Tonight, Chris and I went down to Chinatown for dinner to meet and eat with my cousins’ cousin, her husband, four kids, and friend, as well as my actual cousin and his wife, who have a dysfunctional relationship (and an even more dysfunctional one around their almost three-year-old son. My cousin’s cousin and her family are visiting New York from Montreal, and they reached out to us a few days ago to arrange a meal to see us. It’s actually pretty amusing (and dysfunctional to outsiders, I’m sure) that I won’t see my cousin and his wife in Brooklyn unless there is a visitor, or to celebrate one of their son’s birthdays. They have a marriage that no one would approve of in which they are constantly arguing and threatening to leave each other and take the kid with them, they can’t stand each others’ in-laws, and they don’t agree on anything regarding how to raise their son. So you can imagine why I want to be near that as little as possible.
I was actually looking forward to seeing our visiting cousin because from what I remember when I had last seen her four years ago at a wedding, she, unlike all of her siblings, has a personality and is fun to talk to. The funny thing about it is that I probably wanted to see her more than her own cousin did, and they’re technically the related ones, not me. My cousin made it clear he didn’t really want to be at the dinner and was just there out of obligation. He used his phone for a lot of the meal, barely said anything to the visiting cousin, and made little effort to talk to his wife’s sister, who also joined, or me or Chris. They also arrived late and left early because their son was at home with a fever, and of course, it’s a rush to get back to the child because who knows what could happen in the grandma’s care.
That’s what my family is — a lot of obligation and guilt and not a lot of actual desire to see each other. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting to know that those obligatory meetings don’t have to happen that often. And at least my cousin’s cousin is an interesting, seemingly normal person with a normal marriage and family life. Or maybe we can really just attribute that to their being Canadian and not American.