Mom – well, mom. I thought it was kinda self-explanatory.
Carl – Mom’s boyfriend. She hates it when i call him that, but it sounds better than live-in lover.
Nanny D. – mom’s mom
Papa – mom’s dad
Bub – my brother
Adrian – my father. no, i don’t call him Dad. He’s so un-Dad like. Daddy-O would be more appropriate.
glenda – my aunt (father’s sister), and yes, her name is lowercase on purpose.
Little nanny – father’s mom
Grampy – father’s dad
Tammy – my mother’s youngest sister. She’s five months younger than me. She may be my aunt, but we fight like sisters.
Becky – her daughter, same age as Sarah, only 5 days older.
Ronnie – some friend of my brother’s who came too. i don’t know why, and I don’t really care.
So the big day had arrived, and I was driving down the highway to Saint John to meet my extended family for dinner. On the radio, OMC’s “How Bizarre” started playing. “An omen…” I thought to myself. I was right.
We all met outside the restaurant in the trendy downtown half-dead mall, trickling in by small family groups. Safety in numbers, don’tcha know. Little Nanny and Grampy were there first, of course. They managed to get a drive from their downtown apartment early, but they enjoyed watching the world go by. At the first sight of my mother in a couple years, Little Nanny said “My word, what has she done to her hair?” Um, coloured it, again?
Earlier, I had predicted to a friend what each guest would wear, and wouldn’t you know, I was mostly right. I can’t remember dates or names, but I have an amazing memory for clothes.
Anyway, the bulk of our party moved forward and caused much commotion as we moved to our reserved spot. Bub was already sitting there waiting, probably steeling himself. I gave him a big hug and rubbed his reddish-blond goatee. “What’re ya doin’,” I said laughing, “Following Ron’s trend?” Its tough when your little brother towers above you.
After we settled down, and started the small talk around menus, Carl leans over and asks where Ron was. Well, he had to fix someone’s computer, and there was a church meeting he should have gone to, plus he was really tired.. Carl saw right through me. “You should have made him come suffer with the rest of us”.
Actually he would not have enjoyed himself, ergo neither would I. So I guess you could say it worked out.
I had a very large plate full of jumbo shrimp stir fry. mmmmm.. I commented on how I hardly eat any shellfish anymore, since Ron really doesn’t like it…something to do with where shrimp & lobster come from and what they eat. Someone pointed out that he’ll eat eggs, won’t he?
The waitress tried desperately to include Sarah and Becky on the deal they had for kids. They eat for a penny a pound as long as they choose from the 4 items on the kid’s menu and are under eight. (one child per adult) I kept protesting loudly from the other end of the table “But they’re NINE!”
Presents were handed round at convenient intervals. Mostly cards with thin paper thingys inside.
Zellers money from Nanny & Papa, in a guilt inducing “for a far away granddaughter” card.
a cheque from Little Nanny and Grampy. (“You spend that on yourself, mind!”)
a picture of a new housecoat from the Sears catalogue from mom (and presumably carl), which is on its way, to be picked up at a Sears depot near me.
glenda works in the main library, so she copied the newspaper from the day I was born. Funny stuff. Bread was 39 cents and color tvs were $700.
Adrian kinda went a little nuts. It made sense when he said he just got paid. Being a musician, the money is usually meager and not very often, so I guess I caught him at a very good time. He gave me some satsuma orange bubble bath from the body shop, a terry’s chocolate orange (was there a theme?), actually he gave me two of them because he couldn’t decide if I’d like the milk or dark chocolate better, a Madrigal CD (I’m waffling on that one), and two birthday cards, again, because he couldn’t decide which one was better.
“Are you going to eat all that?”
“Ohmigod! Your kid ate the whole thing!”
“Mom, my tummy hurts”
“Are we having dessert?”
Becky to me: “You’re like, really old now, right?”
“You know, I always thought Andrea would wind up thin like your side of the family…” gee thanks.
“You’re wearing a tie and suit jacket, who died?”
“Take me now, lord, anytime would be good.” *ahem* that was me, at several points.
I did get to discuss surreptitiously with Carl about a cool idea I had for Mom’s 50th birthday. I’ll tell you if you e-mail me, but I don’t want her to read this…not that she comes here, but I did tell her once… I told Carl about this (no URL’s mentioned) and all he said was “Well, tomorrow will be interesting.” You got that right.
Sometime between the main course and dessert, Grampy opened up one of their many bags and hauled out photo albums. What’s the point of a family gathering without embarrassing pictures? I delighted in showing Carl the picture of my mother in paisley pants. Adrian tried to hide the photos of himself. I pointed out our missionary photo. Mom said a friend of hers had seen that picture and asked if my husband was a minister. We also discussed how I ran away when I was five (I don’t remember), and when they found me I told them I was Christmas shopping for mom. Downtown by myself?
I thanked the waitress for not putting 30 candles on my cake. It was a tiny one, so Mom got her to bring out another one, but we wound up cutting only two more slices from it. They sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of their lungs, adding “THIRTIETH” as well, so I think they heard them singing outside.
Two hours later, we staggered out, and moved en masse to the lobby fountain for the traditional pictures. I also made Mom and Adrian get their picture taken with me. I think it was something like 28 years since the last one. Adrian thought it was a hysterical idea, and Mom sort of couldn’t comprehend it for a moment.
I had a really good time, so did others. Adrian and glenda had split a bottle of wine, so he was feeling pretty good by the end. He gave me a big hug (hard for a skinny man such as himself), and said, real serious, that if I ever needed anything, anything, just give him a call. Well, except for money.
I had an unusually excellent time. It was enjoyable watching people dance around each other, trading partners that were chosen for them by fate or God, shuffling through shared memories, waltzing past the years. If it takes a village to raise a child, most of my village was there. Only thing is, I couldn’t figure out which was the village idiot.
Family: can’t get rid of ’em, can’t shoot ’em either. I’ve broken Ron’s Rule: “There is something to be said for relatives; you have to say it, because it’s unprintable.”