For some people, spending time with their relatives for the holidays can be a nightmare. Fortunately for me, that’s not the case. For one, my parents never lay guilt trips on myself or my siblings for not visiting. They work from the mindset that everyone is busy, and as grownups we all have our own lives to attend to. I personally like to spend time with my family on either Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years. This year I chose to visit my parents in Florida on Thanksgiving.
I drove down the Tuesday before turkey day so that I could leave the following Saturday. I had a meeting to come back to and didn’t want to get stuck in the Sunday traffic on I-95. I was also excited to be in the lovely FL sunshine. Even if it meant missing my Wednesday before thanksgiving tradition with friends to be in a 55 and older retirement community.
I would like to point out that I am not from Florida. I am from Detroit, MI, a much more suitable place to tell people you were born and raised. Sure I may stab you for cutting in front of me at Popeye’s chicken but at least I will be able to drive the getaway car. Glad we got that covered.
I was looking forward to spending time with Rat-a-tat-Pat (my madre) and Big Z (my stepdiddy). It was going to be just the three of us for the most part, except for my aunt and uncle and cousin for a few hours on turkey day. When I arrived on Tuesday Big Z was well into a bottle of red wine. He told me he had wanted to open it and make sure it “breathed” before I got there. Let me be clear about something here. My family are big fans of wine, however I don’t think you really need to let Carlos & Rossi really breathe, do you? Isn’t it better if you don’t smell it before you drink it? I’m kidding really, they don’t drink that crap but I can assure you this bottle probably cost somewhere in the $10 range. I realize you can get plenty of good bottles of wine for $10, but they don’t usually come in the economy size.
My mother tends to go to bed early most work nights. She goes to be at 9 to read her scandal magazines and gets up at 5:30. She stayed up later than usual that night as I didn’t get in until 8:30. She went to bed around 10:30 and warned Big Z and I to behave ourselves, which we promptly did by finishing the supersized bottle of wine. We went to bed shortly after so we could be ready for our next day of “bonding.” By the way, bonding in my family means drinking. You’ll need to know this for future reference.
My parents have extremely thin walls in their house, so of course I heard my mom up at 5:30 and then heard Z up at 8. As much as I wanted to sleep in, because this is supposed to be a vacation after all, I decided to get up. I was ready to knock out our errands so we could commence to bonding.
My mother is very particular and used to getting things her way so we made sure not to stray from the list she gave us to get. She told us to get some green beans to steam. This is surprising because my mother doesn’t like vegetables that much. Unless it’s green peppers or cream corn. When I was a child, I was anemic. When I went to the doctor he asked me, “What do you eat that’s green?” I responded by telling him that I eat green peppers and M&Ms. I grew to love vegetables on my own, and in fact didn’t have my first brussel sprout until I was 26! And now I love them. But I digress… Z went straight to the frozen section. I tried to tell him that I would gladly by fresh ones and blanche them in a white wine sauce but there was no having that. Birds Eye was the way to go.
Our next stop was to buy lotto tickets and good bread at the local Publix (Which we kept calling Pubics. We have the habit of turning everything into 14 year old toilet humour when we’re together.) Then our last and final stop was the liquor store.
I love liquor stores in Florida. They are such a one stop shop. I wish it was the case here. Not only can you buy beer, wine and liquor, but you can buy mixers, good cheese and specialty items. I found something that I have not been able to find anywhere but New Orleans….Pickled green beans! Since my travels to New Orleans, I have been spoiled by pickled green beans in my bloody marys. I adore them. I quickly snatched them up and the fixings for a good bloody mary. As I checked out, I told the cashier that my mom sent us to the store for green beans and I was going to tell her we bought these for our Thanksgiving dinner.
