Friday, March 16, 2012
A Week At My Grandmother's House
Mine and Powell's intended five-day stay in Native State turned into a week-long vacation on account of my grandmother's unusually positive disposition during the time we were there.
"We're staying five days?" Powell complained before we left the Farmhouse. "Are you serious?"
"Yeah," I answered. "Why?"
My brother shook his head.
It is true that time with my grandmother typically has a sharp expiration date; after four or five days she'll have an apparently baseless spell of irritability that quickly grows intolerable. This time around, though, her geniality maintained throughout.
"Why don't we stay longer?" Powell proposed several days in. "I'm having a really good time."
His eagerness to prolong the event and her quickness to behave in a way that would make him want to likely stemmed from the same fact: Powell is leaving in less than a month's time for Marine bootcamp. Our days spent in Native State were the last time either he or my grandmother could see each other before that happened.
Whatever the cause, I'm glad of the result.
Our week there was one filled with relaxation, excellent food, and the comfort that Normal Family's good-natured, pleasant company brings.
In Weird Family there is always a tinge of madness to the most mundane gatherings, the shadow of a needle or a gun impressing itself on every conversation. In Hick Family there lingers a latent hostility, an unspoken possibility of violence that is never too far from the surface facade of crude jokes and belly laughs.
In Normal Family we play card games.
And for someone who didn't grow up with this, for someone whose relatives thought drunken fistfights were normal, boring card games are invaluable.
Of course, "boring" is perhaps not an accurate label.
For while Normal Family is, as a rule, prosperous, settled, stable, and non-violent, it is as filled with characters as either of the more unsavory branches of my line. There's Liberal Cousin, who, with her husband, had the wonderful audacity to mock my mother's incorrect English at one of Marie's own dinner parties; Cool Cousin, who got drunk with my grandmother and me during her last visit and proceeded to lead us in a Tibetan prayer chant; Rowdy Cousin, an eighteen-year-old college freshman who continues to enjoy running around in the dark with a blanket over his head; and, of course, the eminent and aptly named Aunt Crazy.
In case all of these names are confusing you, let me lay out a brief family tree:
Grand Ma Normal Family is Aunt Crazy's sister and Uncle Responsible is Aunt Crazy's husband. Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible have two forty-something daughters, Liberal Cousin and Cool Cousin, who are my first cousins, once removed.
Grand Ma Normal Family has three children: my father, Tall Uncle, and Sweet Aunt. Tall Uncle married Tall Aunt and birthed the gigantic Tall Cousin (who's eighteen) while Sweet Aunt, married to Uncle Mustache, is mother to Rowdy Cousin.
Hopefully that clears things up.
In any case the Normal Family gathering, held on Saturday, March 3rd, in honor of my December graduation, was one of the highlights of the trip.
Uncle Responsible and Aunt Crazy wrote me a check for $100 and Sweet Aunt and Uncle Mustache gave me $75 cash, whereupon I realized something rather depressing: each of these relatives, though under no particular obligation to me, had done more to celebrate my earning a degree than had my own parents. My father and mother, in a show of generosity, gave me $50 and a free pass from all room and board until June--a promise they quickly broke by insisting I pay them $100 a month for food. Boy, I can't wait to leave here.
While I was in Native State, though, it was easy to forget about shenanigans elsewhere. A good part of the Normal Family cohort was assembled at my grandmother's house--Aunt Crazy, Uncle Responsible, Sweet Aunt, Uncle Mustache, and Rowdy Cousin--and Rowdy Cousin had even brought along a possible addition.
"Powell," I said. "This is Rowdy Cousin's girlfriend, Goofy Girl. Thomas and I met her last time we were here."
"Hi!" the seventeen-year-old exclaimed, showing off her zany sideways smile.
"Hey," Powell said.
She must have noticed him staring a bit, because she added, "Sorry about my nose."
"No," Powell replied, looking at the still noticeably off-center feature. "What happened?"
Goofy Girl smiled again.
"I tickled my sister too hard and she kicked me in the face."
"Okay, you're definitely in the right family."
Early in the night Goofy Girl was treated to Aunt Crazy's catchphrase ("It's hard out here to be a pimp!") and giggled like a helium balloon.
"It's a good thing Liberal Cousin isn't here," I said, invoking the daughter who disapproves of my great-aunt's affected ghetto mannerisms. "You wouldn't be able to do that."
"I can do that stuff in front of Liberal Cousin," Aunt Crazy asserted. She stopped and thought. "Well..."
That act of hesitation brought more laughter than the original joke, and if we hadn't had enough to be mirthful about we certainly got it when Uncle Responsible and Aunt Crazy regaled us with tales of their topless-bar exploits during the 1960s.
"Oh, Responsible," Aunt Crazy moaned, covering her face as he went into the story. "I was twenty years old!"
"I had to carry her out of there," Uncle Responsible continued. "I mean, I was there unwinding with a bunch of guys who I was in engineer training with--and then there's Aunt Crazy, downing drinks like a champ. I took one look at her and knew it was over."
"How often did you two do this?" I asked.
They shared a look.
"Once or twice," my uncle said.
"Not like, every weekend?"
"No, no," he forced some laughter. "No, we weren't like that."
The whole table cracked up at the awful lie and even Sweet Aunt said, "That sounds really convincing, Uncle Responsible."
The night concluded, as nights with Normal Family members often do, with a card game.
The video doesn't quite do it justice--nothing would--but it gives a glimpse.
I really like these people. I'll be happy to return for Easter.