Extended Family 101


Yesterday, I shared our daily bathroom follies with you.  But this is just one part of the paradigm shift associated with transitioning from a child-free nuclear family to an extended family living arrangement.  In the parsonage.  Right next to the church.  This has been a true learning experience.  The following describes just a few of the lessons in which I’ve been schooled of late.

Just because you hear the crunch of tires on gravel does not mean you have visitors.

200 years ago, Jane Austen wrote that the sound of coach wheels on gravel meant the party’s over and it’s time for everyone to go home.  And just like in the old days back in Hertfordshire, vehicles approaching our humble abode are announced by the crunching of gravel in the lot between the church and the parsonage.  Don’t get too excited about having company, though.  Likely as not, it’s just a couple of CalTrans workers on their lunch break snagging some quesadillas at the taqueria across the street.  We really need to erect a sign that reads:



                                       – GOD

No matter how thirsty or hungry you are, do not walk to the kitchen in your undies.

Why?  Because you never know who you’re going to run into.  I haven’t had so many people coming in and out of my living quarters since I resided in a college dormitory in the 1970s.  That’s right, welcome to Grand Central Station, where everybody knows your name (and they’re always glad you came, tra-la-la).  Even if you make it through the living room unscathed, and even though it’s three in the morning, there’s a good chance that yours truly is sitting silently in the kitchen, just waiting to scare the living daylights out of you when you come around the corner.  And just because the house sounds quiet doesn’t mean that a parishioner, one of your niece’s friends or the homeless guy who hangs out across the fence will not show up at the door at exactly the wrong moment.  Surprise!

It’s important to learn the names of the regulars.

I’m getting tired of mouthing to my wife “What’s her name again?” to avoid embarrassing myself.  Personally, I think too much Baby TV is making me soft in the head.  But, alas, my wife is probably right, I just don’t pay attention.

For example, my niece has two young friends, sisters close in age, who show up here on a regular basis.  Both of their given names begin with M, so my wife and I have taken to referring to them as M&M.  I’ve suggested calling them Plain & Peanut, but one of them heard me say that and now she knows what a buffoon I really am.  But I think I’ve got it straightened out now.  One has dark hair and braces and the other is a blonde with none.  Got it.

When you’re used to sleeping in a king-sized bed, and then you move and have to switch to a queen, be thankful that your wife doesn’t fling you out of bed on your head.

Let me start with a disclaimer here.  My wife has never flung me out of our bed onto my head or any other bodily part.  Okay, now that we have that straight, let’s move on to a picture of the realities of the situation.  My wife tends to luxuriate in our soft, comfy bed by spreading all the way out as if to say “aaaahhhh!”  Then she places a pillow under her right arm.  My wife refers to this state of affairs as “taking my half out of the middle.”

With my wife and that blasted pillow taking up most of the bed, I am left with about an inch and a half of space to curl up in.  One false move and gravity will have its way with me.  More than once I have clutched the side of the bed just in time to avoid going kerplop.  Oh, and by the way, I have learned the true meaning of the phrase “stick it in your ear.”  That’s right, with my wife’s arms spread out, her index finger is generally about 0.2 centimeters from probing my Eustachian tubes.  At least bring a Q-Tip, will ya?

Seriously, my wife is really a good egg.  She tells me to just wake her up and tell her to move.  I sure appreciate this, but let’s just say that waking up my wife is unwise.  But if I begin snoring too loudly or making any of the other weird noises I am prone to when in a somnolent state, I fully expect a poke in the ribs and a request to please turn over.

No problem, my dear.  And, uh, sweet dreams.

Now can I have my king-size bed back?

Be thankful and express your gratitude at all times.

In an extended family, there is never a lack of entertainment.  There are more people to cook, more people to shop, more people to babysit, more people to keep you company.  Every day is truly a gift.  No matter how much you buy, there is never enough milk, bread or potatoes, and just because you’ve already been to Wal-Mart once today doesn’t mean that you won’t have to go again.  Enjoy the warm fuzzies, and don’t forget to express your appreciation early and often.

So thank you, Pastor Mom, for making me spaghetti with fresh zucchini and mushroom sauce, and for the vegetarian stew and for the homemade beans and for the Sprite cake and for the chocolate pie . . .

Thank you, dear wife, for putting up with me while I am “between jobs.”  (I know I messed up when I blurted out that remark about vegetarian chili in Target the other day and I am truly sorry.)  Note to self:  Learn to control the mouth, dude.

And thank you, dear nieces, nephews, baby grandniece and assorted relatives, friends, neighbors and countrymen, for making me feel like a kid again and for reminding me what family really is for.

God bless you one and all.


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