Big Z and I made it back to the house and he started to make his famous stuffing as I set out to make Bloody Marys before making deviled eggs. The next thing we needed was a soundtrack to our madness. Z loves music. He’s played the accordion since he was a kid and now plays both that and the button box. He plays in a polka band and hopes someday to start his own, called Marty and the Polka Pussies. I believe you’ve already been warned about my family and our crudeness. But alas, I digress. I decided to introduce Z to Spotify so I set him up an account on his computer. Then I set up a radio station based on Dave Bartholomew songs and he was in all his glory. This is something we share, our love of old music. We went about our cooking until we were finished and then we had some time to kill before my mom came home. So we devised a plan. First part of the plan was to switch from bloody marys to greyhounds.
Z: “Let’s mess with your mom.”
Me: “I’m down. What do you have in mind?”
Z: “I’ll give you the little binoculars, and I’ll take the big ones and let’s sit on the porch and pretend we’re spying on the neighbors when she gets home from work.”
Me: “Why pretend? Let’s just spy on the neighbors.”
Z: “Actually sometimes I do but nothing interesting ever happens around here. Normally I just watch this 85 year old guy passed out on a lawn chair in his front yard.”
So we do just that. We’re sitting on the smoking porch when she comes home. Their stereo is in the house so we had to have the music pretty loud so we could here it. My mom comes home and we lift our binoculars to our eyes, pretending to spy on the boring neighbors. She doesn’t even notice what we’re doing. She’s home and she’s pissed.
Mom: “What the hell is the matter with you two? I can hear that shit all the way in the driveway. Jesus Christ, Marty. Did you forget to put your hearing aids in again?”
Me: “Hi mom. We’ve missed you too. And that shit is called music and it’s AMAZING!”
Mom: “Not at that decible, that shit’s annoying. Turn it off.”
I go to turn it off and come back onto the screen porch where she is not sitting and smoking a cigarette. She looks at Z and then at me, and then back at Z.
“Jesus you two. Did you save any vodka for tomorrow?”
Z: “We have moonshine for tomorrow. And we bought another bottle of vodka at the liquor store today. Don’t you worry.”
Mom: “I’m not worried. As long as you made your stuffing the way you normally do I don’t give a damn what you did today.”
Part of me thinks she was a little jealous that we were having fun all day while she had a tough day at work. I can’t blame her. The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful except for one of the neighbors coming over to gossip about other people in the park. That’s what they call it, the “park.” Perhaps because it’s a trailer park? That’s my guess.
The next day was Thanksgiving. I woke up pretty early because I couldn’t sleep the night before. I get up and this is the first conversation I had with my mother.
Mom: “Will you please wash your hair today so I can see what color it is under all that filth?”
Me: “I just washed it two days ago. It’s not that bad.”
Mom: “Well it looks like crap so go wash it.”
I obliged of course because that’s what you do when you are with your parents. And my aunt and uncle and cousin were coming over and I wanted to look nice. They come and all is well and normal until we start taking pictures. My aunt takes a picture of my cousin and I. I show it to my mother.
Mom: “What a great photo of you two. Too bad you’re related, you’d make beautiful babies.”
Me: “Are you out of your mind? He is my cousin, what is wrong with you?”
Mom: “I’m just saying you guys would have cute kids.”
Me: “I think you’ve been smoking those cigarettes with your left hand.”
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We were all tired and wanted to go to bed early. I needed a little rest after the last two eventful (that’s code for drunken) days.
My mother and I braved Black Friday the next day to do some shopping. We didn’t go to the mall or get crazy and quite frankly I would rather miss all the crowds. But I was not going to pass up an opportunity for my mommy to take me shopping. And indeed she did. It was nice to have a day for just her and I.
Saturday seemed to come way too soon. It’s always hard to leave my folks. We get along really well and we only see each other 3 times a year at most. We’re all getting older and while I love my life as it is, I wish they were in it more. We’re already planning their next visit here, and I’m sure I will be down there this summer. I’ve been instructed that I’m never allowed to bring another boyfriend down there, because, in the words of Z, “You’re just too damn fun on your own.”
Don’t threaten me with a good time.