Describing my Daddy-o is always a difficult task for me. This is the man who always had a joke or story or silly song up his sleeve, but is also the man who has no idea how to communicate emotions.
This is the man who I remember asking, “are you excited about Disney World?” and a full 5 seconds later, he’d slowly plaster on a fake smile and say through gritted teeth, “so excited.”
One year, my father brought all his fake excitement and sarcasm to Christmas. A beer casually in his hand, he sat by the white-lit Christmas tree watching as gifts were handed out. “I wonder what it can be,” he’d say about each box. What he really wanted was for each gift to be a shirt. Thankfully, with two of my aunts and all of their sons visiting, there were a lot of shirts given out that year.
“It’s a SHIRT!” he’d excitedly proclaim each time, with such a mix of delight and sarcasm, which is really what my father is. It wasn’t long until we were all lost in laughter, hoping each box anyone received had a shirt.
Fourth of July was one of his favorite holidays when I was a kid. Swimming and BBQ in the morning, and then we’d beg to be taken to the local city optimist to see the fireworks. We’d leave my mom at home and brave the traffic and crowds to sit in a corner of the open field, neck craned up to the sky.
My sisters and I would “ooh,” and “aaah,” as the fireworks were set off, but the entire time, my father would be waiting for what he called “the grand finale,” the last minute of the display when they set off bunches of fireworks together. From the moment the first firework was set off, my father would be waiting for it. Any time more than 2 or 3 were set off in a group, he’d sing song, “the graaaand finaaale,” which it never was. “Oh,” he’d admit. “Not yet.”
“Daaaaddy,” we’d complain, and he’d just laugh at us as we rolled our eyes.
I told that story to Penny as we laid our blanket down on the field of that same optimist. What was supposed to be a big group – Rox, Pen, Vyelit, Pink, Cheese Cream, Gailey-Bird and I, ended up being just Penny and I, as the street lights were turned off and the fireworks started.
“This is so romantic,” Penny said to me rolling her eyes. I giggled as I watched the opening display of lights and listened to crowd – the chatter, children crying at the loud booms, a car alarm going off, and a mother in front of us yelling at her husband in Spanish, unimpressed by the display, and scrolling instead through Facebook on her phone.
“I hate people,” I told Penny, scrunching my nose.
“Is it the grand finale yet,” she asked me.
“NO!” I yelled.
“Are you there yet?” she asked again, this time mocking an ex of hers who had a bad habit of asking that in the heat of the moment, ifyouknowwhatImean.
I died laughing, knowing we were no longer talking about fireworks.
“No, trust me you’ll know when I’m there!” Penny answered her own question.
“Oh, I think this is it! The graaaand finaaaale!” I announced as an impressive round of fireworks lit up the sky.
It was the first time I’d spent 4th of July with Penny. She invited me to attend the annual block party of her other good friends. She’s been previously called on this blog, “SomeIdiotWithTheFirstNameBarbie” so dubbed by Phoenix, but she was such a gracious host, and so nice to me on Monday that I can’t even call her that anymore. How about just “Sommie?”
Sommie lives a few blocks down from Penny’s parents’ house (incidentally, two houses down from Magpie’s parents’ house, but that’s neither here nor there.) We parked at PapaPenny’s house and walked the few blocks to Sommie’s house.
“This is the street you take to get to Flava Puff’s house,” she told me. “Well, where he used to live.”
“One year ago today,” I reminded playfully, “you were spending 4th of July with him, drunk on four wheelers.” She groaned at the memory, before throwing my own game back at me.
“One year ago today,” she said, “you were crashing into a wall.”
“One year ago today,” I continued, “Magpie was still telling me he loved me. WTF.”
“I was going to say something about five 4th of July-s with Anthology, but I remember how miserable those all were. He’d want to be at his mom’s house and the entire time I was just dying to come to Sommie’s house. I think I’ll enjoy having my 4th single. Today, we’re celebrating freedom.” She giggled cutely at her own joke.
As explained previously, Sommie, Penny and Roxanne were once best friends. After graduating, Rox and Sommie had a falling out, and have never recovered. Mostly, because Sommie is an epic grudge holder. We often joke that Rox isn’t allowed in the same zip code as Sommie.
I’ve never had a problem with her, per se, though her type-A personality is a tad grating. She has so much energy. She’s a black and white sort of person, and doesn’t understand anyone or anything that falls in the gray area. She’s fighting her way towards med school. The food she made for the BBQ was labeled with little index card signs on Popsicle sticks in perfectly even handwriting. She’s that girl.
The few times I’ve met up with her since being friends with Penny, she’s always been stiff, and insincere. It would maybe be hard to tell for most people, since she’s naturally upbeat and summery, but I think I have a keen sense when it comes to people.
