How to Survive A Family Reunion
What do you get when you have nine children and thirty nine grandchildren attributed to your posterity? One heck of a reunion party!--even after some of the grandchildren are hauled away to police headquarters for questioning about a suspicious fire in a neighboring farmer’s alfalfa field. That and last year’s unfortunate incident involving a potato cannon and a cow is why this year’s reunion committee decided that there must be some means of maintaining order out of the chaos.
“Our children are not juvenile delinquents,” said my sister-in-law. “They just happen to be more inquisitive and resourceful than most other children.” Then she looked around, giving us all a hooded Yoda-like stare. “We must teach them to channel their powers for good.”
My husband piped up. “What about a reward system, where we give them prizes for doing jobs and taking care of the little kids?”
“What? You mean bribe our own children?” asked my other sister-in-law, Susan.
Good for you Susan, I thought. I felt comforted in the fact that someone was going to stand up for what was morally right.
Susan rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Sound’s great to me,” she said.
Everyone around the table nodded in enthusiastic agreement, and so ‘Reunion Tokens’ were born: a filthy lucre type reward system whereby children could earn plastic coins for things like ‘not following through on their idea to stuff a snake down their younger cousin’s t-shirt’ and other such golden behaviors. At the end of the day, the children would be able to squander their wealth at a ‘reunion store’ filled with shining and wondrous breakable, shoddily made, plastic plunder.
The first day of the reunion proved that the system worked like magic. Kids ran around like mad, asking for jobs, reading to younger cousins, holding babies, making cookies for the adults, and in general, staying out of jail.
My own son, I noticed, was quite the young capitalist. He wiped the table seven different times for seven different people, and when the aunts and uncles finally caught on to his scheme he ran around offering to finish other cousins’ work for an exorbitant fee. Then in the evening, when the reunion store opened, he would buy out all of the Smarties, and sell them the next day for profit.
In spite of his questionable focus on worldly treasure, I was proud of him for showing initiative.
“I have to admit,” I told my husband later that night. “I had my doubts about your reward system, but it seems to be working. The kids are learning hard work and responsibility.”
He nodded smugly before he went to sleep.
It was only on the fourth day that I started to have misgivings when I noticed that my son seemed to have taken over the reunion store. He had bought the store out with his amassed token fortune and was now instructing underling cousins on how to deal Smarties on the street.
“I get half of everything you take,” he told them. “And don’t let anyone disrespect the family, you hear? Now get outta here and go make me some dough.” He dismissed them with a wave of his hand and they all scrambled away.
Was I only imagining he had developed an Italian accent overnight? That night I saw him in his bed, counting tokens and grinning to himself, his braces glinting wickedly under the fluorescent bulbs.
The next day my son was confronted by an irate uncle. “I never thought I’d see the day where a nephew of mine would be involved in taking candy from a baby,” he said, holding his crying two year old girl.
My son shrugged. “She didn’t have protection from the ‘Family’. She was refusing to pay up. Thus I couldn’t protect her from other criminals and malicious thieves.”
My brother-in-law shook his fist, “I’ll tell you who’s a malicious thief, you little…”
“Okay that’s it!” I cried, taking my son by the collar and turning him upside down over my knee so that I could shake all the tokens out of his pocket.
“Mom, Mom! Don’t! Quit it! It was just a joke…”
Then I dragged him into his bedroom and bankrupted his little token empire in one fell swoop.
Sheesh. Kids. You try to teach them hard work and responsibility, and all they do is turn your system it into a criminal empire. I shook my head and stared at his bag of tokens. Really. I ask you. Where in the world did my son ever learn to act like a Mafia Boss?
I looked over my shoulder at my brother-in-law, comforting his daughter and glaring at my son. Good grief, it was only a pack of Smarties, I thought, annoyed at his coddling parental behavior. Maybe I’d have to ‘off’ him down the swirly slide when he wasn’t looking, for disrespecting my family. It’d take him weeks to get unstuck.
Suddenly, an evil grin stole across my face. I looked down, shaking my son’s bag of plunder, feeling the pleasing weight of it in my hands…and I wondered…just how many tokens it would take to hire a nephew underling to do the job for me.