Welcome to the I love Susan Werner & still love Melissa Ferrick blog…we are going to take a moment away from my worship (stalking) behavior to talk about Thanksgiving and families. And there is plenty I am thankful for – one being that Thanksgiving comes but once a year.
So I travel down to see family yesterday. And I’m not sure why I refer to a trip from Lansing to Detroit…traveling down. It’s actually a turn to the right (or left) but I prefer to point north and call it a sharp turn to the right…and down.
I walked into to my brother & sister in laws house, their teenage daughters were stretched out on the furniture…her siblings and their children were there, her mother, my mother. Children and babies.
Already the Thanksgiving activities had begun – football on the giant wide-screen tv and adults cooing “oh look how cute, look how cute, isn’t she cute, ohhh look she how she holds her arms, oh isn’t she cute Janet, isn’t she cute”. Babies…”yes” she’s cute I replied immediately. What else does one dare say? She was cute.
I moved for the wine, I’d traveled down with a couple of moderately priced bottles of red. I cracked open the shiraz and poured myself a large glass full. Seating all occupied I sat on the floor.
“How have you been – how are you doing”? from my sister in law’s mother. This is generally the one inquiry I will get into my life, how I am doing or what I am up to. I replied and attempted to start a banter – asking her a few questions about her life.
“Oh look at the baby, look what she did – oh she’s a really good baby, she sleeps…”
These interesting facts and observations continued, with occasional interruption throughout the day.
I was bored, I sipped slowly – I was apparently displaying the crack of my ass as my mother pointed out “Janet your fanny is showing”. “Oh does it look good”? …I adjusted my sweater, eventually got up to refill my glass.
Another of the children was strolling around, she couldn’t talk but at 1. 5 years of age she was apparently and obviously mobile. 1.5 mobile, fast, silent — she was in a few words dangerous. So I am sitting on the floor careful to hang onto the wine, after all I didn’t want any of the kids drinking. She toddled up behind me (and I am good with children – if you want them to play and fill up on chocolate) there was this small game on the table, with small parts – I thought it was her’s …and slide it a little closer to her. “Here is your toy honey, play with that”.
Went back to sipping slowly.
“Janet is she eating that – what does she have”?! “I don’t know I replied, I’m not good with children”. “Great going Janet”! – my brother replied. In raced mommy and pulled one of the tiny parts out of her mouth before it went down.
Oops. Well why do you let these little people silently walk around, stalking out danger…who put me on toddler detail? Clearly that person wasn’t thinking.
I moved to a chair, the floor was a poor choice on my part and away from the children.
I sipped slowly.
“What is that Janet”?! My sweater had slipped again and this time instead of displaying my ass a bit of my new tattoo was exposed. I blushed a little. “_______ did you see that”?! my brother asks my sister in law. “Yeah I saw it”, she replies.
Within a few more minutes I hear my mother squeal, shout?! It was an odd sound but one familiar to me – my mother registering some surprise and disgust with something. This is generally accompanied by an ugly curling up of the nose as if the discovery smells as well. This was no exception – the noise, the face, it had been registered.
I’d been discovered.
“What is that”? “Oh this is my tattoo” and I proudly rolled up my sleeve to the roomful of people who stopped for a moment from watching the game, or cooing over the babies. This was family drama 101 and everyone suddenly tuned in.
“That’s so UGLY, oh my god that’s so ugly…why did you do that to your arm”?!! “Can you have that removed”? Family members stuttered out that they liked it, some rolled up shirts or sleeves to reveal they had one too.
“I can do whatever I want”. “Well I KNOW YOU CAN DO whatever you want but WHY did you do that, what is it – it’s so ugly”.
She turned to my niece sitting next to her “what do you think, would you do something like that”. She nodded that she would “Oh honey don’t. You’ll regret that when you get older”. “Janet is old” she said.
“I am NOT old” I exclaimed (immature as hell I thought to myself, I wonder why being treated like a 5 year old, but I am not old). My niece was looking at me, rolling her eyes, shaking her head and registering some serious empathy for me.
I winked at her – my niece is very sensitive and artistic – she’s had her own struggles with anorexia and family dynamics.
More tattoo conversation…come here and let me see it more closely. From where I am sitting it looks like a snake (my mother hates snakes – note to self next tattoo get a snake). “Oh gads why did you do that”, she grabs my arm – “can these things be removed”? “I love my tattoo, in fact I am thinking of extending it further all the way up my arm, over my shoulder”. “Oh don’t”.
The afternoon went a bit like that… now I was in the kitchen refilling my wine glass.When were things going to move along, so I could leave, I thought to myself.
Finally we were eating. “Did you sit next to me to put that thing next to me”? (I thought but didn’t say – well I was actually sitting here first)
Mother in a very serious and generous moment of familial love and conviviality leaned over, lovingly touched my arm and said “don’t worry I won’t disown you”.
I thought oh man I wish you would, I almost said it but instead I bit my lip, shoved another mouthful of food in and washed it down with yet some more shiraz.
More conversation, most of it inane and then the half time show began — the band, some sort of teen sensation was admittedly bad. My mother shifted her focus remarking about how there is no talent in the world and why do they hold their guitars so low. Why are they holding their guitars so low (she demonstrated the strumming for us) – why so low?
Oh lord I thought…”so that it looks like they are masturbating” I said. My nieces sitting across from me almost choked, looked at each other and registered a great deal of amusement. I think I had reached a new and much more interesting place in their lives.
Then a discussion of politics – the only reason my brother did not vote for McCain was because Palin was on the ticket…what if he died?
I was dumbstruck really the only reason? Really? I looked at my nieces – I refrained from saying anything else.
Much later on, sick with over stuffing, full beyond comfort — some coffee in my system things were winding down. Young children were beginning to fight over toys, toddlers were crying …the baby started to wail and be basically inconsolable. She was far less cute now.
My sister in laws family were now fighting over something I missed and yet I was sitting right there – her mother was staring straight ahead eyes glossy with moisture, her son said “I am ready to leave as soon as you are” to his wife.
At some point my mother came over and sat on the arm of the chair I was sitting in “I did not mean to make fun of your tattoo, I’m sorry”. I nodded but registered little warmth as I could not find any.
A bit later I got up to get my coat and go…she followed me and whispered “I have some money for you, go by the door”. I went by the door to leave, she handed me some ‘gas money’ sort of a family tradition. I took some long fast strides down the porch and across the sidewalk.
The crisp Michigan air smelled wonderful freeing, liberating, into the night – to my car back to my life.
“I love your tattoo” she cried.
I just kept walking.
Families are let’s face it – a bit like a warm embrace which is accompanied by a hard punch to the gut. But we love them, they’re all we have and all we want to distance ourselves from.