Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Theory of Relativity

Sharing family stories carries with it a certain degree of responsibility, a sacred charge if you will. Granted, it’s not exactly the equivalent of Moses coming down from the mountain with stone tablets, but I need to mind my Ps and Qs or else I face an even greater wrath – my wife’s.

Some of you may recall that a little over a year ago I wrote a column about my side of the family and the personalities that populate that peanut gallery. It was my contention that when taken as a whole, the dysfunction and borderline insanity displayed by my kin represent probably 95% of the population – in other words, they’re normal. This weekend, I attended a reunion for a branch of my wife’s family tree and learned that they’re just as “normal” as my family, and probably yours. It’s all relative, certainly. More on that in a moment.

Last week we went to our oldest son’s very first band concert. He plays the trumpet. He’s no Herb Alpert or Dizzy Gillespie, and last week’s band concert demonstrated that he’s not a child prodigy either. But that’s okay. When the band finished their first song, we had a little trouble clapping because we were busy keeping our youngest son’s hands down in his lap and not covering his ears. It would be safe to say that our youngest lacked the wisdom to see that the band’s performance went relatively well – no windows were broken and the neighborhood dogs didn’t join in a communal howl. My wife’s father, I noticed, had a very big smile on his face at the end of the first song – I couldn’t tell if it was a result of Grandpa Pride or if he had just turned his hearing aid way down. It was no philharmonic offering by any stretch of the imagination, but the relative simplicity of the song had my wife and me bursting with pride to hear our son blowing that horn like mad and following the bandleader’s direction.

Relative simplicity can go a long way. Take Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll, Part II” (otherwise known as the “Hey Song” frequently heard at sporting events) as an example. In the three-minutes-eleven-seconds song, only four words are uttered along with a whole slew of inaudible “ughs” that sound like a tennis player lunging for the ball played out in front of a catchy guitar hook that just keeps repeating itself – it’s not Beethoven even on a good day. Nevertheless, that simple song, more often than not, will find you painting your chest, belting out those four words, and grunting like a Caveman. Do that alone, and you’re a freak. Do that in a stadium with 60,000 other fans, and you’re normal. It’s all relative.

Now, back to the family reunion. I heard one story about two couples (the two women were sisters) taking a trip down to Tijuana; one couple ended up leaving the other on the side of the road south of the border to hitchhike their way back to San Diego. I got the distinct impression that alcohol was involved. Another story involved the granddaddy of combovers that would have put Donald Trump to shame and given Bob’s Big Boy a run for his money in the styling department.

No one on my wife’s side of the family has ever been famous like Gary Glitter for penning and composing what has become known as a sports anthem, but I’m proud to have married into this “normal” family all the same. We can look at it in another way: neither has anyone on her side of the family been convicted and imprisoned like little Gary for doing naughty things with underage girls in Vietnam. Good thing, too, because it would be hell – relatively speaking – trying to get everyone together for another family reunion.

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