My best friend’s family is nuts. Her mom has six sisters and three brothers, from sixty-eight year old Auntie Sandy, a full-time nanny with three boob jobs, four face-lifts, bi-weekly botox, and an endless string of lovers to dynamic Uncle Jerry, a lecherous Lake Tahoe card dealer who told my pal, his niece, “if you were my daughter, I’d bend you over” last Easter. Her house is constantly bursting like a chubby man in a Speedo with aunties, uncles, grandparents, and fourth Cousins twice removed. Family get-togethers include hard alcohol, keg-stands, romantic rendezvous, and drama. Always drama.
Thanksgiving this year promised to be no different: an entree of theatricals accompanied by a gravy of tears. Cousin Jimmy, an extremely successful graphic designer, has a beautiful 5,000 square foot house in the suburbs—the quintessential home to host a lively feast. He invited the family to his house for this year’s ritual turkey carving. He was petrified to tell his hormonal, pregnant, and temperamental wifey, Cousin-in-law Cindy, that they were hosting this year. So he didn’t. (Cindy, coincidentally, is not a blood relative but is also completely insane.) The Monday before Thanksgiving, Cousin Karen, who was recently heavily medicated for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, called Cindy to ask if she should make rosemary or blue-cheese mashed potatoes. Cindy said, “Mmmm, sounds incredible! What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?” Karen responded, “Coming to your house, duh!” Long uncomfortable silence.
Two days later, things got even worse … by the second. The Friday after Thanksgiving, my best friend and I went to dim-sum and she gave me the rundown of the family fiasco, a detailed, minute-by-minute account. Here’s how it all went down:
12:15 a.m.: After ripping the fingernails off Cousin Jimmy one by one, a fuming and bloodthirsty Cousin-in-law Cindy, dashes to Safeway for one of the lonely remaining Jennie-O freezer-to-oven turkeys.
12:17 a.m.: Cousin Jimmy re-inflates the aero mattress for yet another night of lovely sleep.
7 a.m.–1 p.m.: Frenzied phones ring off the hook all over the state to figure out who the hell is bringing the T-day fare.
6:00 p.m.: The first guests start to arrive at Cousin Jimmy’s. Every family member, even fourteen-year-old Cousin James, starts downing the nearest liquid poison to ease the tension and evade Cindy’s cadaverous glares.
7:23 p.m.: Auntie Betsy cracks open the oven door to peek at the browning bird that should be on the table in seven minutes. She finds a raw, ice-covered, obviously inedible pink bird. She looks Cindy intently in the eyes for the first face-off of the evening and says, “At least my baby sister made the rye-bread-raisin stuffing so I can rest assured that one thing will not cause me four days of gastric cramping.”
7:25 p.m.: Cousin-in-law Cindy shrieks a cranberry-curdling cry, bolts across the family room where all thirty-seven relatives are noshing on artichoke dip and olive loaf appetizers, into her bedroom, and slams the door. Never to be seen again. Good night, Cindy.
7:30 p.m.: Auntie Sandy’s fiancé, Freddie, overhears Auntie Betsy’s meddling in the kitchen. (I forgot to mention, Betsy, too, is quite the fruitcake. Example: when Cousin Johnny told her he was going to become a policeman, she cried—in bed, non-stop—for nine days in fear he would be slaughtered in a cross-fire.)
7:36 p.m.: Freddie the fiancé saunters over to the great room where seven family members are congregated sipping on Jack and Cokes and warding off hunger pangs with dry-roasted peanuts. He does not see Cousin Jenny, Auntie Betsy’s daughter, canoodling with newborn Baby Brent on the lazy-boy. He engages in an eleven-minute monologue regarding the psychosis and madness of Auntie Betsy. His rant culminates with the following statement, “That bitch has OCD.”
7:50 p.m.: Cousin Jenny drops Baby Brent on his head (luckily, little Lucy is there to grab him) as she pulls a stunt à la Cousin-in-law Cindy and dashes across the kitchen in tears and slams the door of Baby Jimmy’s nursery. Never to be seen again. Good night, Cousin Jenny.
8:00 p.m.: Grandma is pacifying Baby Brent and his mother, Cousin Emma on the porch. Auntie Betsy, now also in tears, has locked herself in the room with Cousin Jenny. Never to be seen again. Good night, Auntie Betsy.
8:00 – 9:12 p.m.: An hour and twelve minutes of turmoil later, the remaining family members (currently down an average of five cran-appletinis) throw Thanksgiving dinner on the table. (This was Cousin-in-law Cindy’s first attempt at making a turkey. Not only was it rather rare, but she also failed to notice the plastic bag of giblets inside the turkey. When Uncle Larry was carving the bird, he found a simmering plastic bag of raw intestines. Yum.)
9:26 p.m.: Cousin Trish brought her new boyfriend, Danny, to dinner. Infamously boy-crazy and moral-less Cousin Sarah sat next to him at the dinner table. She sat in dangerously close proximity to Danny. He suddenly felt a hand slide up his inner thigh and down his pants. He looked over and said, “What the fuck?” Sarah said, “Oh, sorry, you had some yams on your pants.” Cousin Trish knew. She freaked out. She threw down her plate, and threw back her elbow and knocked that skank out. Then, she grabbed Danny, tears furiously running down her cheeks, and blood running down her arm, and storms out of the house. Never to be seen again. Good night, Cousin Trish and Danny.
10:21 p.m.: Grandpa can’t take all the tears. He downs four shots of Johnnie Walker Red Label. He gets in Uncle Oliver’s grill, as usual, and starts ranting about how he’s a sluggish, useless, excuse for a man. Grandma freaks out, seizes him by the love handles and throws him in the car. Grandma is partially blind, and has had about four glasses of wine. Auntie Sandy and Freddie the fiancé hop in their Range Rover and follow the oldies. Never to be seen again. Good night, Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie Sandy, and Freddie the fiancé.
10:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m.: Most of the family realizes that the gig is up, their unwelcome invite has expired and they pack up and head home. A few drunken stragglers linger behind.
11:13 p.m.: Recently divorced Cousin Tina pops in her wedding video, plonks in front of the TV, and howls like a werewolf. Auntie Betsy and Cousin Jenny emerge from the nursery, throw Tina in the car and drive away. Oh, yeah, before Betsy left, she got two inches from Jimmy’s face and hissed, “As long as I live, I will never set foot in this house again.” Good night, Auntie Rosie and Cousins Tina and Jenny.
11:43 p.m.: Cindy finally emerges from her room. She smacks Jimmy across the face and goes back to bed. (As reported from Cousin Rick, ten drinks under.)
12:17 a.m. (the day after Thanksgiving): Cousin Jimmy once again re-inflates the aero-mattress for yet another night of lovely sleep.
The moral of this nutty family’s story is this: even the loopiest of lots can teach us a few things to better prepare us for dealing with our own families at the holidays—and all year long, for that matter. Here are a few simple nuggets of wisdom I learned from Cousin Jimmy and the rest of this bizarre bunch:
- Do not plan the party at someone’s house without telling her. That’s rude.
- Don’t talk smack about the host’s cooking, even if you hear a faint gobble gobble from your turkey thigh. This is also as rude.
- Don’t say other family members have mental disorders. People will overhear and be pissed off or offended.
- No matter how upset you get, avoid locking yourself in a room all night.
- Don’t put your hands down anybody’s pants, even if they are your lover. It just isn’t classy.