My wife comes from a large family. She is number eleven in a full-dozen children born to two loving parents, over a span of more than two decades.
There are eight girls and four boys who, after getting married and doing the things that married people do, produced forty-two grand children; my son Lawrence being the youngest of the generation.
Every few years the whole clan makes an effort to get together at a reunion requiring more than eighteen months of advance planning. In between the comprehensive reunions, smaller subsets of the family get together from time to time. For several years in a row, a group of us descended on Boston to celebrate Easter every spring. I alluded to one of these Easter gatherings earlier this year in a post called Easter Dinner.
My wife Emily has two siblings that live in Boston, one sister who has six kids and one brother who has three. Once the Nazarians and their four kids come to town, you’re already looking at thirteen cousins minimum, plus adults. However, most years one or two additional siblings would attend with their progeny, making the scrum of cousins ever larger, some years the number was north of twenty-five.
With this many cousins, there is a large span of ages. The year this particular story took place, the cousin age spectrum was approximately 5-16.
Emily’s family is always very welcoming, but there are limits to what the human spirit can tolerate when any family gathers for several days.
For the years we went to Boston for Easter, we would drive the 5 hours on Wednesday night. Thursday I would make some client calls, while Emily and the kids hung out with the gathering family. By Thursday night everyone would have arrived and the festivities would begin. Thursday dinner was Chinese take-out, supplied by Emily’s parents.
Good Friday would be filled with as much outside, “exhaust the kids” activities as we could muster (it being early spring in Boston), followed by a dinner of meatless pizza.
Saturday would start off with a traditional Easter egg hunt, supplying the children with volumes of sugar that Michelle Obama would certainly deem ill advised, if not downright felonious.
Saturday afternoon, the chef-in-law of the family would serve up a multi-course feast that began with exotic cheeses and ran on for 3+ hours.
The comedian Lewis Black once said, “dinner isn’t over when I’m full, dinner is over when I hate myself.” This meal was like that; so good that you simply had to keep eating it, even though you knew you should have stopped hours ago.
Dinner would end and we would all roll ourselves from the dining room onto the comfy couches in the family room.
Before turning in for the night, we would discuss which mass we would attend on Easter Sunday. Where they live, there are several churches to choose from and this particular year, the adults planned on the earliest of the choices. As this information trickled down to the children, it was met with moans and groans but with enough “parental guidance,” we knew we could pull it off.
Two of the oldest local cousins, aged 16 and 14 at the time, were resolute that they would not be attending such an early service, and in the end, an arrangement was made for them to sleep in and go to a later mass. This was not a comfortable thing to witness. It was one of those hard-fought parent versus teenager negotiations that always ends up being much more difficult than needs to be.
It has been said that houseguests are like fish…
after three days they start to smell.
By the time Sunday morning rolled around, my sister-in-law had been hosting a lot of family in her home for the better part of four days. She was still smiling, but it was a weary smile just the same.
We all rose on Easter Sunday, dressed our children, and went to early mass. On the way back our hostess picked up two-dozen donuts to feed the younger kids. The ravenous rug rats polished off most of them off in mere moments and then scattered to play almost as quickly. There were a few minutes of tranquility, and then it happened.
One of the older cousins emerged from his bedroom and shuffled into the kitchen. He tipped open the box of donuts, and seeing the dregs remaining, turned to his mother and said, “Ugh, Mom, I can’t believe you didn’t save me a pink donut. I never get anything I want.”
Like the waters of a flash flood surging down a narrow canyon, we all felt the rage boiling up, and before any of us could run for cover – she blew.
The fourteen-year-old certainly deserved some of what he got, but the parental dam bursting we all witnessed was unlike anything we had ever seen, and although we could all relate to it, we were all struck and impressed with the ferocity.
We all sat in silence as she let fly with the most impressive, parent to teen verbal assault in Massachusetts history.
When it was all over, the teen scuttled away to dress for church while the flustered mom took in a deep breath and looked to all the other adults for validation. I seriously think she had entered an altered state since the look on her face gave no indication the she had witnessed the same thing we all had.
Because of this, we did what any normal family would do and acted as if nothing had happened at all.
In the hours, days and weeks following, many family members chatted about the incident that revolved around the pink donut. As is often the case when a moment of violence galvanizes a family, the rules of the English language were suspended just long enough for a noun to become an adjective.
Ever since that Easter Sunday in Boston, the people in my wife’s family never “lose their shit” over anything; instead we “go pink donut!”
As I have mentioned many times before, my wife works odd hours in a hospital, leaving me alone with our four children for long stretches of time. Similarly, I travel for business, leaving her alone with the little cherubs. Whenever either one of us has hit our limit, a simple two-character text saying “PD” is all we need to let the other one know just how well things are going at home.
We all “lose our shit” sometimes. Just the other day, a friend of mine let her kids “have it” only to discover they were on FaceTime with friends, and the friend’s grandparents had witnessed the whole thing.
If this had happened in my house, all the eavesdropping elders would have heard was a clenched voice saying, “hey kids, you better cut that out, or daddy is going to go pink donut.”
I might be judged for poor nutritional choices, but nobody has ever called CPS over a strawberry frosted – sprinkles not withstanding.
One of my favorite comedians is a guy named Brian Regan. Here he is doing a bit about some donuts. He does not mention a color, but I’d like to think they are pink.
Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.