the need for a fam­ily break

It’s not just the out­siders who need to take a break from the idio­syn­cra­sies of a large fam­ily.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - With PAT MCDER­MOTT

The Bureau of Sta­tis­tics says the av­er­age house­hold will soon be two adults, 1.8 chil­dren and a cat! The MOTH (Man of the House) looked pretty re­laxed about the di­rec­tion so­ci­ety was tak­ing. “Ex­tended fam­i­lies might dis­ap­pear,” I said sadly.

“Not if my fam­ily has any­thing to do with it,” he said.

He makes a good point. The McDer­motts con­tinue to mer­rily marry and mul­ti­ply. The MOTH has three sis­ters and three broth­ers and the whole tribe is the size of a small coun­try town. There are aun­ties and un­cles and cousins by the dozen.

A wed­ding or a fu­neral, or just Sun­day lunch, can see 34 peo­ple stand­ing in your kitchen drink­ing beer and ar­gu­ing.

Back­yard cricket is guaranteed.

“Lis­ten Up! The bound­aries are the rose bushes with the big red flow­ers on one side and those pink and white thin­gos on the other.”

The pink and white “thin­gos” are next door’s prizewin­ning camel­lias. Next door’s name is “SORRY Mr Saun­ders!”

Ex­tended fam­i­lies are mini eco­nomic units. Need an elec­tri­cian,a teacher, a nurse, a writer? Here we are. We’ll do the work cheap.

We’re also a sub­sidiary of the coun­try’s postal ser­vice. We carry birth­day gifts, baby clothes and fruit cake wher­ever we go. A phone call to one of us will get you a job ref­er­ence, a piece of ad­vice, a com­fort­able bed and a cooked break­fast.

I be­lieve the Guggen­heim is keen to ac­quire our world­class col­lec­tion of plas­tic con­tain­ers, es­pe­cially the ones with­out lids.

The McDer­motts are di­vided into two main groups: The In­sid­ers (the MOTH and his broth­ers and sis­ters) and the Out­siders (the peo­ple, like me, who mar­ried them).

A few weeks ago we met in a town by the sea to spend some time to­gether. Our 43 adult chil­dren told us to drive care­fully, ring when we got there, and not to ar­gue with each other. “Think about stay­ing even longer,” they in­sisted.

Some drove north and some drove south, and we met in the mid­dle. A quick drive down Main Street con­firmed there were plenty of ho­tels, bars, restau­rants and cafés for us all to dis­agree on.

At the ho­tel the In­sid­ers went to check out each other’s rooms. “What are they – 10 years old?” mut­tered a fel­low Out­sider. Sib­ling ri­valry dies hard. Who had the big bed­room or the best wardrobe “back in the day” still ran­kles.

Be­fore din­ner we took pho­tos. A kindly waiter of­fered to help. In­sid­ers first. Out­siders next. Then all the blokes fol­lowed by all the women, broth­ers then sis­ters, sis­ters-in-law and broth­ers-in-law and, for good mea­sure, a chap from the next ta­ble who was on his way to the men’s room.

It looked like Harry and Meghan’s wed­ding but with­out the hats. Fel­low din­ers were fas­ci­nated. The man­ager was ap­palled. He blew a whis­tle and we sat down.

“Wait till he tries to take our or­ders,” I thought.

The next morn­ing we met at a café on the beach. We ate ba­con and egg rolls and drank ex­cel­lent cof­fee. We shared pho­tos and baby news.

“Where’s the MOTH?” some­body asked.

Then we spot­ted him, sit­ting at a café down the street. He was read­ing the pa­per and watch­ing the waves – alone and happy. Soon we’ll all walk down and ruin his day.

We’re fam­ily. It’s just what we do.

“He was read­ing the pa­per and watch­ing the waves - alone and happy.”

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