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Posts Tagged ‘Crazy Life’

Large Families 101

No time to write a new post today! But thankfully I have a store of old posts, so here’s one I wrote five years ago.

I’m one of eight kids. It never seemed weird to me when I was a little kid. Most of my friends were either completely jealous that I had siblings or also came from big families. I guess big families have a tendency to herd together. It’s a little different now that I’m an adult. Most people look at me as if I had seven heads instead of seven siblings. I dunno, I guess Jen was just such an extraordinary child that Mom and Dad felt they could only get better. Whether or not that is the truth, I will leave open for speculation.

I would like to now point out the benefits of being part of a big family.

Mom and Dad get worn down so much faster

Suppose you are an only child, or one of two. Most parents can withstand the persistent pleas of one or two children, to an extent. However, quadruple that and you get pretty fast results. Any request, made repeatedly by eight different annoying little persons with high-pitched voices, is bound to be eventually gratified. “Yes Matt, you and Terry go build your own bomb with tinfoil and toilet bowl cleaner. Just stay away from the house.”

There are more people to blame things on

By no means am I condoning lying, but let’s face, all kids do it. And when there are seven other suspects at the bench, it’s a hell of a lot easier to plead your case that, indeed, it was NOT you who ran over Dad‘s prize tomato plant with your bike. Granted, there are more eyewitnesses, so this tactic must be used cautiously. Usually Mom never had the patience to interrogate eight suspects. You had to be especially wary around Brandon, however. Being the youngest, he had few defenses against the rest of us and Mom knew she could always wring something out of him if the price was right. It was a pretty dirty trick … Mom didn’t always play fair.

You can play virtually any sport in your back yard

Four on four basketball. Four on four football. Four on four baseball. You get it. Then, as in-laws trickle in, you can have five on five, six on six … then, as they start having kids, ten on ten, eleven on eleven …

You only have to do dishes maybe once a week

How could this not be every kid’s dream??? Although kids nowadays have dishwashers, so maybe this isn’t a relevant argument anymore to have a big family. And then again, you have to wash the dishes of ten people, instead of four. OK, never mind, this isn’t the best of arguments.

The blackmail possibilities are endless

I read love notes, diary entries, backs of school pictures. I listened in on phone conversations and at bedroom doors. I toted out carefully selected embarrassing photographs when significant others were over. Can you even imagine the candy bars and dollar bills that came our way just for leaving the canoodling couple behind the barn alone??

There’s bound to be a sibling who likes carrots

I hated carrots. Brandon hated potatoes. Win-win.

You get to drive a big-ass van

Our blue beast took up the entire road and was as tall as a Hummer. We had picnics, sleepouts, cry sessions in it. Also good for hiding from the rents during chore time. I probably wouldn’t be caught dead in one of them today … and whenever the day comes that I have kids, I refuse to drive a mini van. But it was cool when I was a kid.

You make friends in high school because girls have a crush on your hot older brother

I’m pretty sure half of volleyball team was nice to me only because Matt was my brother. Also, creepy guys leave you alone because they know that Matt and Terry (and, later after he grew taller and bigger than both Matt and Terry, Brandon), would wipe the floor with them if they messed with you. Although, this over-protectiveness can be exasperating  … any guy mentioned casually, and it’s the Spanish Inquisition all over again.

There’s bound to be one sibling you like

What if you only have one sibling and can’t stand them?! You’re screwed. With seven different options, you’re bound to like at least one or maybe two. I got lucky and liked all seven … for the most part.

Somebody else understands your weird parents

Have a 11 pm curfew? Have to have a chaperone to the dance? Not allowed to get your driver’s license until you’re 17? These embarrassing details cannot be confided to a friend, who will forever regard you as a freak. However, fellow sufferers, aka siblings, can sympathize, and if they are not sadistic, may even lobby for you. (“Why should I ask Mom to let you stay out late? I had to be back by 8 p.m. when I was 22, and so should you”).

You get way more Christmas gifts

If you play this smart, you will be on the end of the family, like I was. The siblings are richer then. My siblings grew quite magnanimous around Christmas. Chemistry sets, stuffed animals, Notre Dame t-shirts … and as I got older, jewelry, clothes, perfume.

OK, so what are the pitfalls of being part of a big family? I can honestly say there is only one downfall.

