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[Family drama] My makjang family


Graceful Family

By OhSoEnthusiastic

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.


Family Secrets

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.

Broken.

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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Thank you for the write up. Your family sound like the family culture here in my little south east asian country. Or at least how it used to be. 20-30 years ago, families, even extended families always find reasons to gather, during weddings, or eid. During weddings, the ladies of the families will be at the bride/groom's family house as early as a week before, as those days, all the food for the festivities are prepared by the family themselves, instead of using catering services like we do now. So there's tons to be done, house and dais to decorate. There's even some assigned just to prepare meals for families preparing for the big day. Everybody sleep everywhere all over the family house, and everybody know everyone. But as time goes by, economic pressure rose, lifestyle change, people move to big cities, we just dont have as much time to dedicate to spending time with families, let alone extended families. Wedding buffets are now served by caterers. Families attend wedding for just maybe and hour or so, to eat and congrats the couple and parents. We start to knowing only immediate families, only seeing cousins maybe once every 2-3 years. Gone were the days when everybody knows everyone.

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Oh, how sad to loose such a tradition.

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Change is inevitable, i guess. We so many, in turn we lose quite a lot.

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True on both accounts.

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Oh how you made me nostalgic... This is exactly how it used to be with us too. Everyone came to help and cooked together...

Nowadays people come to the weddings for two hours to eat and give the envelope with the money and go home. They don’t even stay for the phot with the groom and bride. It’s a little sad how cold weddings have become in recent years.

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Weddings back in the days were quite a big event, isn't it?. Back then, it was a sort of entertainment too, and there were not that many entertainment available in the village, no cable TV, internet or malls. So people sing, dance, and enjoy themselves during these weddings.

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:< big same

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I admire you for sharing@ohsoenthusiastic. I hope your family finds healing for their rifts and wounds.
I never connected my aversion to Makjang family drama (and angst in general) to my family history. But I think I don't like them for the same reason as you.
Your family story is familiar to me (although my last name is not Odum or any spelling variation thereof). I grew up in a very tight extended family with family reunions and get-togethers too. But I also grew up sheltered and oblivious of the pain and trouble right under the surface. On one side, divorce and a blended family that did not blend at all and on the other side, a history of alcoholism and neglect. Honestly, I wish I could still be oblivious, but that is part of growing up, right?
There are members of my family who are able to forgive and move on and others who are not. I have learned so much watching these two groups and it has helped me to know what kind of person I want to be.
It hurts to have family divided against each other and the distance can seem to be an impasse. I have found hope, though, in realizing that I can choose what legacy I will leave to the next generation in my family. Just because I inherited it, doesn't mean I have to keep it.
Family is hard work, but it is also the greatest work we can do.

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'Just because I inherited it, doesn't mean I have to keep it.' I think that's the key right there. Seeing the dysfunction and division and choosing to live your life differently because you want to create a future that's different from the past.

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This reminds me of the reunions I went to when I was a kid. My dad has 8 siblings and a family reunion usually involved his cousins and such too. So there was never enough room to sleep. I once went to sleep in the space between a bed and a cupboard (only enough for one person) and woke up under the bed with three other people between me and the said cupboard.

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We were never completely out of space for everyone, but the kids were definitely the ones sleeping on the floor and the couch. Granted, I'm 32 but still the youngest, so it hasn't changed much for me, lol.

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You nailed it, @ohsoenthusiastic! Family traditions include a lot of family reunions where family secrets are just whispered about. My mother's side of the family comes together every Christmas. And as we grew up, some cousins migrated and we were left to continue the traditions. That is the time where you pretend not to hear snide comments by cousins about your sister(s), be surprised that your cousin living abroad has a new husband, be more surprised (and slightly annoyed) to learn that a cousin who lives abroad came to the country and didn't even say hello. Nowadays, I am afraid that when I leave this world, I don't think my children will come to these reunions if I'm not there. Four generations of our family will come together again this Christmas and I hope that when the last of the first generation goes, we (the 2nd) will still be doing this reunions.

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Like I said to @michykdrama below, I really do think family reunions will come back in vogue eventually when people realize they still need family. We're just in a lull right now.

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❤️ this topic is close to my heart.

I also am from a large extended family kept close by my grandparents who insisted on us all gathering together during important occasions- their birthdays, holidays etc. They were the glue that filled any cracks between family members and (forcibly at times) kept us all together.

But my grandfather passed away 9 years ago and though my grandmother welcomed her 9th great grandchild recently, i know she won’t be around forever.

And I know things won’t be the same once she is gone. And I know my family will go the way yours has and it will be a very sad day when things all start falling apart.

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I think those of us who are old enough to remember these reunions and the immense value they can bring to a family but who are still young enough to come up with fresh, new ideas for how to keep them going without it feeling like everyone is forced to show up will have to be the ones to re-forge those old connections. That or the next generation that's growing up now will start hearing the stories from their parents about th old reunions and they'll want to experience it for themselves so they'll start planning their own. Either way, I do think family get-togethers will come back in style again, because everything is cyclical, but also because families need each other, as much as they might sometimes wish they didn't.

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My family has simply scattered- from coast to coast, North to South, with all kinds of things happening to or with my siblings and cousins. It makes a family re-union very difficult to put together.

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The advent of modern travel making it so much easier to move from place to place has really changed the family dynamic, hasn't it? I like the ease and convenience and affordability, but I can't help but be sad at what we've lost because of it.

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I am the only one who's ten of thousand of miles away from my big extended family, and I missed these big reunions. It's also sad to hear that my family and extended family do not meet as regularly anymore. Whenever I go back hone, only my family will gather and even then the younger generation are mostly glued to their cellphone. No more interaction like me and my cousins used to do.

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'No more interaction like me and my cousins used to do.' That's probably one of the saddest parts for me. I have extended relatives I'm just not really going to see much anymore, if at all, and that's a link that I hate to see end.

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Thanks for the write-up , I love it and I hope and wish for the mending of your fragments and family @ohsoenthusiastic

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Thank you for the comment. I appreciate it.

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Honestly, what happens in makjangs is horrible in real life. Horrible. I think as children a family gathering is exciting but as we get older it just seems like hard work. Families are messy and extended families are even messier. My own has some astonishing makjang stories in it beneath a veneer of normal suburban life. And as the world changes we've learned that it's okay to say no to that kind of hard work. Still, it's a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater as it were.

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Yeah, you have to be really passionate and dedicated to planning family get-togethers if you're going to be in charge of them. I think what made it work in most families was that everyone took part in the planning, so it wasn't too much work for one person. But it's a different story when not everyone is totally on board, or maybe everyone wants to get together, but no one wants to help plan said get-together, and that's just...kind of the culture in families nowadays. Everybody likes to keep to themselves and let other people do the work.

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