mi familia loca

my brother and i are in the kitchen. we are laughing so hard we are crying. the rest of the party is still in the dining room…the children have wandered back upstairs. the water in the sink is running, masking the sound of our laughter. we are dumping a full bowl of something down the drain… on the DL. we don’t want anyone to see- especially not our great aunt. this is because we are dumping the entire bowl of what she called ‘copper pennies’ down the drain. indeed, we are destroying the evidence that not a single person touched the copper pennies she made over dinner. (to describe these ‘copper pennies,’ think of baby carrots swimming in a vat of brownish, congealed cinnamon syrup.)

alas, this is not the first time the family has had to adjust… compensate… act like my aunt’s cooking is tolerable. one of my fondest memories of my family is one thanksgiving day, many years ago- i must have been eight or nine years old. we were standing around my grandmother’s dining room table- maybe 30 people or more. (my grandmother was probably the most laid-back person i have ever known. always embodying a more-the-merrier attitude, our family dinners would not only include the extended family, but also the friends, dates, and even ex-husbands and ex-wives of all involved. once a part of my family, you never quite escaped.) so, we’re all standing around the table in anxious anticipation of the holiday meal. my great aunt had been put in charge of the turkey cooking- now was time for the turkey carving. the turkey is brought in- collective ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from everyone. my dad approaches the bird, knives in hand. he starts to cut it and ……………………………………………….it bleeds.

flash forward almost ten years. my grandmother is gone and with her, the big family dinners with the extended family. my parents are divorced. my brother has three children and is also now divorced. my great uncle is gone. my aunt is now married and spends many holidays with her new family. and in so many ways, my family is the picture of dysfunction. nonetheless, i still can’t help but count myself lucky to have the family i do.

yesterday, my mother prepared a belated birthday brunch for my father. my god-father was in town, so it made for a nice celebration. neither my brother nor my father were taking up the old family tradition of initiating religious or political discussions over the meal. (the other tradition being discussion of all things inappropriate, to which my grandma would usually shout, “no potty-talk at the table!”) seeing that the men were falling down on the job, i took up the mantle and mentioned my recent visit to the new monica pope restaurant: ‘beaver’s.’ (at this point, we can only hope the conversation was going over my great aunt’s head.)

after dinner, my godfather (from hamburg, germany) zealously pulls out some sheet music and announces that he should play while we sing happy birthday… which we did. but let it be known that, at the stephenson household, when any one person sits down at the piano, a can of worms has been opened. (my brother and i seriously studied piano, and my father and i have always sung together… that was always the way he and i communicated best.) so, upon insistence from my mother, the piano singalong continued. i scrounged our sheet music collection for anything worthwhile (that i hadn’t stolen and left at my apartment) and seated myself at the piano. suddenly, the whole room was tied together in song… a little gershwyn (porgy and bess, then showtunes), some standards, etc. the grand finale being a resounding chorus of annie’s ‘tomorrow’….shouted at the top of my father’s and godfather’s lungs and making us all laugh. and i sat there at the piano thinking i could ask for nothing better than moments like that.

once the singalong had concluded, my great aunt insisted that we cut the cake she brought. she explained that it was a greek cake with a coin baked into it, in a similar fashion as a king’s cake- the recipient of the coin winning good luck for the year. we were all so full that no one was particularly interested in eating this cake… one that more closely resembled a loaf of bread… AND that turned out to be something she received BEFORE christmas. so, once again, the family was obliged to humor her. and following suit, we all cut large slices of cake, pretended to take a tiny bite, and then claimed to be too full to finish… my godfather was the only one to eat the whole thing, being the exceedingly good sport that he is.

and while i watched the family try to discreetly dispose of their stale piece of greek bread-cake, it was reaffirmed: being a family is not about being picture-perfect… what binds us together is what we endure together.

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~ by ladamesansregrets on February 17, 2008.

2 Responses to “mi familia loca”

  1. So… who got the coin?

  2. good question. my father did. šŸ™‚

    i was quite content to pass on my slice.

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