|Pank runs in the family.|
This was thanks to the two babies who showed up a half hour late, thereby delaying the arrival of the Guest of Honor. Her Mom stalled her as best she could once she heard from the latecomers (texting me to make sure everyone had their drinks and had duly written our birthday wishes out for the ensuing scrapbook) and killing the mood outright. I think I got one photo of the birthday girl's "surprise."
Thank God I was seated next to G'Uncle Mike, on my left, with whom I could trade sarcastic asides. Decades ago, he and I sat together (with his husband, the Late Great Reg) at the wedding that pre-dated our niece as well, so we have some history for smartass and not necessarily welcome observations. My mom was seated on my right, threatening me with dirty looks every time I opened my mouth. For some reason, she kept rejecting the guest book concept to the nice lady who came around with it, "I already have a card. And I wrote on THAT." She finally sat down with the glitter pen and wrote a short note, but she dodged it for most of the party -- I can only assume the concept or execution wasn't up to her rigorous Martha Stewart crafting standards, because usually she's a good sport about anything Family.
My stepdad sat between us, and his significant hearing impairment ("deaf as a post"), combined with his social discomfort at being trapped in a roomful of people he didn't know well, meant everyone was treated to a series of uncomfortable pronouncements, all delivered at 72 decibels, including but not limited to, "SO WHOSE BABIES ARE THOSE ANYWAY? ARE THEY LESBIANS? YOU KNOW THAT DOES NOT BOTHER ME AT ALL. I WAS JUST ASKING," and "TELL ME AGAIN WHY THOSE TWO AREN'T SPEAKING?"
(Great) Aunt Eleanor served as the de facto hostess, trying to make everyone comfortable, dispensing hand sanitizer to all of us, but explaining, "I'm sorry I don't know you all. I have facebook, but I don't understand it, so I never see all these pictures you all are talking about. And I can't afford Twitter." I thought maybe that was just an "expression," and tried to clarify helpfully, "but Twitter is free." She looked at me goodheartedly, as one would with simpler relatives, and said, "no dear, it isn't."
The first thing I asked G'Uncle Mike when he sat down was, "are those kids related to you?" (gesturing to the din in the opposite corner). After reassuring me that he'd never seen them before in his life, he asked why I wanted to know, at which point I whispered into his ear, "because they are assholes." I was filling him in on how they'd showed up late (who shows up late to a children's SURPRISE birthday party? -- timing is everything -- even a stoopid baby knows that), when Emma's Mom somehow caught wind of the conversation and whirled around to shut it down. "You. All," she said in a voice that threatened she might separate us any minute, "That is NOT NICE."
"Ahhhhh KNOW," was my response. "I texted you when that first baby walked in that they were being assholes, and I told you I was gonna be mean to them." Then I turned to Mike and said, "if these were dogs, you'd never reward them with all that attention; they get confused and think they should keep behaving badly."
She added something along the lines of, "well let's just see how you handle it when you have two babies..." then trailed off, realizing the absurdity of what she'd said.
About that time, Emma was hauling the twins around the room, as she showed off her loot. I gave her a Starbucks card, and felt virtuous about not tossing in a carton of smokes -- as her second Uncle Mike pointed out, "it is Kentucky." G'Uncle Mike had given her a wonderful ceramic from the Late Great Reg's collection, filled with angel pins (which we threatened to use to puncture the balloons the little kids were punching and kicking all over the room). I think we both nearly misted up thinking of the glee Reg would've enjoyed at us invoking his spirit in such a manner.
Then he and I used the opportunity to remind Emma what a wretched baby she'd been -- crying all the time, at unimaginable volumes. "The Screamin' Demon," I'd affectionately called her. She didn't spend her first sleepover at my house til she was three (and by then she was a model child, and still is, though I am not optimistic about the teen years).
Emma then carried the toddlers over to us and held them out, "would you like to meet...."
"Nah," I said, pushing back from the table and raising my hands in the universal signal for "I'm good, Thanks." She then deposited one of them on my Mom's lap, where it promptly slumped over asleep (probably exhausted from all that crying).
"YOU CAN'T KEEP IT," my stepdad admonished her. "WE'RE NOT TAKING IT HOME."
Then my Mom leaned over and stage-whispered to me, "Stop being so ugly. Emma loves babies. That's why they're here." (It's true, she does and always has -- babysitting at every opportunity; approaching them at restaurants; creating imaginary baby families "The Butters," that accompanied her everywhere when she was little. All while I've tried to re-route her interests into technology, tiaras, academia... anything that I think might have a more productive outcome for her.)
"Yeah," I said. "Indulge that, why don't you? Cause that's not gonna come back and bite her in the ass."
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