Last night was my traditional birthday dinner at my parent's house.
In the past, five times per year, the fam would all get together, eat Italian food, pretend we actually like each other's company and fought to be the one parked at the end of the driveway thus allowing for that quick get away.
Then we all started spawning thus adding additional evenings of family togetherness and several more pounds of pasta to the calendar.
One would assume that if the birthdays fell within a week or two of one another that we could possibly get away with one get together that month....
Not so much...
The Matriarch of our dysfunctional clan feels that each of her decedents deserve their own private ceremony and should not have to share.
Actually what she really needs is another reason to whine and complain about how unappreciated she is for the time and effort involved in the planning of such momentous events.
Yes, it is true.....
The person that insists this tradition continues, that is constantly is growing and evolving, spends days in advance of said event and days post said event bitching and complaining about it.
Ahhh, but her greatest joy is when someone is late.
The tardy custom has not changed in 20 years. She huddles around the pot of boiling water, perspiration beeding on her forehead, new hair do drooping as the pasta hovers in her hand over the pot awaiting the latecomer.
All the while mumbling about the drudgery and grind involved in these events and the inconsideration of the offending party.
This tradition begins at 2 minutes after the expected arrival time that was formally announced on her new favorite nag facilitator, the on line invitation.
This nightmare of an invention not only invites guests to an event, it sends daily email reminders if you have yet to reply. After you have affirmed your plans, it assists in counting down the event as if the invitation was to the inauguration of whatever stooge the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies manages to get elected this time instead of veal parm at Mommy's next Sunday.
Of course to fuck with her, my siblings and I coordinate who will be the one to show up late. Who are we to take away her happiness?
When we are all present, 18 of us are squeezed around a table meant for only 8, dinner is served.
Then THE STORIES come.
The STORIES are fictional events from all our past.
Mother as the slayer of dragons and we her children, the meek and mild, in need of her protection.
Mother as the woman who should have been nominated for mother of the year but she would never had found the time to attend the ceremony since she was too busy adopting every animal, heading girl scouts, boy scouts and religious instruction as well as cooking for the poor in her rare spare minutes.
Mother as the one who had brought perfect children into the world but unfortunately, they sometimes befriended Satan's spawn who Mother immediately converted and got them on the straight and narrow path to righteousness.
Mother as the one who painted her house along with the houses of the neighbors, repaved her driveway, cleared out the trees in the yard to construct the perfect cedar patio all while Father sat in his easy chair watching the Mets game.
When I was young and foolish, I would find myself actually getting annoyed by these stories.
And, gasp, trying to CORRECT her memory of the events.
She would argue so adamantly and persuasively that I would start to doubt myself.
Hmmm, maybe Mother really was personally responsible for the moon launch because she sent those muffins to NASA in 1968.
Now I just keep my mouth shut .
Last night, my son at 19, found himself the topic of one of Mother's STORIES.
As he shook his head and opened his mouth to correct her I was tempted to stop him.
The hell with it, I thought, in this family it is every man for himself.