Over the weekend we made the relatively short trek up to Whidbey Island for a visit with my family. Haven’t been up since April, but my highly tuned Internal Tolerance Clock was still set for a maximum visit time of 22 hours or less. In at 3PM on Saturday, out by 11:3OAM on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong–they’re not monsters, and it’s not totally unbearable. It’s just me. (And if my father’s agitated, fussy or in hyper-squirrel mode, I am doubly so, and it’s not a good combo, and the rest of the slow-moving family just may suffer as a consequence. It’s one of those family dynamic things, you know? Or again, maybe it’s just me. Give me another 40 or so years to work on it….)
My Snarky Sister-In-Law, hereby referred to as SSIN, once again asked me if I was a snob. This prompted when she offered to take us to the Navy Exchange to buy some beer that was on sale, (plus there’s no tax so you feel like you’re really stupid and/or offending them if you say no), and I asked if the caps were screw-top or not. “Are you a beer snob?” Incredulously asked, with a hint of glee, as if she couldn’t believe she’d get to add another snobbish Lori-offence to her long list: dresses nice for family holidays, makes Fancy Food, likes margaritas on the rocks, gets overly offended when asked for ketchup for breakfast casserole (that had a lovely goat cheese in it–I mean really!) won’t see that movie, or read those types of books, etc. Well, okay, between you and me, yeah, I might be a bit of a beer snob but the cap question was a concern over whether we could re-use the bottles for our own homebrews. So there SSIN! Then she almost caught me sniffing my mother’s bottle of olive oil to make sure it wasn’t rancid before I used it on an appetizer I was making. Who knows how long it’s been back there on that shelf?
The highlight of the visit was when we were flopped about on the huge wrap-around pastel colored couch after dinner and my brother said we should run down to the park. Joe and I took him up on it, immediately. Yes! Outside! Fresh air! Away from any dangerous political talk, and uncomfortable silences while we push our extended bellies around waiting to feel like we deserve the mile-high-lemon meringue pie sweating in the other room! Joe and I grab our jackets and jump outside, but my brother hasn’t brought one so he goes back in and grabs a jacket from the closet that belongs to our dad. We start walking down the block to the park and he jams his arms into the jacket and stops. “What the?” My father, you see, is not a large man, so my mother alters all of his shirts and pants so they are custom fit. So when my brother put on my dad’s jacket he was suddenly wearing a girly looking three-quarter sleeve jacket! And my brother, who is built rather like a gorilla, couldn’t roll up the sleeves over his massive forearms. It was pretty darn funny. Like a cartoon, only better.
When we got to the park it was like walking through time into a cool summer night in junior high. The wind was clonking the tops of the trees together, and the streetlights were casting long eerie shadows from the swing-set, slide, and merry-go-round. Pine needles underfoot made our steps stealthy. The crunch of the gravel in the moat around the merry-go-round as my brother pushed, and the feel of the cold steel bars I was clinging to for my life, brought back memories almost 35 years old. And we were flying! Gorillas run fast! I could almost hear Hannah’s laughter through the trees.
Out of breath on the walk back to the house I realized that times like these are what make it really worth coming back home. Worth putting up with a father with Zippy’s Disease and the SSINS of the family. That and the heartfelt hugs exchanged with both of my parents.