They’re Just Family, After All

In anticipation of guests,
the hostess – always bent
on pleasing – carefully selects
the script, ascribes roles,
envisions an afternoon
of light repartee, peppered
with philosophical pondering –
satisfactory entertainment.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells herself, confident
in the outcome, fatally smug.

Crowd arriving, she fails
to read disinterest in eyes,
politely attempts to orchestrate
interactions, while they cast about,
calculating, shunning protocols
of etiquette, dispersing in
an unsettling way, then returning,
savagely encircling their prey.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells herself, panic rising,
confusion overriding confidence.

Unprepared to defend herself –
bears no arms but the giving type –
she ducks, grasps, attempts
retreat from the onslaught
of vindictive agendas, but the wall
of stored grievances, spotlighting
a history of injustices, corners
her, hopelessness in its wake.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells herself, knowing
full well the legacy of pain.

It’s friends, in the end,
who save her – a surefooted
cavalry, bearing the swords of
understanding, compassion
their war cry – reigning in the
once-invited, now betraying
guests – objective hearts
demanding an end to the fray.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells them, tells herself,
composure a mere thread.

Tables turned, the offenders
now plead for forgiveness,
beg for help, pretend the slights
were unintentional, harmless,
expect their hostess to step
over the bloodied and slain bits
of herself, and with benevolence,
restore her love for them again.

They’re just family, after all,
she says weakly, the torn script
of her expectations scattered.

(My art, entitled She Stands In the Middle of It All. This poem first appeared May, 2016)


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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

42 thoughts on “They’re Just Family, After All”

  1. A really great reflection on family get togethers. They can be challenging at times. At our get togethers everyone talked at once on and on. The in-laws would huddle together in the corner, not getting a word in edgewise!! :>) Well don VJ

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  2. Wow! This brings on memories. Many years ago, I married into a family and they didn’t get along with each other. The matriarch was the peacemaker – poor thing. She was a gem of a person and we called her Saint Nancy. She was a survivor of ovarian cancer and as she got older she had enough.

    She bought a new car and a condo and went out on her own. Her kids were always there for her but her husband, with his archaic mindset, not so much. Families can be messy.

    Great write, VJ!

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  3. I could be the proverbial fly on the wall here. Wow. The reality of what goes on – because it’s family – and what is excused (?) or perceived as what should go on becauseโ€ฆafter all it’s familyโ€ฆcan be so altered. Alternative facts perhaps. “Disinterest in their eyesโ€ฆ.” This is really well done. Families can be such a complicated mess. Friends save us over and over.

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  4. Reading this and “feeling” the vibes of Kendrick clan gatherings … a bit difficult to challenge any view just expounded … mostly I observe, voiceless … grateful I am not the family matriarch under whose roof these invisible walls go up and down during a coming-together of bodies and perspectives. I suspect at closing, she often feels just as your poem suggests: expectations scattered.

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