I don’t recall what my motivation for writing this piece was. I think, in part, I may have been pondering what Christmas parties used to be like on the paternal side of the family. I don’t think they were ever as bad as the Hudson family reunions, but I do remember never really wanting to go. Let me also point out, that I wanted to make Uncle David as horrible as I could. I had in mind the most ignorant, rude, arrogant S.O.B. that I could think of without being totally revolting and over the top. Don’t shoot me for Uncle David’s views, as they are definitely NOT my personal views. Remember – it’s just fiction. This was written on July 17, 2009.
There was no greater feeling at this year’s family reunion than the sense that it may be the last. None of us could actually stand each other and I’m sure everyone had wondered why we kept insisting on yearly family reunions. Was it to prove that uncle David was the biggest redneck alcoholic in the family? Or that aunt Carla was the most proficient at terrorising my father Edward, her youngest sibling? Maybe it was all about proving that my mum really was the peacekeeper in the family? I guess we’ll never really know because everyone tows the family line saying “It’s all about tradition!” when asked why we continue to torture ourselves with these things. Anyway, I know that my best friend Tara will never look at me or my family in the same way again. And that’s not her fault. It’s mine. I never should have invited her to this year’s bash.
It started out okay because aunt Jean had prevented uncle David from beginning his celebrations at nine that morning. He’s the catalyst for almost everything that goes wrong at these things. He gets full of the drink and rants – about Jews, African Americans (although he never actually calls them that), Asians, Muslims (again, he never actually refers to them in that manner, his language is much more colourful), and his pet topic of abuse “the queers”. His words, not mine.
“If you ask me,” he starts, “with them queers they should take a great big stick and shove it right up…”
This is usually when someone in the family with brains tells him to “Shut the hell up Dave!”
And David usually ignores them and continues with, “Of course, that won’t wash with them girly queers. What they should do to them is get some big blokes, biker types, you know. And they should lock them girly queers in a room with big biker blokes and let them blokes give the girlies a good going over!” At which point someone intervenes and either hits him or hands him another drink – it just really depends who is standing closest to David.
Now my friend Tara is, as uncle David would say, a “girly gay”. She makes no secret of the fact that she sleeps with women, and she has been known to get a little politically charged now and then. So you can imagine what was going through her mind when uncle David opened his mouth. I’m shocked because all she came out with was a simply put “Excuse me?” and everyone in the room turned to look at her.
It’s well known in Hudson family circles that it’s just easier to let David get on with it, get drunk and hopefully pass out in the lounge room before the dessert course. Tara however, was new to the situation. I tried to grab her attention with a few loud and well place coughs. She didn’t seem to register them, or maybe she thought I was coming down with something, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that something big was about to happen.
David, not used to being confronted in this manner, decided his only option was to further explain himself. He must have misinterpreted the look in Tara’s eyes as one of awe and wonderment and excitement to learn more about the Life Manifesto of David Hudson. So he continued.
“That’s right, you heard me right girly! There ain’t nothing right with being queer, ‘specially if you’re a bloke. If you’re a girly, well then, I can see some benefit to girly action for us blokes. But it still ain’t right. Blokes should be with girlies and not with other blokes, and girlies should be with big, strong blokes not with other girlies. That just ain’t right. That’s not what our bits were made for.”
Tara stood horrified for what seemed to me to be an absolute eternity but I’m sure it was only a few seconds while she gathered her thoughts. She started off quietly and proceeded to get louder as she built up speed.
“You redneck, hillbilly, country and western music loving son of a bitch! How did you ever live to be this age without someone punching your lights out? Oh my God, I can’t believe that people actually listen to you and put up with your bullshit. Your head is so far up your arse, you’re starting to look like a doughnut! It’s because of men like you that heaps of girlies go gay you dick! And for the record – I’m gay!”
That’s when Tara turned and looked at me. I didn’t like where I thought this might be heading – she was going to involve me in this train wreck.
“Renee,” she said to me, “how have you managed to blossom in a family like this?”
I was hoping to lighten the mood with my response – “Good luck and skill!” All I’ll say about that is – lead balloon!
Tara turned back to uncle David who was blustering and puffing away in his wingback chair, astonished that his manifesto had been attacked by this girly gay. And then, without saying another word to him, Tara dealt the final insulting blow to uncle David. She took her girly gay drink and tipped it over his head.
Then just as he was about to launch himself out of the chair to “show you a dick or two you little faggy freak!” Tara hauled off and punched him one, right in the face. He dropped back into the chair like a ragdoll, all limp and floppy. His blustering and puffing subsided to be replaced with a sudden intake of air and then a somewhat melodramatic protestation of his assault at the hands of a girly gay.
Around the room silence and awestruck expressions gave way to a slow, building round of applause led by my mother and aunt Jean. It erupted into cheers and adulation for my best friend that covered up the pathetic tears of my tragic uncle. I stood in silence, still completely in awe of what Tara had achieved at her first Hudson family reunion. If I’d known, if any of us had known, that it was that easy to shut uncle David up, I’m sure it would have been a tactic that was employed many, many painful reunions ago. I was swelling with pride for my friend. This tale would be retold at family reunions in the future. It would be legend. Tara would be legend. I would be legend for bringing Tara to the event. And hopefully uncle David would learn his lesson.
The rest of the reunion weekend went smoothly and quietly. Uncle David stayed well away from Tara. For the first time ever at a family reunion I saw my mum smile, and my dad and aunt Carla seemed to put aside their need to terrorise each other. It was undoubtedly the best family reunion that I had been forced to attend.
Still I was hesitant about going home. Not because I would miss the reunions if this turned out to be the last, but because I dreaded the car trip home, alone with Tara. She wouldn’t be able to let this go; she’d have to bring it up. She’d have to know why I didn’t say anything more than what I did. She’d want to know why I didn’t support her, why I didn’t punch uncle David myself. And I had only one answer to any of those questions that she might put to me.
“As horrible as they are Tara, as stupid and narrow-minded and uneducated as they are, like it or not they’re still my family.”