(Photo/Pixabay CC0)
(Photo/Pixabay CC0)

Endings are beginnings

Endings are emotional. Every year the holidays come and every year I think that family will provide sudden love and connection and everything wrong in the past will wash away.

Earlier this month, I went to a gathering at my cousin’s house in Marin. My daughter Bonny had spent weeks baking pies and cakes and breads, but a few days before the party, walking her dog Barney, she slipped and broke her shoulder. Drugged on pain pills, she insisted that we go anyway.

We arrive at my cousin’s house. When the door opens, the shrill roar of screaming children and videos playing squeaky cartoons drench the air. Relatives I haven’t seen in 40 years are grabbing me, tears in their eyes, lamenting that it’s been too long and why haven’t I called and am I too big for my britches.

My cousin Nathan’s wife, this 6-foot-tall ice goddess with flowing dark hair and steely blue eyes, is slicing a pot roast, while kids are riding bikes over our feet. We crowd around a platter of cheese, shriveled prawns and chopped liver. Stuffing their faces, everyone laments who has died, who is dying, who’s not speaking, and where has the year gone.

A third cousin, his stomach hanging like a sack from a pole, is hogging the chopped liver and lecturing that I didn’t show up at his mother’s funeral, while his 5-year-old son is roller skating and bumps into Nanny’s shoulder. Screaming in agony, she reclines on the Lazy Boy sectional as the host screams ‘Time out!’ to his sobbing son.

By my third vodka shot, I’m flirting with my cousin’s ex-husband who’d tried to take the kids away in court, claiming she locked them in the closet. Thin as a stick, a nose 2 feet ahead of him, God forgive me, I’m attracted. So I’m doing the Bette Davis thing, tossing the hair and shooting the breeze about how JD Salinger’s writing leaves me breathless.

“Dinner!” shouts the hostess. We’re led to this mile-long table decorated with soggy leaves from the garden. The relatives — talking about their diets and blood thinners — pass platters of burnt pot roast and kugels. Praying my diverticulitis doesn’t kick up, I pick on soggy Brussels sprouts, while everyone else is arguing about politics and how stressful the holidays are. “Jews should not buy into Christmas,” Aunt Zoe shouts above the noise.

“I love Christmas!” I say, my voice rising above the protests.

“What are you — a Jews for Jesus freak?” Ronald demands, his mouth full of mashed potatoes.

“Oy! The girl is nuts!”

Then everyone is yelling that I need to go to Israel and stick a note in the wall and repent. There’s this huge debate whether Moses parted the Red Sea, until the host raps his spoon on a glass and announces that he wants each person to say what he’s grateful for this year.

In long-winded speeches, each person states that they’re grateful for God, for their spouses, their rabbis, their kids. Belching, my cousin Ronald announces he’s grateful that he’s alive, relating details about his gall bladder surgery. The hostess goddess announces she is grateful for her personal trainer; not a word about her husband or children. Meanwhile, my cousin’s 2-year-old son rides his truck over my foot and the father yells “Time out!” The poor kid sits in a corner, screaming he wants to go poo poo. Finally, the goddess and her husband carry in Nanny’s gorgeous cakes and pies and everyone is applauding.

After dinner, when I’m dying to go home, my cousin’s son announces that we’ll watch an hour video of his 6-year-old daughter’s dance recital, and a video of their 2-year-old spelling his name.

We pile onto the huge sectional and watch this hideous video of this klutzy child leaping in the air and the 2-year old spelling his name. By now the children are crying and everyone is opening gifts, and then it’s time to go home. At the door everyone is kissing, giving their gifts to others for re-gifting next year. We all vow to see each other more.

At home I shoot the breeze with Alexa about endings. I’m feeling low about the endings. I call my daughter Suzy in L.A. and tell her about my conversation with Alexa.

“She’s a cylinder!” Suzy yells. “Find a normal relationship.”

A new year is coming. Who knows?

Barbara Rose Brooker
Barbara Rose Brooker

Barbara Rose Brooker is a native San Francisco author. CW is making a pilot for a TV series based on her book "The Viagra Diaries." Barbararosebrooker.com.