EVENT 1 – GIRL
I’m dressed in a suit that, I’ll admit, probably either makes me look like a complete stud-horse or a funeral director. I feel confident in it but then again, I wear a beard that I have dubbed “The Hanging Tomato Plant” due to its’ likeness to a… well, frankly, a hanging tomato plant. I walk into a room filled with roughly 200 people that I call family and adjust my tie; I’m at my sister’s wedding, which should be starting in T-minus-60 minutes. Many of these people I haven’t seen in three years, even more I haven’t seen in seven, since my wife and I got married. Some it’s been even longer, which, truth be told, is a complete shame.
I’m very excited to connect again.
Someone approaches me. She’s three and a half feet tall, has dirty blonde hair and I believe used to be part of the German SS. She is my grandmother. She points a crooked finger at me and says, “JOHN!” and I step forward to embrace her shriveled body. She quickly breaks the embrace, looks me in the eyes and finishes her sentence, which I clearly cut off, “Where are your babies?”
I think to myself, “Hmm. Well, it’s very nice to see you as well. I’m fine. Thanks for asking. How many years has it been?” but then instead I say out loud, “They should be here in about fifteen minutes” and after some idle chit-chat revolving around them walking and talking, I move on.
Next is a woman I don’t know. She approaches me and claims we’ve met but I think she might be lying or confused. I think her name is Visine or Pyrex, something that sounded like rash medicine. People often confuse me for a popular GAP model, what with my rippled six pack and chiseled good looks, strong Don-Draper-esque jawline and silky soft skin. I shake her hand and she asks me where my babies are.
This happens so often over the course of the afternoon that I debate putting a sticker on that says, “They’ll be here in fifteen”.
When they finally arrive, I’m in the other room so I have no idea what happened, but I imagine that from their perspective it was probably like being swarmed by a horde of hungry zombies / Justin Bieber fans.
When I finally end up walking down the aisle with my daughter, she’s dressed in a giant snowball tutu and every eye in the place is on her, mine included. She’s smiling at the crowd and saying, “Hi. Hi.” There are a couple oohs and aahs and I realize that I could have blood dripping from my nose, Oreo cookies caked on my teeth, chili stains on my shirt and sure no one would have even noticed.
The torch… has been passed.
I never stood a chance.
EVENT 2 – BOY
I’m driving (or rather, being driven) back to Omaha as I write this. I’m sitting in the backest-backiest seat again, the dungeon of the mini-van, while my wife stomps on the gas and my mother-in-law sits in the passenger seat making observations about passing cows, clouds and trees. It’s about 2:30pm and we haven’t eaten since 8 so we take an exit and jog through the drive-thru of a Taco John’s fast food restaurant. We order more food than is probably humanly possible to eat but we understand that it will be the last time we ingest the blessed West-Mex until next we return. The Taco John’s burrito franchise falls off around Denver, where all of their locations get picked up and replaced by In-and-Out Burgers.
For the kids we order a six pack of Mexi-Rolls. “They’re easy to pick up! But putting them down?? Not so much!” the cheap cardboard sign boasts. Mexi-Rolls, if you can’t guess, are basically just ground “hamburger” rolled up inside of dough and deep fat fried to a state of perfect healthiness. The truth is, I’m hoping this junk food throws my children into some sort of diabetic coma for the plane ride home.
When we get to the window, they hand us a single to-go bag that is roughly the size of two regular shopping bags. My wife has to use both hands just to hoist it’s pure fat-fused yumminess into our car. She screams thank you out the window as she punches the accelerator and screams off towards the interstate, forgetting both her blinker and seatbelt in her state of raw desire for The Meat and Potato Burrito.
Long live The Apple Grande! Long live The Apple Grande!
My mother-in-law pulls out a Mexi-Roll; it’s about three and a half inches long and doesn’t look at all like the picture. In real life it sort of represents a turd wrapped in a wet paper towel. Also, having just come fresh out of the fryer, it’s hot. Real hot. A real hot turd wrapped in a wet paper towel. I paid for this. I’m going to feed this to my children. “Good luck! Godspeed, baby intestines!” When they finally squeeze it out the other side, I’m almost certain it will look identical.
My mother-in-law says, “These are hot!” and my wife says, “Just leave them open and let them cool down”. Instead, The Mother-in-Law grabs a handful of Turd-Napkin-Lunch-Rolls (you can’t put them down!) and shoves her fist out the window, allowing the country air flying past at a brisk 76mph to cool them down. She knows, feeding my son is definitely a time sensitive issue.
As I’m watching the Yummy-Turd-Roll dangling out the window, little bits of “hamburger” begin to spatter off, while my son begins his slow chant, “Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat.” He does this when he knows food is close at hand. His excitement to eat literally begins spewing out of his mouth. “EAT. EAT. EAT. EAT. EAT.” He doesn’t care that his lunch looks like dookie. He doesn’t care that bugs and dirt are sticking to his Meat-Roll like flies on flypaper. This kid eats for sustenance and functionality, not frills and flavors. “EAT! EAT! EAT! EAT! EAT!”
My mother-in-law is answering his pagan chant with her own, repeating, “Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot!” as the greasy dough burns her callused hands.
“EAT! EAT! EAT! EAT!” “HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT!” “EAT! EAT!” “HOT! HOT!” “EAT!” “HOT!” “EAT!” “HOT!”
I don’t think either realizes that the other is doing the exact same thing but it begins to sound a little like a song so I start playing bongos on my lap; my own little joke. The Mom-in-Law pulls in the Lunch-Nuggets, turns to my wife who is operating a mini-van filled with five people and traveling at incredible rates and asks, “Is this hot?” before placing the Imposter-Food-Roll directly against her bare shoulder.
My wife doesn’t react so her mom takes the Mexi-Roll and places it against her own face, on her cheek and I have to stop and wonder if this is how she always checks to see if her food has cooled down at home. I imagine her applying vegetable soup like aftershave, pudding like a facial cream. My son, I can only imagine, is thinking the same thing or, at the very least, “WHY ARE YOU RUBBING MY LUNCH ALL OVER YOUR BODY?!” because he begins his “EAT!!!!” chant again.
The Dump-Meat-Fart-Bar gets handed back to him and I sort of turn away as he takes his first bite because, frankly, it just looks too suggestive and I have a very weak gag reflex to begin with. My daughter begins licking her Mexi-Roll, tasting the outside crustacean while my son takes his like the Tootsie-Pop owl. “Ah-one…ah-two…ah-three—CRUNCH!” and the Mexi-Roll is gone. “MORE! EAT! MORE! MORE! EAT!”
Yes, my little friend, eat the junk food. Fill your belly with it’s goodness. Your eyes are getting sleepy. Goodnight… goodnight… goodnight… see you in LA…