Hand-me-downs

At the age of 12, I wore my sister Bev’s old coat. That could potentially not be so bad … except Bev is 12 years older than me. I know that 90s weren’t particularly classy … but the 80s were, without a doubt, far worse. I had to wear Patty’s blouses … some had brown horses imprinted on them, some had white horses imprinted on them, sometimes they were black … but always horses. I almost wore Jen’s blue sweater in my high school senior pictures … until I realized she had worn the same one in hers … fourteen years ago. I didn’t even escape when it came to the boys … I wore Terry’s Piston’s hoodie when doing chores outside. And my sister Chris once told me, while she was cleaning stuff out of her closet, that if I ever got married, I could wear her wedding gown …. Which had also been Mom’s wedding gown. I told her I appreciated the thought, but no thanks …

Someday I’ll write a note about how many nieces and nephews I have, and the reactions I get. Although, actually, those stories are pretty sad. Most people don’t recover from the heart attacks.

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OK, may I say what we’ve all been thinking and been too timid to vocalize?

The Easter Bunny is as creepy as shit.

Are we teaching kids good boundaries when we allow, nay encourage, them to perch on the laps of huge, pupil-less-eyed rodents — and then get frustrated when they scream before the camera?

Let’s teach our children boundaries. All together now:

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Good Bunny.

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… Bad Bunny — RUN LIKE HELL!

Honestly, The Mariann Child had scant affinity for The Easter Bunny. TEB had zero personality, unlike Santa Claus. TEB brought no toys, only candy, half of which I didn’t like. TEB preferred carrots and lettuce to cookies, which caused me  to question his mental capacity.

His persona didn’t match up, either. TEB was a rabbit and experience had taught me t’was rabbits who left round little turds in my sandbox, rendering it both stinky and squishy. Could an animal lacking bowel control really be smart enough to hop to all the boys and girls around the world with baskets?  Also — any fool could see that Santa was a REAL LIVE MAN but TEB was clearly NOT a real live rabbit. He didn’t even have real fur, but pink or white fuzz strikingly similar to the stuffed bunnies on my bed.  As aforementioned, from sandbox expertise, I knew what a real bunny looked like.

And how did a bunny get picked to represent Jesus? A lamb seems far more fitting. Even the groundhog arising from his dark hole into the chilly air should have more street cred than a crappy bunny.

When I got THE TALK about the true existence of certain magical beings, while I dissolved into tears over Santa, I was actually sort of relieved to find out TEB didn’t exist. There was something sinister about the way he left his carrot behind, half-gnawed, on the dining room table. Like a retaliatory threat for my decapitation of his chocolate brethren.  “I’ll be back, little girl, to eat YOUR HEAD OFF.”

Remember parents. Good Bunny. Bad Bunny.

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And my car, “Rathole” hath come back to join the living.

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Rathole being loaded onto the ambulance after he decided to be a jerk.

Rathole and I have been through a lot together. I bought him new 10 years ago and he was my pride and joy. He has since become the bane of my existence and I’m totally cheating on him with a red Mini Cooper online.

His loyalty leaves much to be desired. For example, Friday evening, he decided to crap out on me whilst I was indulging in much needed retail therapy. Not only was he sneaky enough to crap out and cause me stress, he lured me into false security by getting me to the shopping center, then thumbed his headlights at me.

Anyway, Rathole has been declared somewhat functional by the repair dude next door. Apparently the computer chip in the key is messed up … a problem it had before and takes 2 seconds to fix. This tricky maneuver of turning the key a certain way and pushing a hidden button only cost 110 bucks. A steal, I think.

Now just to see if we can go another two years without him knowing about Mini …

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This was written five years ago in memory of the worst time in my life. As requested by Valerie, I have resurrected it here. I contemplated editing it but decided to leave it in its original style AKA all the raw horror.

Old men creep me out.

Well, not all old men. For example, my grandpa was my favorite person in the whole entire world. But most old men.

The latest in a long series is a random, withered guy at work who pops into the break room at awkward times. No one is sure who the hell he is or why exactly he is always chilling out in the Northern Virginia Daily’s break room, but he haunts it as if it’s his own private club. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the NVD break room’s OK as far as break rooms go, but it can’t be the hottest spot in town, even if it is Strasburg, Virginia. Seriously dude, go sit in the park or in the bar or in the coffee shop or by the ice cream stand, not my freakin’ break room, the only quiet, air-conditioned place in the building. Pardon my rant. Anyway, he asks slightly too personal questions and calls me by endearing names: “Sweetheart,” “Angel,” and “Honey” among them. Around my dinner hour, I always cautiously walk past the doorway and if he’s in there, I’ll either wait a few hours to go back down or just eat at my desk, both of which make me grumpy for the rest of the day.

