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COLUMN: Pardon me if I skip the next family event

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 10:10 a.m. CDT; updated 12:24 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If you live in a cave and don’t have a mailbox, you’ll be OK. You won’t have to worry over the dozens of invitations to weddings, anniversaries, commencement exercises and bridal showers that come courting this time of year.

Experience in this matter has served me well. I learned my lesson about weddings several years ago. These days I only attend ceremonies and receptions for first marriages. The last second-marriage reception that I attended did me in.

The wedding was for a son of two close friends. The first challenge came with identification of the children. They fell into three categories: his, hers and theirs. The parents had also divorced and remarried. That meant that there was her husband, his wife, her children and his. I spent the evening as a guest coordinator for the many new friends and acquaintances that had gathered. I had the duty of introducing everybody to everybody else, and in the end I felt like a limp piece of meat sandwiched between two slices of bread.

I don’t do bridal showers. I’ve know too many people who have gone overboard on gifts for these occasions only to have the bride and groom fall out of love before the gift membership to the health club was paid.

These are happy family events that people like to share. But things are a lot more complicated than they used to be. Extended families used to consist of close friends; now, a lot of them share biology.

Most anniversaries are still enjoyable. Spending time with people who have been married for a long time makes you feel that marriage can be for a lifetime.

I have attended enough graduation exercises that I know to ask who is delivering the commencement address. I am gratified that many graduates choose a member of their class That is a good decision. When they choose someone from their own age group, the speaker knows what the class needs to hear about and what it doesn’t.

I have heard the worst and the best of these speeches. The worst advice I’ve heard was at a community college. The speaker had his own radio talk show. His speech sounded as if it had been written for a group of used-car salesmen. He told the graduates the most important thing was to try to find jobs where they could make the most money. He told them they needed to forget about friends and enjoying themselves and concentrate on making money because they had all the time in the world for everything else. I considered walking out several times, but I didn’t want to embarrass my family by doing so.

The best speech I heard was at my own high school baccalaureate ceremony. It was short and sweet. The speaker was the president of one of the historic Negro colleges. He advised me and my fellow graduates to do three things: get some religion in our souls, some education in our brains and some money in our pockets. It was advice most of my class absorbed and remembered.

Although it is not officially on the list of family celebrations, I did once get invited to a divorce party. It was strictly a female event. The former wife did not bore us with the dreary details of how, when or why the marriage failed. She treated us instead to a lively account of her future plans as a newly single woman. We drank toasts to her new beginnings and a good time was had by all.

I make it a point to tell people who send me invitations that even though I may not attend the affair, I will always find a way to let them know that I wish them well.

One way I can be absolutely honest about this is to stay home. Sometimes, absence is its own reward.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.

 


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