Chris M.

Sometimes there are less-than-ordinary moments in life wherein, on paper, nothing MAJOR happens, and yet we can never forget them. Rare, singular moments that we share with our loved ones. These are the moments that make us think, Man, my life would be an awesome sitcom.

Last week was spring break at my school, so my little sister, Celia, and I headed to my grandparents’ house. My aunt and uncle and their two babies came along. With two lazy excuses for obese dogs and one cat that people tended to fight over, it was an interesting few days. One of those Special Moments happened over dinner at an Italian place in North Carolina.

Ryan is my mother’s brother. He’s a chef, with hair almost down to his shoulders. My grandmother, Nonny, says he’s lost weight since we last saw him. He finds everyone amazing and likes to make fun of his parents.

Liz is Ryan’s wife. She rolls her eyes. A lot. I like Liz.

Jack is the baby that’s just old enough to toddle around and say some words. He is delightful but attached to me like glue. I woke up every morning to “WUBY! WUBY!” and little sausage hands grabbing my foot. Lilah is his newborn sister.

Nonny is an imposing woman with a loud Rhode Island accent and feathered hair. She says cah instead of car. She wears purplish eyeliner, brown mascara, and perfume, and she complains a lot. She likes things to be neat and fancy. She owns khaki nail polish. Babies love her, and she REALLY loves babies to love her. She likes them to learn her name before other words.

Papa is Nonny’s husband. He gets angry about wars that happened over 40 years ago and Communism, as well as DVD stores. His favorite movie is Little Miss Sunshine, and he won’t listen to anyone who says it should not be shown to small children. Someone at Panera Bread once got his order wrong and he never went to another Panera again. He runs marathons and tells us how sometimes he pees blood after he runs. He has an indifferent relationship with the cat.

Celia likes to tattle, talk about my mother’s texting habits, and gossip. She watches courtroom shows with the two slobby/evil/lazy/boring dogs. She is convinced that Jack likes her more than he likes me, despite his crying whenever someone pries him from my grasp. She shows off her flexibility whenever possible by falling into a split in unexpected situations.

While deciding where to go for dinner, Nonny and Papa said anywhere would be fine, but then rejected every option presented except for the Italian restaurant, so that’s where we went.

When we arrived at the restaurant, Jack screamed at the top of his lungs. He then laughed when he saw everyone’s alarmed faces, and then screamed some more. Lilah began to cry, and Celia started whining about something or other. Nonny tried to yell to me as Jack tried to bolt out the door, and I called after him. We were placed in a little corner next to the kitchen, under some stairs.

The meal began with my sister and me being picky vegetarians and everyone else growing annoyed, followed by Jack’s dumping Celia’s water all over him and me. “COLD! COLD!” he shrieked, and Celia stuffed a napkin into his wet onesie. Nonny made a comment about how someone needed to go over and control him, while doing nothing (she likes to sit), and Liz gave Ryan a knowing look (and rolled her eyes). The exasperated waiter scowled as he mopped the water up with a towel, telling us it was no problem at all.

Then, bread and olive oil arrived on our table. Jack grabbed for them, got hold of a plate instead, and threw it on the floor. I handed him a piece of bread, and he threw that, too. When I wouldn’t give him any more, he started squealing, so I turned away. “WUBY! WUBY!”

“Look how smart he is,” said Liz. “Where are your eyes?” Jack pointed to his eyes. “Where is your nose?” Jack pointed to his nose. “Where are your boobies?” Jack pounded on his chest like an ape. Everyone laughed. “Jack, do you have a wiener? Where’s Jack’s wiener?” My family loves to talk about nether regions in public.

Dinner finally arrived. We had ordered the “family-style special,” which meant that we got four big salads, pastas, and desserts to share. Celia’s chair slipped backwards and hit the wall, Jack shrieked, my sister cried. Nonny snapped at Celia for making noise as Jack laughed and held up the empty bottle of olive oil whose contents he had just poured all over the floor. Papa got angry that no one had prevented the spill. Celia got angry and cried over Nonny’s insensitivity, and Ryan backed her up while Nonny pleaded that she didn’t even know what was going on.

“What dessert should we order?” asked Liz.

“Anything but the tiramisu. I hate tiramisu,” said Nonny.

“We’ll have the tiramisu, please,” Ryan told the waiter. Papa laughed.

Getting up, I slipped on the spilled olive oil and brought down a plate with me. Jack threw his own plate down too, and Liz removed Lilah from the scene.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, and even though nothing really exciting or funny happened, it made me realize that I’m part of one of those families. I feel really lucky to be part of something that’s not dysfunctional enough to be really sad, but not proper enough to be functional.

That moment at the dinner table was a long one. It lasted over an hour, in fact. So maybe it didn’t count as a moment, but whatever. ♦