I never used to be so creeped out by old men before. I used to be able to take all sorts of people in stride and not let them bother me. Back in the day, I would have just kept right on eating if the NVD Creepy Man walked in during my second course (my yogurt). However, life has never been the same, post-Mr. S. He scarred me for life. I will never forget the hellishness that was the month he and I worked together. To this day I feel nauseous when I think of him.

Right after finishing college, I stuck around Steubenville while job searching. I needed money to pay the bills (surprise), so I nannyed some cute little kids for a while and did house-cleaning for a sweet lady whose husband worked at the University. These were pleasant, nice jobs which I enjoyed doing. But I was still short on cash.

Then my roommate, Valerie, offered to let me have her side job as a maid for Mr. S. I was wary at first. Val had told me frequent stories about him, and he seemed the epitome of weird. He told her she was beautiful, took her to dinner, and invited her along to family reunions. Seemed sketch to me. And he was like a hundred years old. We loved telling Val that he was her Italian sugar daddy and she would get all freaked out. I really didn’t want to take this job. However, my bank account was running on empty so I decided to take it on. I really had no other way to make money and he paid pretty well. Seriously, how bad could he be?

She had convinced me by the time that she took me to meet him that he was perfectly harmless, albeit psycho. I was willing to give anyone a chance if he paid me $12 an hour.

When we walked up to his apartment, Val whispered to me, “I always knock really loud so he knows to get his clothes on.” And she pounded vigorously on the door.

“WHAT!” I croaked hoarsely. Great. She hadn’t told me about this. At her knock, I heard a screeched, “Come EEN!” And I met Mr. S for the first time.

Mr. S was a shriveled, tan little Italian man with enormous glasses, tufts of grizzled hair and disturbingly white teeth. The top of his head came to my chin. His apparel of choice, I was to learn, was usually a long t-shirt. I was later to find out that if I was lucky, he’d be wearing a pair of awkwardly short shorts along with the t-shirt. Or, if I was not so lucky, he was just chilling in his underwear. Yes, his underwear. Not boxers. Underwear. High cut. And that’s all I want to say about it. I don’t want to think about it anymore, and I assure you that you do not want to think about it, either. It don’t think it was anything dirty or perverted on his part (I hope), he just forgot to put on pants.

His living space was a 50-foot square apartment. His kitchen was miniscule, his living room could barely hold his recliner (no room for a sofa), and his king-sized bed (quilted in bright red satin hearts) took up the entire bedroom. However, he had two bathrooms … a master bath and a bathroom next to the kitchen. The two bathrooms themselves took up half the space. Makes sense to me. I mean, you never know when you’ll have to go.

He owned three televisions. A flat screen in the living room (it would have not fit otherwise), one in the kitchen, and one in the bedroom. At this particular point in time (Val and I had entered and he was shaking my hand my hand vigorously) all three Tvs were tuned into some sort of Italian beauty pageant … Creeper clue #1. As he shook my hand, he gave me what I assume he meant to be a flirtatious wink and said to Val, “Ah! Anotha beyewtiful lady!” [Mental note to self: Make yourself ugly]

My first task, after Val showed me the usual tasks (cleaning bathroom, making bed, sweeping floors, taking care of dishes, etc.) was helping Mr. S in his Italian cookery. On his stove was a cauldron big enough to fit Hansel and Gretel, full to the brim of some boiling hot tomato substance. I was to stir this tomato shit until it evaporated by half. Great. In August. In a stuffy kitchen the size of a linen closet. Oh, and by this time, “Miss Italy” had run its course and now we were watching some random Italian soap, over which S grew quite engrossed, occasionally dabbing his eyes over what I assumed (it being in Italian) was some tragically sad interlude. For an hour I stood there, stirring tomatoes with a big wooden spoon. Twice it boiled over, and S, standing nearby washing canning jars, darted over, yelling gibberish (I’m assuming Italian profanity) as he took it off the stove. Then we had to painstakingly pour the goop into all the cans and seal them. It took hours. We made a bajillion cans of it. They were all tomatoes from his back yard, and the produce would feed a small family of 200. I finally waded through that day, and was paid a parting compliment on my beauty and a jar of homemade tomato paste, as well as my wages.

