Some tribes in West Australia have a complex kinship system and insist on an identifying procedure for admitting a stranger into camp. The stranger stays at some distance from the camp until a few of the older men approach him. Then they question him as to his family connections until they find a link with their own family (everyone in the camp is related to each other in some way or another). Then the stranger can be admitted to the camp. If not, he is regarded as an enemy, and it would be best for him to wander further.
My wife, Rosamond, (a second marriage for both of us) is Jewish and a member of an extensive tribe within the Tribe. I am reminded of this at every wedding, bar or bat mitzvah, or the occasional funeral. Only her mother and an aunt stands between her and full matriarchy, but no hurry. There are brothers and a sister which bring nieces and nephews,and cousins primary, secondary, and tertiary. Then there are the faces whose names I do not know because I see them only at these events, but who are related somehow, and who seem pleased to see me (and I, them). All this springs to mind because we attended a wedding in Fort Myers, Florida this last weekend, a wedding of one of the sons of one of Rosamond’s cousins to a nice Catholic girl (tall, blond, a smile as big as the Ritz). She, like me, is now part of the tribe, although I sense that not everyone is happy about it. Let them eat matzo is what I say.
I flew down just after the nor’easter, snow still on the lawn but not the runway. Florida warmth was welcome after our double whammy, Sandy and then the snow and more wind. We enjoyed a rehearsal buffet Friday night, a cocktail party at the bride’s parents’ home the next night, and then Sunday afternoon the wedding outside overlooking the water with more cocktails after and then dinner and dancing. Very nice. Lots of hugging. Lots of hora.
For my part, I am the patriarch, but I reign over a group more like a gaggle than a tribe. Just my children, their spouses and their children. If I count the dogs, cats, sheep, chickens, and pigeons I can lay claim to a larger realm, but it is hard to remember all their names.