We all took the van over to the other island to see my family. My father and his girlfriend in the front, my babies in the middle and my sister and I in the back sharing the headphones of my MP3 player. I played stupid songs for her, and we laughed.
We both noticed our father’s stare in the mirror, he smiled and said, “I have the two most beautiful daughters”.

I felt 12 again, sitting in the cab of my father’s truck as we drove up to his house. He’d reach out and hold my hand the entire drive up. Sometimes he’d say that to me with that fatherly smile, “I have the most beautiful daughter.” I told him later that it wouldn’t be long before his last daughter is grown. He patted Tempest’s head, “But now I have grandchildren.” My wave of offspring begins now, and my sister’s has another decade or more. It will be perfect timing – mine will be coming out of that childish innocence right when she’ll be starting to think about having babies.
My sister is 12. When she was showing me the design on her top I realized that was a bra strap on her shoulder and not part of the shirt. She wasn’t wearing one the last time I saw her. The pull between sibling and mother figure is strong: I felt an irresistible urge to snap it.

Seeing my family wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. Xan slept through most of the car ride, which was a surprise: he usually screams in unholy terror for the entire ride. I’ve given up on trying to calm him down: nothing works.
Tempest slept for part of the ride, and slept peacefully through Xan’s rising shriek in the very last stretch.

Stu looks little like his father as a grown man, thank god. I haven’t seen him in years and a part of me worried he’d grow to resemble him. I am not fond my uncle (related by marriage, my aunt is the bloodline). He’s odd. Stu wasn’t nearly as pompous as I saw him last. He seems to have been humbled by the big city experience. When I asked him what New York was like, he replied, “The exact opposite of here in every way.” The streets go for miles, and the buildings go higher. He relived his fist experience for me, standing outside a subway and looking up… and up, and up and up. Small town kids. We grew up on the same street together.
We used to play Ghostbusters in the back yard and climb the fence into the endless farmland behind us to taunt oxen and watch small planes land and deliver supplies.
There was a secret path that led behind the homes, between the trees on the entire block. You could reach anyone’s house that way.
I have a photograph on my wall of us with our arms around each other, holding a frizbee and mugging for the camera. His then two year old sister is naked standing behind us. Always edging in on our fun.

I hadn’t seen her in over five years. She’s a woman, she’s in her 20’s, she’s lovely and graceful and nothing like the teenager with hunched shoulders, the perky little eight year old or the obnoxious toddler that was a perpetual target for our nerf guns and whiffle balls. It was surreal thinking about my childhood with them, realizing how long it had been since I’d even glimpsed them and how different they are now.

We didn’t stay long enough for dinner, so I didn’t get to experience any finicky meals, although the entire atmosphere seemed much more relaxed.
I ate three metric tonnes of chex mix. My aunt makes some sort of holiday mix that she’s infamous for: it is truly the food of the gods. She’s also a skilled chocolateer. Dye her hair and call her Martha Stewart; her home is immaculate and completely unchanged from twenty years ago. I go nuts if I don’t rearrange the furniture once every few months, but even if I was stricken blind I could still find my way through her house a decade from now.

I didn’t see my nana. My father and Laurie left us at the house to visit her briefly. He didn’t ask if I wanted to come, and I was grateful. When he came back he said she was sleeping. She doesn’t open her eyes anymore, he only knew because she was snoring softly.
She used to pick me up after school and make me practice my clarinet on her livingroom floor. I had a bad habit of saying “right?” after every sentence: “So I was at school, right? And then I met this guy, right? And we talked all about cats, right?” etc… she became so irritated with this that she told me she would start saying ‘left’ every time I said ‘right’ to make me stop.
“So I was at school, right?”
“Left.”
“And the teacher was being so mean, right?”
“Left.”

It worked quickly.

I don’t want to see her so close to death that she cannot even find the will or conscious to open her eyes and look at the faces she hasn’t recognized in years. She met Tempest and called me “Jennifer”. We had pictures taken, and forgot my daughter’s name three times in five minutes. She showed me a letter that my father’s older sister had written. His sister was grown by the time he was old enough to remember her, and he never sees her. She’s probably in her 70’s now.
That was the last time I visited her. Tempest was six weeks old.

I wanted to know more of her stories. She was born in a forest fire; her mother died after she dropped her on the step of a schoolhouse where everyone had gathered to escape the flames. The note read, “Her name is Barbara”.

Everyone was taken with Xan, his chub, and how much darker he is than Tempest. Stu thought Xan’s blue Swaddlebee pocket was a speedo and said it would do him good in Italy where, “They love their Speedos”.

We went out for dinner at a funny little place. Xan fell asleep on the bench next to me. I split a dessert with my sister, but it was so rich that we ended up splitting it between four of us and still couldn’t finish it. Marika doesn’t like cheesecake. She also has never heard of the song “Time Warp” or seen the movie. By the time I was her age I’d probably seen it six times. I told her if she tells me she doesn’t like coffee I’ll have to disown her, but she quickly informed me that she did indeed enjoy coffee drinks. Phew. Then she asked me to repeat the name, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” so she could rent it.
“If you haven’t seen it already, your mother will never let you watch it.”
Her face fell, “Oh… why?”
“Sex, orgies, Tim Curry in women’s lingerie and thigh high leather stilettos.”
She looked at me the way you’d expect any barely pubescent and rather sheltered 12 year old to look at you when you say those words. I remember being that age and feeling proud I was one of the few who could say the word “sex” without blushing. Embarrassed, unsure, disinterested or disgusted while simultaneously being insatiably curious. I planted a seed and thy name is Frank-N-Furter.

