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A reunion isn't controlled by protocol, as a wedding is. And each family cultivates its own idiosyncrasies. Still, a few laws do govern family reunions-natural, underlying laws that must be followed lest the world be thrown into chaos and confusion. And we don't want that. So, with the help of Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners, we've drawn up the following Commandments.
1. Thou shalt not forget thine ordinary mannes nor thy common civility, just because thou art amongst thy brothers and sisters.
2. Thou shalt tolerate the tiresome relative (at least for a little while).
3. Thou shalt not play footsie with a distant cousin or thy cousin's spouse.
4. Sniping and carping about a reunions' lack of organization is an abomination.
5. Thou shalt orchestrate spontaneous praise unto the reunion organizer.
6. Thou shalt not talk about everything under the sun. Agree to disagree, and steer clear of such topics as the Vietnam War (now and forever), abortion rights, gay marriage, gun control, Waco.
7. Parents shall not use intimate details of their kids' lives as conversational fodder. (Boasts of children's accomplishments are acceptable, but parents shall be discreet in their phrasing and timing.)
8. Thou shalt not reveal devastating family secrets about thyself or others unless thou hast arranged therapeutic support systems.
9. Thou shalt not publicly criticize the bad manners or poor behavior of any child not thine own.
10. Thou shalt flatter thy kinfolk-falsely or not. All nieces tap dance divinely, all babies are beautiful, and all aunts look wonderful as ever.
Excerpted from Family Reunion. Copyright (c) 1998. Reprinted with permission by Workman Publishing.
The Ritual of Recognition
Location, Location, Location
The Family Story
The Family Tree
Fantastic Family Food
Families Who Play Together
The Main Event
Capturing the Moment
The Unbroken Circle