I straggled back to campus last Saturday after a week-long “vacation” spent entirely with my family. My Thanksgiving “break” was less of a break and more of a ritual familial blood-letting.
Let me explain: In an act of brilliant martyrdom last May, my mother offered our three-bedroom, one-story house as the home base for 35 family members, who would stay not only for Thanksgiving dinner, but for Thanksgiving week as a whole.
In May, all seemed bright and possible: We rented two 15-passenger vans, five eight-person folding tables, seven sets of extra silverware, 20 air mattresses, two 35-pound turkeys, a 20-pound ham and, for good measure, we bought just under $600 worth of alcohol to, um, ensure that things went smoothly. That list alone should suggest the fiasco of leviathan proportions which ensued.
We, however, thought we were prepared; we had no idea what we were in for.
The youngest member of the Sweetland-Edwards carnival show is a year-and-a-half-old cherub named Mae. Besides being really cute, her skills include: gurgling, toddling and repeatedly squawking a single line of gibberish at mind-numbing volumes. The other thing she’s good at is projectile vomiting, which much to our chagrin she demonstrated onto the Thanksgiving dinner table just before seconds were served.
It was as if her face had suddenly come under the control of the illustrious animators of “The Ren & Stimpy Show:” There was more liquid on the table than could possibly have fit inside a baby of her size. After displaying her formerly hidden talent, she coughed once, blinked and grinned sheepishly.
Naturally, I was impressed. When I turned around to share the glory of the moment with one of my older cousins, he was too busy dry-heaving to share in my awe.
Later in the evening, after about 45 bottles of wine had been summarily consumed, family discussion notably deteriorated. My intellectual uncle was loudly declaring that Brian McKnight’s hit single was logically impossible. Because I was forced to endure the agonizing pain of this discussion, I will submit you, dear friend, to its depravity as well.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Brian McKnight’s incredible lyrics, the chorus goes as follows: “One, you make my dreams come true. Two, just want to be with you. Three, girl it’s plain to see that you’re the only one for me. Four, repeat steps one through three. Five, make you fall in love with me — then start again at one.”
The argument was about step four. My uncle’s complaint was that if step four required that one simply “repeat steps one through three,” one could never actually advance to step five. One would be forever mired in a repetition of the first three steps. My father’s outstanding retort was that step four simply was to repeat steps one through three. Once those three steps were repeated, one could advance to step five, having completed that required of step four (namely, a repetition of steps one, two, and three).
Just as I was about to claim my own life with a butter knife, my aunt rerouted the discussion, promulgating that step one, “you make my dreams come true,” was not really an active “step” at all, since it included no imperative verb ordering the actor to do anything at all. I reached for my weapon of choice and swiped the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” off its edge.
At that dark moment, my life was saved by ensuing pandemonium: My drunken cousin charged up the back stairs, crossed the porch and attempted to run through the sliding glass door in the living room. She was, we learned later, running away from my second-youngest cousin who, after dipping his hands in (what was I hope his own) feces, decided to begin a high-stakes game of tag.
The mayhem really commenced when, after my older cousin had temporarily knocked herself out, one of my uncles leapt up in an effort to restrain the poopy-handed child, taking down a long table cloth with him. Candle wax spattered onto my cousin’s new girlfriend’s lap, and a corner of the throw rug momentarily caught on fire.
My unstable aunt — everyone has one — thought that this was the most hilarious thing she’d ever seen and climbed up on a chair and began throwing rolls at people. Complete mayhem. The babies burst into tears; the smoke alarm went off, and my dog seized the opportunity of mass chaos to leap up on the counter and finish off the rest of the ham.
My other aunt (mother of Mr. Poopy-Hands) put the culprit to bed watching “Fantasia” (a punishment too severe for the crime, if you ask me), and the evening ended without occasion. Oh, except for the half-pack of Bubble-Yum which ended up in my 23-year-old brother’s hair.
At any rate, you get the idea. I arrived back on campus last Sunday with a swollen finger, a chipped tooth and the remnants of a piece of Trident in my hair — a retaliation effort stemming from said Bubble-Yum incident. Most of all I just needed a good night’s sleep sans air-mattress-shared-with-five-year-old-cousins.
Despite the bedlam inherent to any Sweetland-Edwards family affair, I am forever grateful for one thing: Living in close quarters with a habitual projectile vomiter for a week has made coming back to school to write that last 20-page seminar paper slightly more desirable.
Haley Edwards had a crush on Fabio because of his hot “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” ads. Then the whole bird-smashing-face-on-rollercoaster incident happened.