The people you cherish when you relocate are an impressive bunch. They must be willing to tolerate your extended absence and then sporadic appearances, to put up with phone calls at strange hours of the day (and night, when you haven’t quite figured out the time differences yet), travel miles to visit you, and when they do, be treated like pack mules, toting everything from 5ft fake Christmas trees to Kenya (my mother, and she will NEVER let me forget it) to 24lbs of Cadbury’s chocolate and Ariel washing powder.
However, while friends are chosen for their ability to tolerate your less golden qualities (like potentially using their every failing for post fodder), being close to family gives you the early warning system that lets you know what to expect in years to come. Like knowing just how bonkers you are likely to be, or whether your hearing will go, or whether you will just start farting loudly in church every time you sing the chorus to “The Old Rugged Cross”. They put the ‘tic’ in genetic..
Family traits are a funny thing, especially when you are separated for long periods of time. You meet your spouse as an adult, you marry, you have children, and then you relocate, without ever having had the chance to study their parents and siblings at close quarters for genetically programmed characteristics. And these traits continue to appear throughout life, and we remotely remain blissfully unaware of what’s coming..
It doesn’t help when your other half looks like the cuckoo in the nest. He comes from a family of medium sized, wiry folk, with sandy hair. The OH? 6’1′ tall, 200lbs, and so hairy I have taken to categorizing him as ‘furry’. Apart from his head, where it is conspicuously absent, in complete contrast to his male siblings. I began to wonder whether he was secretly adopted, until we spent two delightful weeks this Summer in the company of his brother and family, collectively known as SSSAK. It gave us two weeks to laugh, bond, and gain greater understanding of why it’s really, really important to dilute the gene pool.
There were certain characteristics that had already come to light, like the reluctance to make any non-urgent decision. Place Other Half and Middle Sibling in a room with travel brochures and a credit card, and you’ll still be waiting for them to come out at Christmas. They also both seem impervious of the cries of the GPS and require a co-pilot to translate the Make a left turn at the next junction’ to: “Turn left at the next junction – here, Here HERE, TURN LEFT!! WHERE ARE YOU GOING??? Oh Bl****dy H*ll, pull over!!!”. Incidentally, the GPS has the moral high ground over raw humanity here. At this point I am ready to beat the other half to death with a road atlas, over his continual implication that someone other than himself is at fault. He has a moving screen with a car on it, he has an electronic voice telling him precisely what to do, and he has a purple faced wife in the passenger seat reiterating the request, and yet still he misses the turn and ends up inevitably heading the wrong way down the freeway. (I cannot speak for my sister-in-law, but suspect the same murderous impulses are flickering across her forebrain.) The GPS, however, simply sighs and, in a completely serene voice, utters the oft repeated phrase on any Yates journey – “Recalculating;”.
However, in a recent trip to Yosemite, there was a defining moment that summed up the power that Mother Nature wields. We had taken the Tioga Road on our way to Tenaya lake, and had stopped off for a picnic and pictorial record on the way. After a leisurely lunch, we meandered back to the cars (parked a mere 200 yards away, to avoid navigational difficulties), and started to load up. My Sister in Law and I were gratified to see the brothers huddled over the bonnet (hood) of the car, obviously scoping out possible venues for further exploration. We should have known better. Released from the confines of the driver’s seats, the two of them were intensely studying the map of Yosemite for at least 10 minutes, deciding which was the best route to take to Tenaya Lake. For those of you unfamiliar with the extensive road network in Yosemite, here’s the official map, with roads shown as the unbroken orange line…