Family reunions aren’t what they used to be. I realized this when I received an assignment for “my part” in an upcoming family reunion murder mystery. Marvelous idea, especially when you don’t recognize that aunt from Yakima that you haven’t seen in years.
“Ohhh—Aunt Bernice, that’s right—it must be the Viking opera singer costume that threw me.”
Years ago, you prepared for a family reunion by making sure there was enough gas in the tank and lawn chairs in the trunk. The progression from wicker picnic baskets to Igloo coolers crept up rather slowly on the reunion-going crowd. But somewhere around the time when sunscreen came out, reunion-planning careened off a well-worn path and into the hands of societal white-water rafting guides.
Racing down a raging river.
Read that again. You adventurous ones already hear the roaring rapids just around the bend and can’t wait to feel the cool water splash up into your face and the adrenaline coursing through your veins.
But for those of you who’d rather read or chat on the porch of a cabin and venture down to the river to dangle your feet in the water—you can relate to most people who open the invitation to the family reunion only to have a description for “your part” in the murder mystery drop out.
It’s in a sealed envelope. In fact there’s a sealed envelope for each member of your family. Your palms get a little sweaty, your mouth goes dry. Do I open it now or wait until the week before the reunion? If I wait, I’ll have a good excuse for just showing up with a 20” circle of cardboard covered in tin foil—instead of the full gladiator outfit.
The procrastinator in you gets yanked aside by the curious fool in you who hardly ever gets much say in the decisions you make.
“I’ll take this one, thank you very much.”
The fool in you clasps the envelope to his bosom and takes in a deep breath. “And, just who will I get to be?” he says, intoxicated with wildly fantastic characters coming to mind.
“Maybe the Swedish Chef,” he jests. “Or an evil brain surgeon.” He shifts one eye brow down, pausing for dramatic effect. “Or…or a timeless classic, like ZORRO!” he shouts, whipping his épée back and forth, slicing a Z into the air.
Scary. Notice how they’re all people with knives. ‘Might be why the fool in all of us ends most ventures with: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Well, he settles on Grizzly Adams, for now.
He ruffles the shaggy fur of the pet grizzly napping at his feet, then slips a twelve inch Bowie knife up out of his boot. He begins to slide it under the fold of the envelope.
“Wait a minute, aren’t you forgetting me?”
A slim woman jogs up to the door. She seems to always show up just when she’s not needed. Great, it’s that perfect person you always dream that you’ll be some day. She doesn’t live next door, she lives in the back of your mind with a perfect view over your shoulder right where she can jump in with a comment undermining just about everything you do.
She’s the one whose figure is perfect, anything she puts on is gorgeous. Her hair is always the way she wants it—but usually better. Her to do list is done by ten so she cant start getting in your business somewhere around lunch time, just when you’re realizing that all those things you wanted to tackle today aren’t going to get done.
She eyes the envelope and says, “You don’t have that envelope opened up yet! Chop, chop! You could have been on Pinterest for a good 20 minutes by now and have pinned dozens of home-made costume ideas.”
You groan. She makes Martha Stewart look like a first grader. Speaking of first grade. You haven’t heard from your first grade teacher yet. Yes, somehow she’s tucked in the back of your mind, too.
Her voice rings out like it was only yesterday. “Oh, so that’s what you think a giraffe looks like. Interesting. Doesn’t look anything like these!” she says as her thin lips stretch out in an evil, jagged-toothed grin. Somehow she magically fans out every watercolor of every kid in the class. And they all do look so much better.
“Oh, don’t worry, sweetheart, that’s okay, maybe you just aren’t the creative type.” Wait a minute, wasn’t that the same woman who was just telling us the day before that we could be anything we wanted to be?
Yes, she’s in there keeping company with Wet Blanket Wanda who’s ready to douse any spark of enthusiasm you may have about anything. And there’s Pat Answer Patty, the Ever-Hopeful Hannah, Wishful Wendy. There can be any number of voices tucked up there in our little multi-tasking minds.
You really wish they’d all just go away. Don’t you. Why can’t just one woman open an envelope. Really, is that so much to ask?
The thing I learned today: I’ve got a whole lot of voices inside.
In addition to listening to you or listening to God or listening to anyone else, there are a lot folks in this noggin clamoring for my attention. This makes learning to listen seem awfully complex. And hard.
Do you have a lot of company in your head, too? Maybe that does make listening seem complex. Stick with me, there’s a lot we can learn together.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Oh, and don’t worry, you’ll soon find out about “my part” in the family reunion murder mystery party.
Next Learning to Listen post: “Leave Her Alone”