In late May, one of my uncles invited us to his son’s engagement party. Given that we’re not so close to our extended relatives; plus it’s my uncle who invited us to the party and not my cousin, my sisters and I had contemplated bailing. On the eve of his son’s engagement, my uncle called dad to confirm if we were going. We were almost going to say no, but then we thought; he’d been asking us to go out for lunch with him since February this year so we figured we could kill two birds with one stone – attend the party and still visit our uncle. We agreed.
The next day we showed up at his place, where he’d thrown the engagement party. As with parties, guests had divided into groups. The old folks were sitted outside on the back porch doing some catching up over beer and barbecued meat while some male cousins gathered outside my cousin’s house drinking and sharing whatever stories guys talk about; think, cars, girls, sports, flings…etc.
Me, my sisters and our female cousins were in our cousin’s living room making small talk and when we were out of stories, one dozed off on the couch, while her young six-year old daughter engaged my small sis and I in idle childish banter – which I actually did enjoy; another left with one of our male cousins, who I’d never met before that day, to go get some chocolate for her heavily pregnant sister (she delivered five days later) and the rest of us kept ourselves busy watching an episode of ‘keeping up with the Kardashians’ for lack of something better to watch on TV.
One of my highlights for that day was when our expectant cousin let my sisters and I feel her son kicking. That might be of no significance to anyone else, but what made me cherish that little gesture was the fact that she told us her son only kicked when she was alone or with people she was comfortable around. According to her, her unborn son had never kicked when she was in her mom’s presence. So, yeah, that was a big deal to me. It felt good for once, to not feel like outsiders in our own family. Not that it matters though.
Much later, slightly after dusk, we were all summoned to gather in my uncle’s living room. Since it was a chilly night, there were pieces of wood burning in the fireplace and that had everyone feeling all warm and cosy. My dad’s oldest brother, being the eldest of the siblings had the honour of inviting guest after guest, who all stood in turn to give advice/congratulate the young couple.
Mom was among the last people to give her share of advice. And whatever she said stuck with me; not out of bias because she’s my own mother, but because most of what she said was based on her own relationship with dad. Knowing how much she has suffered in her marriage, I paid close attention to every word that left her mouth and the more she spoke the more I saw sense in it all.
Among the things she pointed out was that marriage, as the cliché goes, is not a smooth road; couples will differ in opinion, and difficult circumstances will push them up a wall, where they are tempted to give up on each other, but based on how they handle the situation, they might enjoy the happily ever after.
She said that if there are differences between the two, they should be ironed out amicably. Most importantly, when there’s something important to discuss, it should be done with both of them sober. She said nowadays young people are drinking too much and that alone could pose a big problem.
Mom precisely asked my cousin not to take a detour to a bar first before getting home if he needs to tell his fiancée something important – dutch courage and all… The alcohol, as she explained, would only worsen the situation, because she would just assume he’s drunk and therefore wouldn’t take him seriously.
His fiancée on the other hand, shouldn’t go gossiping about her marital problems with friends who won’t do anything to help. Instead, she should seek advice from someone she’s confident can help; for instance, any of the older women in the room, who already knew a thing or two about married life.
Most importantly, when they can’t seem to reach an agreement on something, they shouldn’t fight; throwing punches never solved a thing; on the contrary, that aggravates the situation. When there’s something bugging them, they should go over it when they’re both calm, that way there won’t be blows flying in the air. And when a few years down the line they feel they can’t stand each other, they should remember why they singled each other out of all the men and women they knew.