When You Just Can’t Get Away

February 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Before I left 17 years ago, I was significantly shorter than my mom’s 5’2” frame. It took only 6 months for me to scream past her (a 4-inch growth spurt), and I’ve towered over her since. In my mind, I’ve changed a bit (physically) over the years, but for some I look about the same, but there’s always that amazement at seeing me after all those years. Over the past few weeks, many of her friends and family came out to visit – an almost annual tradition whenever she comes home. I’d managed to avoid nearly everyone since I came home, but since we have no easily accessible back doors, I had to meet everyone.

I had and still have no problem with meeting people. I just dislike those encounters because there’s only so much I can say past “I’ve been well,” and anything beyond that becomes awkward silent pauses that seem feel agonizingly longer than they last. It’s also a bit strange when you realize just how distant 16+ years makes you from people you knew and whose company you enjoyed in what sometimes feels like only yesterday. I also hate that whenever I meet most of these people, I’m usually coming out from a long trip in the sun, which means I’d be drenched in sweat when they want hugs. I know they don’t mind, but I’m too conscious of my struggles with the heat not to notice.

The first was my 4th uncle on mom’s side. He lived with us before we all left. He still carries the same slender frame, and without my bulky frame and slightly bad posture, you’d think he was still taller than me. In fact, I took some quiet comfort in all these mini reunions as I realized black people, especially my mother’s family members seem to never change in appearance: same skin tone/color, same look, same mannerisms… I could go on and on. I don’t know how much I’ve changed over the years, but if theirs is any indicator, I wouldn’t mind keeping my looks 15 years from now. I also met their brood. Or rather, I should say “observed” them as they were more interested in running around the big house than talking- kids. You’d almost think I was their uncle instead of the much older cousin. It seems the men on my mom’s side for whatever reason or another wait a bit longer to have kids. I wondered if I was following that trend.

There were also a few conversations and moments I dread and try as much to avoid. I had to take the number of a childhood friend I haven’t seen since I was 10. I appreciate that he’ll be happy to hear from me, but what could I possibly say in that conversation. We used to get together occasionally to watch Allan Quatermain movies. Should I reference those very old moments? So now If I don’t call this dude, I’ll look bad the next time I meet his mom, especially when I know she’ll tell him to expect my call. I was also forced to take a call from a childhood mate I hadn’t seen or communicated with since ’95. What can you really say in that 45 seconds? I hadn’t done too good a job in writing those snail mails, even though this one guy in particular had made some good efforts to stay in touch. I would’ve liked to show that his wasn’t a special treatment. I hadn’t done too good a job with the best friend and love interest, either- at least they not too long after (she, only 6 months after), both I assume realized how harder it gets to keep in touch when you go over so young as some of us did. This dude had to remind me that we hadn’t talked since I left. Yes, and there’s not enough apologies to remedy that situation now that we’re in our 30s, but he and everyone else can keep digging and rubbing it in. I think that phone call soured right after and we both started looking for excuses to get off the line. I can’t imagine we’ll have another talk like that anytime soon.

I also had to endure the marriage and kids talk again. It’s happened once before late in my 20s when I’d hear it from this aunt or that close family friend, but it was always over the phone, and I could always weasel my way out of the topic by jumping onto something else, or by handing the phone to any breathing human close by. This time, they were in my home. I understood some of the arguments made about having kids soon, but it would’ve been nice not to have 8 other people chiming in. There was another and more embarrassing talk the next night when my first big crush came out for dinner with her parents. This time, mom started about us getting married. It was very brief, but the effects lasted too long. She’s only a year older, and in many ways, I can easily see that union working. We seem to get on well, and… well, I could list the many reasons why we could click including the fact that she’s an attractive woman. But we still barely know each other, run in different circles, and these things are best not forced. Like after the baby talk the day before, I quickly and quietly slithered back into my room to avoid more embarrassing encounters.

I had been the errand boy, guide, body guard, task manager, and perhaps even best friend since her arrival. He was now more out than in, and we’d been ok ignoring his moods. I’d say more, but I’m too private a person, and google caches everything, so that’s as much as I’d say about family here. But given the choice between all those embarrassing and awkward reunions and everything else I had had to do over her visit, I’d hold my breath for a second and choose the latter. Maybe next time next year, I’d have a 4-wheel escape route or a baby I’d set in their mist to keep them preoccupied (kiddin’ on the baby bit). There wasn’t much left but an interesting airport episode, which I’ll save for my next entry.

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