From that day on, I wore my yucky work-out pants, oversized t-shirts and no makeup. I pulled my hair straight back from my face and wore my old geeky glasses. He got a lot more cranky after I started showing up ugly to work, but I infinitely preferred that over his attempts at flirtation.

Not only did I have to do his laundry, which awkwarded me out, I also made his bed, making sure the red, ruffled satin bedspread was perfectly even and smooth or he would go ballistic. God forbid I put the pillows on the floor while changing the sheets. “Do not poot the peellows on tha FLOOR! I do not poot my HEAD on tha floor!!” he screeched to me. But seriously, he made me vacuum the damn floor every day. There couldn’t have been anything even remotely resembling a bug or a speck of dirt in that carpet. Oh, and there was the time he came into the bedroom while I was making the bed and started changing his clothes. Yes, he did. When I tried to slither out quietly, he told me, “Oh, I don’t mind.” No, no I’m sure you don’t.

I also had to pick garden produce, and was given a dainty little basket with which to do it. In vain I asked for a bigger, sturdier basket. No, no, I was to pick, then transfer to kitchen, pick, then transfer to kitchen. Ugh.

He had no qualms asking the most personal questions. “Do you hava boyfriend? When-a you get-a married? How a-many kidsya want? Where-a you live?” He patted my shoulder, rubbed my back and squeezed my arm. The only thing that kept me from belting him across the Ohio River was the $12 an hour I was getting and the knowledge that I had three job interviews out of state in the next three weeks. I needed every penny I could rustle up to pay for my gas out there. So, against my better judgment, I stuck it out. I felt guilty that in every phone call back home I failed to mention Mr. S, but I figured the less my parents have to worry about, the better.

Fortunately, I learned that usually he left for work around 9:30 a.m., so I tried to always get there at 9:35. It worked pretty well for the most part, but sometimes he would still be there, waiting to say “hello” before he took off for work, and would I like a pancake with tomato chutney? Also, he asked me eighteen times exactly out to dinner at Red Lobster … and he was very disgruntled that I was able to manufacture eighteen excuses not to go to Red Lobster with him. I think that’s when he began to dislike me. Valerie would have gone with him … only for the free meal, of course, but he didn’t know that.

I’ll never forget the morning I came to clean, and he, having taken the morning off, all but forced me into his car. He informed me we were driving out to the country (his ex-wife’s house, I learned later) to pick figs. Sound creepy to you? I mean, it shouldn’t, right? Lots of people take the day off to drive out to the wilds of West Virginia to pick figs. OK, so, yeah, I was creeped. Seriously, don’t ask me why the hell I actually drove out there with him. The $12? The knowledge I could break him in two if I had to? But we did end up picking figs and, by the way, they are disgusting. And then we drove to some other Italian house where he presented the wife of the home with the figs, and she called him “Guiseppe” and tried to feed us, and kissed me on both cheeks. It wasn’t awkward at all. But I made $36 that morning.

Oh, then there was the time he had me help him gut out a rental apartment he owned. In the overwhelming excitement of getting started on this, he mixed up the brake and the accelerator on his truck and promptly crashed into a neighbor lady’s car, putting a generous dent into the hood and peeling off the trim on the door. He went spastic, flew out of the truck cab in a passion, kicking the hapless car that had, after all, just been sitting there parked. He swore, he yelled, he jumped, he cursed the gods as he shook his fist in the air. A little dramatic? Yes. He was Italian, after all. In the end, he picked up the trim and hid it in the bushes and roared away in the truck. I, sitting in the passenger seat and feeling like a hit-and-run perpetrator, felt compelled to timidly surmise aloud that perhaps we should notify his neighbor that he had just caused several thousands of dollars worth of damage to her car. “Da beetch shouldnotta park her car there,” he grumbled under his breath. “Da beetch.” Clearly, he did not regard his neighbor with favor.

Eventually, I found a real job and I was able to quit all my side ones. Mr. S and I did not even pretend that we would miss each other. Apparently, I was too uptight for him. I mean, most normal girls would have no problem with him wandering around his apartment in his underwear, right? He was so happy that finally his sweet little Valerie would be coming back to him and the tall “beetch” (that’s me) would be on her merry way.

Except … Valerie couldn’t take the creepiness after a month-long reprieve. I wonder who housecleans for him now? Maybe some creepy old Italian lady. They’d be oh-so-perfectly matched.

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