Today is my sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday Eileen! Here is a picture of the two of us – I won’t say when it was taken, although, perhaps it’s not a photo at all but a touched-up cave drawing of us as we get ready to go out and kill our own dinner after having fashioned our cooking pots out of ground-up dinosaur bone. I can’t reveal how old she is, because she would HURT me, but I will tell you that you would think that she is much, much younger than she is (Which isn’t that old! Really!)
(My girls, on the other hand, think that I look OLDER THAN OPRAH – after reading the cover of an O issue from last year that featured her 50th birthday party they asked me, “If she’s 50, why does she look younger than you?” Boy, did they hate being locked in the garage for a week.)
So we’ll be celebrating my sister’s, Rigel’s, and Kira’s birthdays at our house at the end of May, even though they are all in April, this due to the fact that it is incredibly hard to get the 22+ people in my immediate family together, and, we being of the freakish variety that MUST CELEBRATE EVERYTHING are constantly emailing each other, trying to fit yet another event into our oh so busy lives. Also, Kira will be having her birthday sleep-over in a few weeks and we needed a wide berth for that – at least two weeks before for prep and four weeks after for recovery; Rigel says he will need at at least a month to get the screaming to stop in his head.
These get-togethers have a certain format to them, and while most people would find it tortuous to spend five hours in a house with 22 immediate family members, we all have a certain fondness for these gatherings and I’m sure we will be passing some of these rituals on to our children (Right about now is when my 19-year old nieces are text-messaging each other and saying,“Oh, yeah, we sure as hell will NOT be.”)
Take the food, for instance.
If there’s one thing that would absolutely shock an outsider observing our family, for that matter would shock anyone who didn’t have the digestive tract of a swine, it would be the amount of food that is laid out at these family gatherings. There are Tupperwares and casserole dishes and foil pans FILLED WITH FOOD, so much food that we could all eat our fill, feed all the neighbors within a two mile radius, and still have enough leftovers to foist upon an army of homeless people until they begged us to go away. All Costcos in the vicinity of my family members chart our birthdays on calendars and prepare for our hogfests by stocking up on ground beef, cheese, fruit platters and table-sized birthday cakes. And, God forbid we should run out of food, which has NEVER HAPPENED, but I’m sure the ground would swell open and Satan himself would come forth and drag us all into a fiery hell for NOT MAKING THAT SECOND DISH OF PASTA SALAD.
As for gifts, every adult family member always knows exactly what they are getting: a birthday card filled with precisely seventy dollars, ten dollars from each sibling and spouse. We do this without the least bit of decorum and without even the faintest hint of surprise, writing checks or stuffing cash into the cards usually while the birthday recipient is sitting right next to you. You might even ask that person to say, break a twenty for you, or lend you a pen to write them a nice little birthday greeting. Then we usually have a ‘gift opening’ where the birthday celebrant will open their card, feign surprise and thank everyone for the cash, and do a perfunctory glance at the contents just to make sure that the whole seventy dollars is there. So far there have been no discrepancies, but I imagine that one day someone will open up their card and exclaim, “Hey, there’s only fifty dollars here. Which of you cheap bastards is holding out?”
After the ritualistic stuffing of our pieholes and stashing of the birthday loot, we all usually sit around and yammer, while some members, who shall remain nameless, take this opportunity to take a nap. There are lots of pictures of these people, asleep on the couch, eyes shut and mouth agape, because another thing about us is we have a very sophomoric sense of humor and WE THINK PICTURES OF EACH OTHER SLEEPING IS FUNNY. Of those of us who remain awake, you can usually hear the loud ghetto blathering of me, my sister and my sister-in-law Suzy, our voices rising in indignation because “Uh, huh girl, he was gittin all up in my bizness,” dishing away as if channeling the cast of the Jeffersons, proving you can take the girls out the hood but you can't take the hood out of the girls.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY EI. You go sistah.
Archive File: Family