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Re-adjusting to extended family

When my husband first decided to retire from the military, we were living in southern Alberta. We naturally assumed that we would settle in the Calgary area – after all, that seems to be the economic “promised land” these days – surely that would be where he’d find a job. But then, almost by accident, he landed a job back in our hometown, in Ontario. We had never even considered that possibility, so when the job came up we felt it must be a sign that we were meant to move home. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to be back where we both grew up, near family and old friends?

Hmmm … not quite.

Now, don’t get me wrong … it has been wonderful to be back. It’s a great city, in a part of the country that we really love. But it’s been interesting re-adjusting to living near relatives again. Families are a funny business, and we were sorely out of practice when it came to dealing with the day-to-day aspects of an extended family.

For example, everyone has their guy – their electrician guy, their plumber guy, their mechanic guy. And they all want you to use their specific guy. Furthermore, their feelings can get quite hurt when you use someone else’s guy … as in “why didn’t you call my paving guy … don’t you like how my driveway looks?”

It’s a home repair minefield that I’ve managed to blow up in several times.

And can we talk about holidays? Not the vacation kind, but the kind that include big family meals? Like Thanksgiving and Christmas? Oh, how quickly noses can get out of joint! Before, we’d just invite over whoever didn’t have anywhere to go – we called it “taking in the strays”. People would show up with a dish, we’d dig in and all was good!

Now, it’s a tip-toe dance through egg shells – and there’s no getting through it unscathed! You could inadvertently forget to use the water pitcher that was a wedding gift from 18 years ago … but that’s not nearly as bad as seating your over-sensitive brother-in-law next to your uncle-with-no-filter. And nothing could be worse than trying to figure out the delicate balance of how much hosting you’re expected to do – too little and you’re a taker … too much and you’re a control freak. Whole volumes could be written on the unwritten rules of family gatherings!

So as we learn to navigate this new territory, we look back on our military days with nostalgia and realize that as odd as some of our meals with the strays ended up being, you never had to worry about what pitcher you used!

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