Holidays with the Blue Meanies
It seems like there is one is every crowded family gathering, whether that is Christmas or the Fourth of July. At some point you have to deal with a relative that seems to think it is their job to suck the joy right out of the air. Call him/her the Grinch, a Blue Meanie, or the family pain in the butt – we all have them.
When I was growing up it was my mom. She really didn’t try, it was just there. No matter what you got her, it was never quite what she had hoped for.
One year, in the early 1960s when mink wraps were all the rage, my dad got my mom a beautiful mink stole. It was a soft, reddish brown and it really looked lovely on her (despite it’s current state of being political incorrect). She opened the box and tried it on, a crestfallen look on her face.
It wasn’t the color she wanted.
By the time my kids came along, dad had given up and she was better with them than she had been with me. I think, to an extent, it ran in the family.
I was spending a summer with my favorite aunt and uncle one year and they all decided to have a family reunion. My mother’s family was a large, close knit bunch and there were numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and so on.
It was summertime, in the early 1970s, and we were on a farm – the mode of dress was hardly formal. I was wearing a collared shirt tied at the waist over my bikini top and a pair of short “Daisy Duke” shorts with splits, fringe, and tears.
Actually, they would be right in style now as well! It should also be mentioned I had my bikini bottoms on under the shorts but that wasn’t known yet.
As I walked past one of my (not favorite) aunts, she made a snarky comment about my clothes, grabbed the bottom corner of my shorts and pulled up.
There was a horrifying ripping sound, mingled with the sound of her laughter, and the loudest sound of all – the rush of blood to my head as I struggled to not lose my temper or burst into tears. I wasn’t sure which I was more prone to.
Holding my shorts together at the top I sprinted to the barn and scrambled up the ladder to the hayloft – my personal place of peace when I was there. To this day I can still smell the musty hay, the cows below, and old wood of the barn when I close my eyes.
I must have been crying hard because I didn’t notice my cousin next to me, commiserating about my mistreatment.
I don’t remember if any of the adults stepped up and corrected her for what she did. I do know that my dad was not there and it was probably a good thing he wasn’t. What I did take away from that was a strong protective instinct that refuses to allow kids to be humiliated, over corrected, or lectured by any member of the Blue Meanie tribe, no matter who it is.
It is important to step in and defuse the situation in order to give kids a sense of worth. You don’t have to be unkind – sometimes just, “please pass the gravy” is enough to redirect the way the conversation is going.