Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Junction

I've been promising my aunts this blog for nearly two weeks. I was supposed to write it right after the fact, but, well, I work 90 hours a weeks and that wasn't happening. After mulling over the details and the nuances (which was a joy, let me tell you) I've finally got all my ducks (and f*cks!) in a row for the dysfunctional family gathering write-up.

I'm glad I waited...

So there we were, another frozen Sunday at the folks' house celebrating yet another goddamn birthday, my little brother's 32nd to be exact (haha, his kids think I'm the youngest sibling). It was around noon when the house filled up with kids (nine to be exact) and coffee and food and appalling language. We all noticed immediately that my father was much stiffer than usual.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Trust me, this is always said with concern.

"I went for a jog this morning with Patti."

You could've heard a frog fart. He looked up from his coffee at our faces, which were genetically and emotionally identical at that moment. Jake broke the silence.

"What the f*ck d'ya do that for?" Good goddamn question, little bro.

Mom piped up from the kitchen, "Because he can't say no, that's why."

"No, no, I wanted to. It was good," Dad said, clutching his chest as took another sip of coffee. "It was good."

The party got underway and about a half hour in, my mother perked up from her half a sandwich and said, "Did you invite Patti?"

Dad paused, "Oh, yeah, I did."

"Thanks for telling me."

"Hon, Patti's coming." His grin turned into a grimace when he went to uncross one leg.

"You're a moron," I said, shaking my head.

My aunt and her family entered the fray, four blonde heads glinting in the light of the living room. Patti was the first to speak.

"Mom hung up on me!"

"What," my mom said. "Why?"

"I told her we were coming here for Jake's party and she said she didn't know anything about it. She just said 'whatever' and hung up."

My mother winced. Her 82-year-old mother doesn't just hang up on people unless she's pissed, and nobody is supposed to piss off Phyllis. It's an unwritten rule after you turn 70.

The kids were shy at first but once they became aware of the destruction and doom happening outside with the other 9 cousins, they bolted out, eager to climb trees and throw sh*t at eachother in between sips of juice boxes.

Another car pulled up. It was Alice, my other aunt. In case you haven't noticed yet, I have a lot of aunts. I am sometimes referred to as the "fifth sister" although my grandmother would never claim me as her own. "I draw the line at six," she'd said.

Alice arrived with two bottles of wine and a giant jar of what looked like preserved turds floating in oil. Before my father could even take the wine or her coat, he shook his head.

"What the f*ck is that?"

"Sopressata. My neighbor is Italian. Apparently he thinks I need a jar in case the world ends." She set the disturbing floating turds down. "Mom hung up on me!"

"Me, too," Patti said. My mother shot a hate glance at my father.

"I'm calling her to explain. I don't want her to think I didn't invite her."

The day progressed nicely. My aunt Patti tried to gently convince me that I needed to become part of some jewelry cult and have selling parties. I laughed. My mom laughed harder.

"I don't do candles, bags, jewelry or cookware...ever,"I said. "If they start having lure parties or pole parties, or hell, even toy parties, I might."

Jake piped up from his slouching stance against the sink. "You could put one of those earrings on a lure and get some fish that way. They like shiny things."

After the offer of a girl party was behind us, the second item on the list, and this happens almost every time, came. Patti patted her stomach and just as I was about to take a swig of coffee she said, "I'm joining Weight Watchers." Then a breath. "You look so skinny, how much do you weigh?"

A room full of people, mind you, and I am NOT skinny. I just have a worn face.

"About a buck 30 on a good day. Why the f*ck are you joining Weight Watchers? You run every day. Dad's almost dead from this morning."

"Ehhh, portion control." She crunched on a carrot stick. I looked at Alice, who is all of 100 pounds.

"I must've missed something," she said, sipping at her wine.

We decided it would be a good idea to make sure the children hadn't eaten eachother. Outside, on the "terrace" we met up with my grandmother, who arrived, a bit angry, but still able to color coordinate her shoes with her scarf and brooch. The giant post-cataract surgery sunglasses nearly ate her face. She sidled over to us, nearly gusting away with the wind.

"Hi ladies," she said, trying to keep her sunglasses on her face. We stood, me, gram and Alice, watching the children pretend to kill eachother in the yard. Alice's gaze levelled on Anna.

"Did you notice she's getting whiter?" she asked. My grandmother nearly choked. I just laughed, hard, for about 5 minutes.

"Yeah, I need to take her to the city again."

"I meant, she looks paler. Not"

"It's ok, there's no right way to say it." The conversation died in the breeze. Alice ran to her car to get a very belated birthday gift for more grandmother.

"Come help me," she said. "We can present it together." She was snickering.

I looked in the bag and there, next to a nice manual on how to care for lilies, was the brightest pair of Crocs, yellow, I've ever seen in my life. Ever. It hurt to look at them.

"What the f*ck are those. I'm serious, what the f*ck are those?"

"Glow in the dark Crocs," she said, laughing. "Now we'll never lose her at night."

"Now she's gonna be out there gardening in the dark. The neighbors will call."

"Yup, but we'll know where she is."

Phyllis appreciated the shoes, and thankfully the sunglasses stayed on for the transaction.

The afternoon sank into wine and some old Margarita mix Dad dug out of the fridge. The baby was passed from hands to hands until she pooped, the children escaped injury and my brother liked the Leatherman I got for him. He even offered to give my older brother the free little one that came with it.

"You can trim your nails with it," he said.

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