“Katy! It’s been so long! How’ve you been?”
My God, she’s gained so much weight I didn’t recognize her. It’s a good thing we’re all wearing nametags. I thought it was some distant cousin past due with triplets.
“Bob! Long time, no see.”
No hair, either. Not a single hair left on his head and he’s 10 years younger than I am. He’s a cousin. Does that mean baldness runs in the family? Or can you catch it? I know there are many, many men who look manly with no hair, and a lot of men shave it now, but Bob is not one of them. He looks like a shifty accountant. Even with hair, he would look shifty, now that I think about it. If he asks me who’s doing my taxes, I’ll make up a name. If I tell him I do my own, he’ll tell me how foolish I am, that he could save me thousands. Then I’d have to admit that I don’t make thousands. All my aunts and uncles and cousins would know it in a heartbeat.
“Aunt Betty! It’s been too long.” It’s Bob’s mom. She’s obviously had something done to her face. Not a facelift -- there’s not a crane big enough to lift that thing -- but a little work around the eyes, maybe some botox in her forehead, a little collagen in her lips. She’s 65, and her hair is jet-black and stuck to her head like a batting helmet. It’s like seeing Betty Boop’s hair on Ma Kettle’s head. She asks if Bob has done my taxes.
“No? You should use him. He saved me so much that I had a little work done.”
“Really? You don’t look a day over 50.”
“What’s that got to do with my new kitchen cabinets?”
“Uh, I’m going to go get a beer. Can I get you something?”
“Only at family reunions. Who says I’ve been drinking?”
“Oh, no one. We all just feel so sorry for Sue.”
I wander off to look for Sue, and find her with cousin Jenny and her new baby.
“Isn’t this the cutest child you’ve ever seen?” she says. Obviously, Sue was being polite. Rosemary’s baby would win a beauty contest against this child. Of course, you can’t say that. You have to be polite. But honest.
“I haven’t seen that many babies,” I say, “but I’ll take your word for it.”
Jenny gives us a sad look and says, “It’s such a shame that you two never had children.”
“It is,” Sue says. “We had to spend that $180,000 it takes to raise a child until they’re 18 on ourselves. And we have no one to put through college, so we wasted the money on a pontoon boat and a place at the lake. But thanks for saying that. I’m so glad we get together as a family every few years.” That was a little harsh, I thought, but sometimes relatives can get on your nerves.
“You ready to go?” I ask her.
“We’ve only been here 20 minutes.”
“It seems longer. So much longer. And everybody seems to think I have a drinking problem.”
“Oh, that was me. I’ve already had two margaritas, so I told them not to give you anything to drink. You’re the designated driver tonight. I guess I could have phrased it differently.”
“And we wonder how rumors get started. Be sure to mention that at the intervention. And try not to slur your words too much.”
“Yesh, shir.” She makes a mock salute and walks off. Of course she’s having fun.
It’s not her family.
Contact Jim Mullen at jimmullenbooks.com.