[Family drama] My makjang family
by Guest Beanie
Some of my favorite memories of my family are the various holidays and family reunions we shared together while I was growing up. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, getting together just because, the immediate (and sometimes not so-immediate) family coming together for turkey and opening presents and shooting fireworks and scouring old photo albums. Family get-togethers happened at least once a year, sometimes twice or three times, and I always looked forward to them.
Our family was so dedicated to get-togethers in fact, that multiple members frequently took part in a yearly gathering organized specifically for anyone, related or not, with the last name of Odom (in all its various spellings). As that just so happened to be my grandfather’s last name, taking part in these gatherings quickly became a given for our family. Every time the event was held nearby, we’d pile ourselves into my grandparents’ van and make the drive across state lines to swap genealogy findings, meet new people, discover a new city, and maybe even find a new relative or two.
But families are never exactly what they seem on the outside. When you’re a child, you don’t always see the undercurrents that can run in a family. Things are hidden from you or left unexplained or some things you simply don’t notice.
And so it was in my family.
For years, there was a layer of turmoil I was blissfully unaware of. Secrets, bitterness, pain. There were deep betrayals, petty squabbles, unintentional mistakes and intentional poor decisions. There were family members turning against each other and holding things against one another and enacting their revenge. There were things discussed when the children weren’t around, things happening behind the scenes, things from before I was even born.
Perhaps this is the reason why I personally don’t enjoy makjangs and most melodramas. I’ve never been a fan of needless angst and drama and conflict, fictional or real. I want everyone to get along and for there to be peace on earth and to avoid conflict for as long as possible, because my heart can’t handle it otherwise. But makjangs and melodramas are filled with dysfunction: dysfunctional families, dysfunctional relationships, dysfunctional situations.
And despite my aversion to the genre, my family would probably fit right in.
Today, the family reunions and holidays I loved so much as a child have become smaller and fewer. Even the Odom get-togethers, once attended by hundreds of Odoms and Odums and Ohdohms (I may have made up that last spelling), would now maybe fill a two-bedroom apartment. Young people don’t have any interest in reunions or spending time with family or learning about history, and the older generation is slowly passing on. For our own little family, years of dysfunction has taken its toll, and after a while, you just don’t want to be around people you don’t get along with anymore.
Come Here and Hug Me
But as someone who always loved these get-togethers so much…watching them slowly die hurts.
I think family reunions and family holidays hold value and shouldn’t be thrown to the wayside, even if they’re not “cool” anymore or you don’t like or get along with everyone you see there. They’re also some of the only good memories of my family I have left, some of the only memories that aren’t now tainted, and accepting that these get-togethers might be dead feels like accepting that my family might be dead too. We came together again over the summer for another family reunion, something I never expected to happen again, and it went surprisingly well. But the tension was still there, the brokenness, the division, the discomfort at being in the same room together. Even though we managed to get along and have fun, we’re still splintered, fragmented, scattered.
I hope my family will find its way back to each other again someday. That they’ll find a way to forgive one another for their mistakes and blatant acts of relationship treason. But I’m mostly prepared for the worst. That the days of family holidays and reunions and fireworks and opening presents and prayers over turkey and singing hymns in grandma and grandpa’s living room really are over forever and there’s just no salvaging what is broken in us.
I don’t believe the cultural tradition of family reunions and holidays are dead forever. I know we’ll all come back to them one day, when we realize we still need them. But there are things in life you cannot control, and one of those things is your family, and for my family…this may be the end.
So here’s to my makjang family in our melodrama life, what’s left of it. They may be dysfunctional, but we had some good times, and I’ll cherish them for as long as I can.
Come Here and Hug Me
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