Why can’t we all just get along? Whenever family comes visiting, everyone starts bickering.

I know everyone anticipates these visits from relatives – we plan for them, put crisp sheets on the beds, shop for food we hope they’ll enjoy, spruce up the house, and try to make things inviting and wonderful. We greet each other with hugs and exclamations of delight.

 By the second day of the visit we can’t wait until it’s bedtime and there’s a few minutes of peace and quiet. By the end of the fourth day, you wonder if you’re going to survive. And by the sixth day, you’re ready to move into a motel.

I don’t know if this is true with everyone, or it’s just my relatives. No one seems to like anyone else in my family. The women are chomping at the bit to get into a cat fight. Petty jealousies are rampant. We criticize each other’s food, clothing, and shelter.

Perhaps other families don’t do this. You ask someone casually if they enjoyed the visit with their relatives, and they always say, “Oh yes, it was just great seeing everyone and we did so many things together.”

Well, my family does things together, too. Any women together talk about the one who isn’t there. That’s our main topic of conversation, and I hate to admit it. If someone in the family is in trouble in any way, than that one gets to be the topic of conversation, with speculation on how they ended up the way they did, and how you saw it coming a long time ago, and what they should have done if they were smart, which they weren’t. They were stupid.

Quite frankly, I don’t know what else women would talk about, and this may be true for men too, though the men I know don’t seem to want to engage in this sort of thing for long – mostly because they don’t want to engage in any conversation for long. I know the nicest people who still end up slicing people to shreds; they simply do it with less venom and an appearance of deep concern. “I wonder why she drinks so much. She’s such a nice person, and yet when she drinks she gets loud and she gets that look on her face like this, that really just makes her so unattractive and I just want to tell the poor dear to…”

So there have been many testy nerves, some slamming doors, a lot of rolling eyes, a few raised eyebrows, sideways glances, and assorted other signs to tell someone else that we’re not happy with the way the others around us are conducting themselves.

But when it’s time for the company to leave, there will be tears of sorrow, we’ll miss you’s, come back when you can stay longer’s, and begging them not wait so long to visit. Then when the car doors close and they’re driving away, I for one will flop into a chair, let out a huge sigh, and start complaining that I don’t know why they couldn’t have stayed a couple of days longer.