were more than happy to stay at a bed and breakfast, but having been away from everyone for two months I thought it would be fun to have a little family sleep over. So there we all were in Fil and I’s one bedroom, finding makeshift chairs, and serving pancakes.
Friday was spent catching up and touring Old Port. We visited my boss at Cabot and my parents couldn’t have been happier to know that is where I spend my Saturdays. Both agreed it is a very cheerful place. Paige was exhausted from the trip and she fell asleep somewhere between Mexicali Blues and Dry Dock, where we had a good lunch. Unfortunately, my sister was not feeling well from her first treatment, so it was hard to find food that wouldn’t upset her stomach.
We made our way back to the apartment around 5 for some homemade soup.
Friday was over. Fil and I slept on the air mattress, Paige and Abby on the pull out bed, and Chad squeezed himself onto the love seat. Surprisingly, we were all pretty comfortable, or just comforted by being together.
The next morning we took my sister to our friend Jonathan’s where he and Fil set up a studio space. It was chillier than expected, so we wrapped pretty quickly, but the photos turned out great and we had some fun.
For the rest of the afternoon I felt as if I were practically dragging my family around Portland, trying to fit in as much as possible, and never once feeling quite right about it. It just felt as if nothing was going my way. Momma and I got to walk around Congress St. for an hour or so, and stopped in some fun stores before Dan met up with us. After nearly hitting mom in the middle of the street, he did a drive by and we jumped in the car. At that point it seemed the looming cloud of tension and anxiety was just too heavy and….
the old Marquis broke down in the middle of Congress St. with all of Portland heading out to their favorite Saturday night hot spots. Of course this was going to happen. The whole day felt as if this was going to happen. How did we NOT know this was going to happen?
The car was towed and the the boys went to help Dan.
Back at the apartment Paige and I watched Tinker Bell while mom and Ab enjoyed the peace and quiet. Around 9 o’clock the boys arrived home, all quite giddier than before and momma called it a night.
All in all the weekend was fun and exactly what it was meant to be.
I think we can all agree that a visit from family never quite turns out as it was imagined. All week I had built the visit up in my mind, filling it with adventures, laughs, and quality time. And, as I usually do, I let what I wanted the weekend to be get the best of me. Rather than enjoy the fact that my family had come to visit, I found myself worrying over minor details that couldn’t be fixed and feeling that I hadn’t done my job as hostess.
On a quick run for groceries I said to Fil, “I feel like this wasn’t what I wanted it to be.” Fil sighed and, as a partner should, told me frankly, “You’re a perfectionist. Nothing ever goes exactly the way you want it to, Olivia,” and with that he patted my leg and found the best parking spot.
After it was all said and done, after the Marquis broke down, the guys had a little too much to drink, and poor Paige got her finger stuck in the elevator, my family piled back in the car and headed home.
With tears filling my eyes, Fil and I made our way back inside, opening our door to a quiet, still apartment.
Baghera was passed out on the bed, praying that the short person who followed her all weekend wasn’t back for round ten. The walls seemed wider and the floor looked empty. It felt weird. Fil and I sat on the couch with our Gearys and listened to the quiet.
I spend a lot of time thinking of my family. I compare others to it. I define myself by it. I evaluate myself by it. There are times when I feel entirely accepted by the family, confirming all my beliefs, dreams, and values. There are also times when I feel alienated, too aware of our differences. Differences that, in reality, are just our heightened similarities.
This weekend I wasn’t sure how I felt. On one hand I was overjoyed that my family made the trip to Portland. On the other hand I was anxious and irritated that they weren’t seeing Portland they way I see it, or so I thought. Why doesn’t everyone see it my way? Why doesn’t everything go the way I wanted? Why wasn’t this weekend the weekend I planned?
I’ve been asked by others and have even asked myself if the difference in cultures would ever get in the way of Fil and I. Honestly, I know with all my heart that that would never be the case. We both come from close, dependable families. We value love, commitment, hard work, faith, and friendships.
My family may be a bit loud, interrupting one another, trying to get the joke in first, laughing at our own misfortunes. Fil’s family seems more reserved. They enjoy their surroundings for what they are and debate matters of life and love rather than whether or not Pap is 5’9″ or 6’0″. But both of our families come from a long line of musicians, storytellers, and adventurers. Once we imagined what our deceased grandmothers would talk about and came to the conclusion that they would sit in silence, listening to the ocean or lake, and every now and then smile at one another, knowing exactly what the other was thinking.
Maybe I’ve gotten off topic, not that I know what it was to start with. I just know that if anything ever got in the way of Fil and I, it wouldn’t be our families, it wouldn’t be our cultures, and it wouldn’t be whether or not to use butter or olive oil (BUTTER). It would be that maybe a color wasn’t just right in my picture perfect mind. It would be that something said or unsaid wasn’t what I wanted to hear. It would be my fault.
It would be my fault because I couldn’t veer off the interstate and take a dirt road. Because I wouldn’t take a left instead of a right. Because I wouldn’t accept a shade lighter than the one in the painting.
So I’m trying. I’m really working on it. I don’t want to relive moments over and over in my head. Directing them the way they should have occurred, writing in the better lines. My perfections are destroying the moments. Instead of accepting each scene of my indie film, I’m cutting it to be a cheesy blockbuster.
Our families and friends aren’t edits. We don’t have a first, second, third draft. They are what they are. And if I don’t stop picking apart my scenes, I won’t have enjoyed any of the acts.