As soon as we walked into her house, though, she smiled at us genuinely. “I’m so glad you came,” she said to me as I smiled and tried not to awkwardly trip over myself. “Thanks,” I said, following her into her room.
It was the exact same as when I’d seen it last, nearly 9 years ago.
Her parents remembered me, and greeted me warmly. Ten seconds talking to her mother, who is impossibly sweet and recently graduated medical school herself, and Sommie makes total sense.
Her house was full, and there was food and desserts everywhere. I kept pointing around to random people asking who they were. A neighbor, grandma, she had no idea who, Uncle Eddie, Aunt Donna, do you remember that kid from high school we called Stepstool? Etc, etc.
Apparently, a lot of kids we went to high school with still frequently visit her house, thanks to her older brother and sister-in-law. I extended my hand and said, “nice to meet you,” to a boy I later realized I went to elementary school with.
There were girls I graduated with, who I’m pretty sure were still wearing the same shortie shorts I saw them in last and t-shirts for "The Round-up," a country-western themed local bar. 6 years after graduation and you could probably stick them in a high school and they’d blend right in.
We sat inside at one point, playing ‘Bullshit’ with Sommie's grandparents and crazy aunt Donna. "You're a good bullshitter," Donna said, squinting her eyes at me. "It's because you're always smiling. You can't tell when it's a bull shit smile."
As we played, we heard loud booms coming from outside.
“What is that,” I asked Sommie. “What is he even setting off?”
“Oh,” she deadpanned, “my brother makes homemade bombs.”
I’m a sucker for phrases like that, the kind that are a bit out of the ordinary, interjected casually into normal conversation. Needless to say that I spent a better part of the night inserting, “oh. He makes homemade bombs” into conversation.
Uncle Eddie is Papa-Sommie’s uncle. He’s an elderly gentleman, who spent most of the afternoon sitting in front of the TV, collecting food in saran wrap to take home: cupcakes, thick slices of cake, a burger patty with a single bite out of it.
He was watching coverage of the Casey Anthony trial. “I think,” he stated in a thick Bostonian accent, “she’s so obviously guilty. Just look at ‘er. She’s a douche bag.”
“Oh my god,” Penny whispered to Sommie, “did Uncle Eddie just say douche bag?”
“Uncle Eddie! You called her a douche bag?!”
“Yes, I did,” he said firmly. “She’s a douche bag. And I never use that word, so you know when I do, I mean it.”
“You’re such a liar!”
“Oh, you’re right,” he said standing up and dancing around a little bit. “I use it every day. ‘Ey douche bag. You’re a douche bag. What’s that, scumbag? Get me a gaah-bage bag!”
Uncle Eddie is my kind of person.
Helmet is a neighbor of hers, who she grew up with. She’d explained to me that he wasn’t all right in the head, but that they were very glad that he was talking more, recently and showing great improvement. “Hey Sommie. What’s up with you and your brother,” he asked.
“Oh,” she said delicately, “it’s a long story.”
“Well, can’t you two just get along? You’re brother and sister.”
I listened intently. I hadn’t noticed it before, but now thought back to how I hadn’t seen the two interact since I got to the house.
“We got into a physical altercation,” she explained. “I left something on plastic on top of the hot stove and it melted. He saw it and called his wife a “dumb bitch” because of it. I defended her and said it was me and that he shouldn’t talk to her that way and it went from there. His two year old son was watching the whole time, and there was broken glass and everything.”
“Oh,” Helmet said. He considered the story for a while. “Did you beat him up?”
“We hurt each other,” she said, almost appearing to work the words around in her mouth. “It was mutual.”
Penny later turned to me and said, “I’m pretty sure she beat his ass.”
I believe every word of that.
“Well,” Helmet said, “let me tell you why I fucking hate your brother then…”
I lost it, once again. They may say he isn’t all right in the head, but that was pretty much the most genius segue into a “and this is why I hate so and so” conversation I’ve ever heard.
Later that night, as we left the block party back towards Penny’s car, she asked me if the night had been all that bad.
“Not at all!” I replied. “I actually had a lot of fun.”
“Me too,” she beamed.
I’m a chronic people watcher, and looking into someone else’s family and home life is so interesting to me. Besides, as we watched a gaggle of grown girls drunkenly slur things like, “I just shit my pants,” and laugh and laugh, I leaned over to Penny and said, “I’m so glad you’re my best friend.”
“This is really getting romantic,” she said back, as I noticed that I had my arm unintentionally around the back of her chair.
I quickly removed it.
I hope you all had fantastic holiday weekends. Penny told me a story about how Sommie's brother melted his face off one year with one of his home made bombs. I hope that didn't happen to any of you guys. That would be sad.
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Coming up this week (probably): what I learned after purge-cleaning my room and some things in life that suck hardcore, but are underestimated in their suckery.
I like all of your faces,