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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Musings on a 'quirky' family

Published: January 14, 2005
Section: Opinions

After nearly four months of fall semesters academic grind, most of us plowed through finals in mid-December and slid into winter break with just enough energy to make it home, up the stairs, and into bed, where we most likely stayed for some inordinate length of time. Vacation is the opportunity to do all of those normal things that we forget about while were at school. We eat at that one local burrito place that all towns inevitably have, the one where the food is incredibly cheap and good.

We revel in the return of water pressure in the shower, or at least I do. Some of us read for pleasure;

others prefer to forego any type of informational stimuli for the duration. We catch up with friends and family, and we watch TV. A lot of TV. Its a little ironic that for a reality-show freak like me, my weekly favorites like The Apprentice and Americas Next Top Model aired their epic season finales just before break began, because I was about to go home and get a strong dose of my own reality. Big time.

Upon returning home, I began to experience that Ill never take these things for granted again syndrome. Not in an emotional, sappy kind of way, but in a more appreciative way. It was great not to have to check my points every time I opened the refrigerator for something to eat. I never had to wait in line for the shower, and my moms cooking beats Usdan any day – even Balance. I actually had some verbal exchanges with my brother, as opposed to the occasional one-liners sent by computer, on Facebook no less.

In fact, returning home from school has always been a great time for me to realize how much Id missed my extended family. Sure, they can be a bizarre bunch at times, but theyre comforting. Whoever it was who said The more things change, the more they stay the same must have had a family like mine, because each time I come home, I may be a little different, but boy, theyre the same as ever.

Have you ever looked at your entire family gathered around the dinner table during the holidays and wondered how you managed to come out so normal? In addition to the simple fact that I had begun to miss many of the relatives I hadnt seen in months, family get-togethers are great simply for their entertainment value. Even I can get bored of watching TV all day long, and a trip to Grandmas house is like walking right onto the set of a sitcom.

Honestly, sometimes I feel like weve all silently slipped into an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond or Seinfeld, and the things that go on around my grandmothers dining room table in Brookline, Massachusetts are much better comic fodder than any Hollywood writer could dream up.

Every time I go to my grandparents house, my grandfather asks me if I am living in the same dorm room as I did last year. I say no. He asks where my roommate is from. I tell him Long Island, and then he asks what part. I say Seaford. Then he tells me he used to have a client in Seaford. Every time. He will next time, too. And I wont tell him he already asked me that because he wont remember. And besides, with his faulty hearing aid, he probably wont understand me. Best to choose the path of least resistance and just answer the list of questions all over again.

There is inevitably some sporting event on the TV in the living room where somewhere between two and eight family members (all male, save myself) between the ages of six and seventy-five are sprawled across the couches. Depending on the season, they will be spouting out some variety of dates, stats, and records, the volume of their voices and the intensity of their arguments raised or lowered in correlation with the present success of the Sox, Celtics, or Pats. No matter what time of year it is, we will revel in the success of the 2004 Red Sox, still shocked that this really was the year. Im sure well continue this one for quite some time.

Amidst the commotion of a room full of Boston-bred sports fanatics, my grandfather will be working on the New York Times crossword puzzle. By this time of day, which is always around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, it will be nearly completed. But some of the clues will have stumped him. Hell ask me the ones about pop culture, and since I am a female under the age of 20, I will clearly know everything there is to be known about rap artist Kanye or Teen queen Lohan.

Dinner time is relatively tame. My grandmother will force a few extra slices of turkey on to everyones plate, slathering them with gravy, even though I have told her repeatedly that I dont like it. The cat will wander in and rub up against the table legs, causing my mother to yell for someone to get that goddamn animal away. My uncle will have to take on the duty of slicing the cake at dessert time because Grandma has a tendency to lick her fingers between cuts. Yum.

After dinner, someone will inevitably turn on Jeopardy, and well all crowd into the living room, trying our best to impress each other with our vast knowledge banks. Actually, I dont call out too many answers. I only answer if Im absolutely sure that Im right, because if you happen to be the chump who enthusiastically shouts a wrong answer, well then, youre just pathetic.

I also dont call out the answers to the really easy ones, because I personally think thats just useless. But my cousins and uncles, given the competitive streak that runs deep in the family genes, will shout out even the most obvious answers with glee, just for the sake of being first. Collectively, we typically do a pretty good job. The Green family could give Ken Jennings a run for his money every day, or at least we like to think so.

Before heading home, my grandmother will foist a couple containers of leftover lasagna or foil-wrapped squares of brownies into my hands, to bring back to school. I dont really want them, because the lasagna really isnt that good and the brownies are a little hard, but I thank her profusely. I say my good-byes to everyone: hugs for the aunts and uncles, kisses on the cheek for the older crowd, high-fives for the little cousins. Grandpa delivers another loving yet absent-minded squeeze, and were done. Another one for the books.

Sometimes I wonder why my family couldnt just be normal, normal in the way that I imagine everyone elses family to be. I envision other families to be quaint and polite;

theyd say Please pass the potatoes, and Isnt the weather lovely today? Why cant my family seem to refrain from gossiping about inane subject-matter and arguing over who bought who what for their birthday last year?

But no matter how many times I may roll my eyes or defer my ever-nagging urge to say something critical, I know that I need to bite my tongue and embrace my often-forgetful, inadvertently-sexist, always-hysterical family, simply because they are mine. I cant even count the number of times Ive just shut my mouth and watched it all take place, not passively, but like a scientist observing some strange species of mammal.

Unfortunately, I cant completely separate myself from them;

I am after all a descendant of the line, as crooked as it may be. But its a good thing the holidays only come around once a year. I like to take my reality in small doses, thank you very much.