Since it’s been a year that I’ve been without Dennis’ part of the family, I am out of practice at how to hang out with them. So when Dennis told me yesterday that his family was having a little get together–a small dinner of sorts–to celebrate his parents’ 30th anniversary, it didn’t even once cross my mind that the “little” get together would be anything more than the seven of us gathered around the table. The seven included Dennis’ parents, Dennis’ sister, her husband, and their baby, and then Dennis and me. I was totally prepared for this and didn’t even bother showering yesterday at home in Vermont before my mom and I made the drive down to Brattleboro to hand me off to Dennis to drive me back to Connecticut.
I should have known better. Whenever the “family” is mentioned, it means the whole family. As in all of them. All four generations. And so, when I saw first one grandmother come in, then an aunt, and an uncle and a cousin and a….I knew I had been gone a long, long time. And I ran to check my appearance in a mirror.
No one was expecting to see me and, since I hadn’t expected to see them I hadn’t put any thought into how I looked. “Oh! Gina! What a surprise! How good to see you!” And then eyes would travel around my face, up and down my frumpy baggy pants, t-shirt, and bare feet, and I’d hear, “You look….good!” You know it’s a lie when there’s an audible pause before the adjective, as if they’re trying to search for a word that doesn’t reveal what they’re really thinking: tired, gross, older.
Anyhow, I had also forgotten that this whole family speaks Russian and that even though I’d managed to learn one language this year, Russian wasn’t it. And so, when conversations commenced, I felt like I was right back in Brazil, trying to be friendly and talk with people even though some speak just a few words of English. I had on my tourist smile again, which I’d thought I’d lost several months ago, and I clung onto Dennis as if he were a tank of oxygen and I was deep underwater. How strange to feel so foreign with these people who, just a year ago, were everything to me. I was a little sad by how weird I felt. But it’ll get better. The more time I’m here, the more I’ll see everyone and learn again how to fit in.
So now it’s Monday and I’ve dropped Dennis off at work and had a cup of Starbucks and an entire day ahead of me to do with as I please. I intend to shower, first off, (well, maybe not first), and then play it by ear. The next thing I know I need to do is pick him up at work, but that’s not until 6:30 or 7 tonight.
Ho-hum. Vacation is hard.