I didn’t get back until past eight at night. Tempest slept in, and everyone woke up sick. Tempest is barely coughing and Xan seems to only have a little extra sniff, but Curtis and I are dead on our feet. Curtis almost never gets sick. He’s missed Norwalk not just once, but twice in the same house as someone who was vomiting five times an hour and sending contagious spores all over the house. He has an impenetrable immune system, so it seems, but he stayed home sick yesterday and his boss told him to go home this afternoon after he’d worked only two hours. I made him echinacea tea while in my germ infested delirium I considered my mother’s pain medication to take away the agony in my neck and back.
Curtis is getting better now, which means I’ve got about a day unless it slinks into my chest again. Asthmatics always get it that way.
Despite that, we saw friends. An old friend I haven’t seen in years, and won’t see again for years. LC came too, and brought delicious Freja. Fatness vs. fatness, they are only 7 months apart. When Xan is older we should take pictures of them together as the two rolliest children we’ve seen.

I can’t sleep now. It’s 3am and my body still hurts and I’m still coughing. Xan is on the floor kicking his feet. I had him laughing earlier this evening by pinching his belly. He’s eager to get back to bed now, so I should follow.

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12 Comments

  • altarflame says:

    I really love the dynamics that open up with vehicles that have 3+ rows. Driving to camp with my youth group and having the best time EVAR just sitting in a damned van for 6 hours comes to mind.

    Rocky Horror is eternally tainted for me by knowing that my nasty, perverted, freak ass x-stepdad spent years playing Frank in live performances 😑 BEFORE I knew that I had fun with friends going to see it at midnight showings. I still haven’t been able to get Grant to sit through the whole thing, though – he just *loathes* musicals of any sort. As soon as characters break into song, he’s rolling his eyes and looking at the wall.

    I did something like your Nana’s “left” to my sister when we were younger – she said “Uh” about 3 times per sentence, so finally I couldn’t stand to hear her talk anymore and started saying “Uh” right back at her each time, in the middle of her talking. She cried from frustration twice, as I recall (I think we were like 9 and 6, with her younger), so unable to formulate things to say without the uh, but I think it took like 3 days total for her to quit.

    Aaaand – I was totally the Mother Figure to my brother, growing up, but have slipped totally into sibling-ness, since I’ve had my own kids. At least for the most part; he still comes to spend weeks at a time with us and thinks he can present me with wishlists before Christmas. The only time I act parental with him is when he isn’t around, i.e., when I’m fighting with my mother about the horrible way she’s raising him.

  • bicrim says:

    Ah, another generation corrupted by the joy that is RHPS. Good for you!

  • oopidsnot says:

    I don’t really have a special connection with any of my siblings. I’m the oddball: middle of five. The older two and the younger two formed their own cliques, and wherever I tried to tag along, I was a third wheel. I’m envious of the relationship you have with your sister. πŸ™‚

    My Granny suffered from dimentia for as long as I can remember her. She past away maybe five years ago, and I always refused to see her in the hospital. My last memories of her are how she loved “The Sound of Music” and would watch it and sing along constantly! She would tell us stories of how she traveled all of Africa on foot in three days πŸ˜‰ And she loved to play the piano πŸ™‚

    (With all the gift cards we got for Christmas, we’re going to plan a trip off island to do some shopping. Perhaps we could swing by? Next Thursday or Friday)

    • admin says:

      Was that the granny that played piano at the cinema before the movies started? I remember her. πŸ™‚

      My sister and I had zero relationship for the last few years just because of distance… I think we were strongest when she was four, and now I want to reforge that bond again. She’s becoming a teenager and I want to be the person who has done it before but isn’t as mother hen as her mom, you know? I want to be *that* person that you have when you’re a teenager. The person who steals you away from your conservative mom for a weekend to show you your first sweet transvestite.

  • missrayder says:

    It’s hard to watch a grandparent approach the final days of life … actually, we just went through that with my own grandmother, but the worst part is not her sickness – it’s my grandfather’s anger.

    I had a Rocky Horror birthday party when I turned … 15? 16? I’m not totally sure. There are still grains of rice stuck in the floor.

  • julierocket says:

    My kids will be watching RHPS young… my boyfriend was a Frank-N-Furter in the Cambridge, MA show for YEARS, and most of his friends are “Rocky people” from the cast and crew.

    I have a similar relationship with my youngest brother (who is 13) that you have with Marika. Not the same, because sister-brother is very different from sister-sister, but I was 10 1/2 when he was born and I still remember him puking all over my favorite outfit, and changing his diaper, and chasing him around the house on my hands and knees to make him laugh. It’s weird that he’s so old now, and we have a very different relationship from what I have with my other brothers… he still kisses me goodnight before he goes to bed. It’s sweet.

  • Holiday ferry traffic sucks balls.

    Hope you feel better.

  • That story about your Gram’s birth is really something. I can’t even immagine! It’s so sad the way she is now…

    Xan IS one of the rolliest bf babies I’ve seen. He’s adorable, lol. I love his smile.

  • I hope you were able to get some rest.

  • sounds like a filling and relaxing time πŸ™‚

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