Big family party!

Last weekend I drove a total of 600 miles so I could join the rest of my family for a big party at my brother\’s house. I think there were 26 of us, three generations including my mother and my lovely aunt, my late father\’s sister. Both my brothers were there and my sister, over from New York, with her kids and step-kids; all but one of the cousins (who lives in Sidney, Australia) were there, and their kids and boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses… I\’m not sure it was 26, it could have been more, to be honest. I keep losing count.
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We do this regularly, about once a year or so. It isn\’t always at my brother\’s place – sometimes we take over an entire winebar for the day. Food is eaten, large amounts of wine and beer are drunk, the noise must be deafening if you\’re not used to it because we all have powerful personalities and we all love to talk.
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I must say this one was a marathon seven-eight hours – punctuated by extended hugs and goodbyes to people who had to take trains back to uni – and I was one of the last to leave, as usual. Well, I didn\’t want to go. It had been such a lovely day.
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Plenty of discussion and disagreement, but no quarrels and a lot of laughter. Yes, I know, I\’m smug and I naturally think that my family is better than everyone else\’s, but I also think there are things we do that make it easier to have a successful family party.
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Nobody has to come – we come because we want to, but if someone can\’t make it, there are no recriminations. Everybody missed the cousin in Australia because she and her kids are (of course) beautiful and brilliant – but maybe she\’ll be able to come next year. We don\’t do the party on an official holiday like Christmas because different people have different commitments and it\’s too complicated. We generally seem to do it in January or February when everyone needs cheering up and travel is a little bit cheaper.
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I say \”we\” but of course, I haven\’t organised one because I\’m inefficient and I live in Cornwall. Usually my brother or my immensely talented cartoonist cousin Simon sorts it out. Lots of work goes into it – but intelligently with sensible delegation so no resentments boil away in the background.
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Perhaps one of the things that helps is that we all get together regularly. This means that when we have to meet for big family occasions like weddings and funerals, we get along well in emotional circumstances because we already know and like each other. I have never forgotten that, when my husband died ten years ago, everybody turned up for the funeral – all of them, cousins and aunt as well as my brothers and sister, travelling long distances – which made me feel very supported and comforted.
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So I recommend the practice. Don\’t wait for a funeral. Do it now: pick a date, hire a winebar or a pub if nobody has a suitable house, invite absolutely all of your family, cousins, nephews, uncles, aunts – the lot. Make a regular (if rare) thing of it. If you don\’t all get along the first time, don\’t worry, you will the time after or the time after that.
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I know some families have deep rifts running through them. Perhaps that makes it harder, but surely it\’s still worth trying if at all possible? If you\’re lucky enough to have Family, they are the people you can\’t choose, true – but they can still be your friends so long as you meet them for a big party every so often.