Dealing with Family
Thanksgiving is family time, but the Gunch family has had enough of each other. I know we got a lot to be grateful for, it being the end of hurricane season and not being dead and all, but I been worried if we can stand each other long enough to get together on purpose for Thanksgiving.
We had plenty family togetherness back in September, when 18 of us went to my daughter Gumdrop’s in Folsom to hide out from Hurricane Gustav.
First my sister-in-law Gloriosa came up with the bright idea that we had to make a plan in case of a tornado. This house had one bathroom. It is under the stairwell with no windows, so she decided that’s going to be the safe room. If anybody heard a tornado – which sounds like a freight train coming – they would push the siren accessory on Gloriosa’s emergency radio to signal us to snatch up the kids and take cover there. Then my brother-in-law Leech would drag a mattress in there for us to get under if the roof falls in.
So that was settled. Next we watched the governor’s 77 press conferences, “We have 22,241 rowboats, 44,482 oars, 17,656 boxes of plastic Band-Aids, 18,750 boxes of cloth Band-Aids …” and the mayor’s “Get Out!” speech, which scared Aunt Chlorine so bad she packed immediately, even though she was already in New Jersey.
The power went out but we had three battery-powered camping lanterns and a lot of flashlights. We played gin rummy and Scrabble and read bedtime stories to the kids. It was raining outside, but not real hard, almost soothing. Finally everybody settled down on blow-up mattresses.
My mother-in-law Ms. Larda was the last one awake, and she wanted a nice hot bath. She took a lantern and waddled off to the bathroom, set the lantern on the counter, ran a tub of hot water and eased down into it.
Thirty seconds later, Gloriosa rose up screeching, and hit the radio’s siren button.
We all levitated off our mattresses. I groped around and snatched up my baby grandson, Go-Cup, who was already yowling, bumped into two or three other people, also clutching babies, also yowling, and we mashed ourselves into the bathroom, right up against Ms. Larda clutching the plastic shower curtain.
She shrieked, “Out! Out!” and we tried, but we galloped into more people with more little kids rushing in. Gloriosa was behind them, still clutching the radio-siren, which made Ms. Larda, pitching around in the curtain, think an ambulance was actually trying to get in there with us, and she switched from “Out!” to “Help! 9-1-1!”
Last came Leech, dragging a blow-up mattress.
This was a tornado, all right. Man-made.
If the cat hadn’t decided he had enough, we might have all killed each other.
Rocky, Gumdrop’s cat, had let the kids dress him up in baby doll clothes, and gone to sleep like that, and somebody snatched him up in the rush. Now, he leapt out of whoever’s arms were holding him, landed smack in the bathtub, which, being a cat, he don’t like at all. He shot out of there, past the legs and the siren and the screaming, all claws and teeth, and lunged at the blow-up mattress, which popped with a bang like a gunshot.
It was like everybody got slapped in the face at once. We all shut up and came to our senses.
Gloriosa turned off the siren.
Leech backed out of the bathroom, looked around, and then said, “I don’t hear no freight train.”
Ms. Larda said, “Out!” again, and we all left.
We never did figure out what Gloriosa heard – either somebody snoring or an 18-wheeler clattering down Lee Road at an illegal speed during the storm.
After getting the kids back to sleep again; arguing about the damage – mattress destroyed, lantern broken, a black eye (mine), a elbow in a groin (Leech’s), a smushed big toe (Gloriosa’s), Ms. Larda and the cat skulking around mad – we laid down, woke up grouchy and started figuring out ways to get rid of each other and go home. This took another couple of days.
They were not good days.
So this year, for the first time, nobody in the family has volunteered their house for Thanksgiving dinner.
I finally told my gentleman friend Lust about it.
Now, Lust wasn’t part of the tornado drama because he don’t evacuate. Not ever. He will drown his sorrows and the rest of himself right there in his bar, the Sloth Lounge, before he closes it. And the governor, the mayor, Bob Breck and me can carry on all we want, but that’s that. So I have to put up with it.
Now, Lust ain’t much for family values but he does love his customers, and him and the Gunches go back a long way.
So he decides he will host it himself, right there in the private party room in the back of the Sloth. And instead of everybody having to cook and bring something, he will have it catered by none other than Rocky and Carlo’s of Chalmette. This is in honor of Rocky, the cat who saved us from ourselves.
Well, Lust knows us pretty good. For food, the Gunches will put up with almost anything, even each other. Every single relation I called up went from grumpy to happy as soon as I said “free dinner.”
So that’s what we’ll do, God willing and the levees don’t break.
Because the best thing we got is each other, if we ain’t in the bathroom at the same time. Somebody should put that on a bumper sticker.