due to various large bodies of land and sea, and the american employer's rather paltry excuse for 'vacation time', the frequency with which my immediate family is able to congregate in the same space- that doesn't require logging into skype- shares approximately the same irregularity as that of a hot flashing female.
rather like a leap year, i didn't know we were having "one", until i saw my dad wheeling his suitcase through heathrow airport towards me. the gestalt was complete, after negotiating the british road system (which obviously borrows it's ruler from the people who established the dimensions of swimming pool lanes), to find mum standing behind the back bedroom door at my brother's house- and had apparently been there since returning from her 3 week trip to visit me, back when there was still some snow on the ground.
when i first moved to the states i was intrigued by the whole ritual of "the family reunion", which appeared to be more of a retreat that revolved around BBQ and green bean casserole, giving people an excuse to make personalized t-shirts commemorating the occasion. my clan likes to engage in the ritual of trimming excess back and ear hair.
like most grandchildren, i spent much of my time visiting the more senior members of the family, making up elaborate magic shows and running around the woods with cousins. this past trip, while we all got to reminisce about those very things, 'visiting as an adult' allowed me to go back further in history to world war II, where, as children, they were bundled out of bed one morning and put on a cattle train; first bound for siberia to cut trees, and then on to kazakhstan for more hard labour and a final separation from their families. the gypsy 'tradition' appears to have been passed down in much the same way as our noses and a tendency to over-cater breakfast.
of course the wonderful thing about the law of universality, and assembling people who share the same DNA, is that it serves to eliminate the: "i am the only freak" feeling. fortunately, we were all in agreement that crack sniffing is the pinnacle of wit and humour.
and finally, 'punting under the influence' with friends from the days when our respective spectacles were larger than our 16 year old asses.