Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Harpies Christmas

The Christmas shopping season appears to have started a little early this year. I'm already seeing TV ads for special deals, layaway (which has made a welcome comeback among financially-strapped shoppers). According to a news segment I saw yesterday, the best deals are to be had before Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

So...while I save my favorite Christmas memories for the Twelve Days of Christmas, there are some not-so-great memories of Christmases past that can be shared early in the season. In fact, this one seems more appropriate for Hallowe'en, when I think about it. Especially since I always referred to two of Mom's sisters, Norma and Bert, as The Harpies....

My mother and her sisters had a tradition...every year, just before Christmas, Mom and her four sisters, Bert, Bessie, Vi and Norma, plus my cousin Eunice, Bert's daughter, who lived with her mother, would have a luncheon at Bert's home. Bert was an excellent cook and often made so much food, everyone left with large containers of whatever was served. They'd exchange gifts. Eventually, Vi passed away and Bessie ended up in a nursing home. That was when Mom stopped enjoying the luncheons, though she still attended every year.

Bessie's only child, Leoma (did this family know how to name their kids, or what?), who was about Mom's age, became a regular fixture at the luncheons, along with her husband Jack. When I was growing up, I had only admiration for Leoma and Jack. They were great parents who'd raised four very bright kids, one of whom became a Baptist pastor. But people change. Things happen. And without going into detail, I lost all respect for them. So did Mom. So while she continued to go to the annual Christmas get-together, she always came home angry, relating the latest offenses of her niece and her husband.

"Why do you do it, Mom?" I'd ask. "Why do you go, knowing they're going to be there?"

"I'd have to stop seeing Bert," was Mom's reasoning. "No matter when I go to see her, they're almost always around."

"Well, maybe you have to stop seeing her, too," I said. "Is it really worth the aggravation? I know she's your sister and you love her--though I'm not quite sure why--but this is not good for you." 

They even tagged along when Bert came to visit Mom in the hospital after she'd had a stroke. That worried me. And then they came to her funeral--not because they gave a damn about her, but because they were, as usual, sucking up to Bert.

Okay, we can't choose our family--but we can choose which ones we have contact with. Has anybody got any nuisance relatives you find hard to tolerate? Could you cut ties with someone you care about to be free of someone you don't?


  1. It's true, we can't choose our families, which is why it's sad when we can't learn to get along with them. It's a shame when one family member's beliefs can't be put aside to at least get along with another family member. But I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who no longer gets to spend holidays with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins because my Mom and her sister no longer speak. I didn't get a choice in the matter, and that really sucks because their feud is putting me in the middle.

    1. I've been there, Carla. I always loved my Mom's youngest brother, my Uncle Tommy. A rift between him and Mom had the same impact on me. He died shortly before she did. I never got to see him again, never got to say goodbye to him.

  2. For me, it's my sisters who really have done that. The relationship with both of them has been destroyed, and it goes back a long way. It's hard to feel any familial bond when I feel they don't care in the least about my life, when they have always held me in contempt, and when I've been emotionally abused for years on end.

    Sometimes all we can do to help ourselves is to break ties completely.

  3. My particular harpies are my two sisters, and what they've done was going for years. Their behaviour, their personalities, their choices, all of that just kept building up and up. I kept my mouth shut and put up with it for years on end to keep the peace in the family, and in the end, it was all for nothing. They treated my parents abominably, and never once apologized for it.

    It's very hard to have a family bond to anyone who shows no sign of caring less about me, who treated me with contempt, and whose actions basically come down to emotional abuse. I had no choice but to cut all ties to them.

    1. Sometimes, when a relationship is damaged beyond repair, there's no recourse but to walk away.

  4. Well... I stay away but then again I'm not acknowledged by my maternal grandparents since I converted to Judaism and married a Jewish man. At least I don't have to hear my grandfather freak out in public at having to share a diner with an African American family on Christmas Day anymore.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. Ha.... My Mother in law called me a slut to everyone who would listen. We paid for vacations, invited them on our vacations went over her home for awful dinner where I smiled and I did lots of dishes so I could breathe. My x took her side always and would never confront her. When my son was little he was 5 ? and he asked my why she didn't like me ?
    She hated me till the day she died no matter what I did never was good enough.
    My family who lived a state over never got to see me much because my x was a jerk around them. And they where so nice to them.
    I regret never telling the whole family to drop dead grab the kids and go see my Mum.
    I was so stupid !

    cheers, parsnip

    1. You're not stupid, Gayle. Sometimes, we try to be the peacemaker in the family, only to discover we've become the doormat. My mom tried not to notice when her two sisters treated her like a second-class citizen...but I know it hurt her deeply.

  6. sometimes i just think about that.. its really hard... let go of some of my friends just to cut of ties with some certain people.. I found myself guilty. But I have to move on and face the reality...


  7. That's really tough:(. I've never had a relative make me so angry I'd want to cut ties. Needless to say, I don't have a very large family!


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