Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Silent Night, Happy Night

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

By Tiber 

You may remember that last year at Christmas, Dad found a box of real 19th century clothing up in one of the attic rooms and proceeded to dress us up as Charles Dickens-style carolers so we could try to make some money at the mall.

Of course, there wasn’t enough of the 19th century clothing to go around, so Dad had to raid a box of 1920’s and 30’s clothing to fill in. Vanessa ended up looking more like a hooker in a speakeasy and Kru looked more like Scrooge’s accountant so this alone should have tipped us off that the project was doomed.

We got to the mall and auditioned out on the floor, only to realize, belatedly, that none of us knew all of the words to a lot of the carols. Dad panicked on “Oh, Tannenbaum” and instead started singing about his old college friend, Joe Tannenbaum.

And even with “Jingle Bells.” somebody replaced “riding in a one-horse open sleigh” with “riding in a Porsche Cabriolet,” which we then had no choice but to follow. Dad was furious and said later that we’d taken a lovely song about festive bells and turned it instead into a Christmas carol about German engineering.

In spite of it all, though, Dad optimistically thought that we might still get a call from the mall for a return appearance this year. That call did not arrive.

So Dad called all of us together around the piano here at the house and asked if we wanted to sing, just with the family. He turned around to pick up some sheet music and all twelve of the rest of us had disappeared instantly, like mist in a forest.

When we don’t want to do something, we can all vanish into thin air, thick air, medium-sized air faster than a frog tongue on a mosquito. I think we would all make very good spies.

So whether your family is singing well, singing badly or even not at all, Happy Holidays to you and have a New Year that is bright.

With baseball or holiday decorating, all it takes is a bat and some balls

Monday, December 13th, 2010

By Tiber

To save money this year, Dad has put a ban on buying any new decorations for Christmas. Of course, we’re very lucky since we not only have a lot of old ornaments but we also have a lot of trees on the estate, so we’ll be fine.

This weekend, we were all dispatched into the woods to bring back lots of tree branches to get that “boughs of holly” thing going for the doors and mantelpieces. Dad assumed most of us would get bored and wander off but no one did and, soon, we had a huge mound of tree branches filling the back hall.

I’m not sure how much holly we had in it but something was in it because the whole stack started moving. Dad, forever channeling Teddy Roosevelt, marched right in and began heaving away the top boughs.

And a big bat flew out.

Dad ducked as fast as the rest of us did. I think what people are not supposed to do when a bat is flying towards them is move. What’s the first thing all human beings do when a bat is flying towards them? Move!

Of course, in our case, we had some people running screaming away from the bat, some people running screaming towards the bat, the dogs wanting more than life to play snout-hockey with the bat and the cats doing flips and howling, “BIRD!!!”

Thankfully, the bat managed to change course and fly right out the back entrance and away from all of us, squeaking all the way.

Iris Nell said he was saying, “And a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

That’s not what I heard. I distinctly made out what that bat was articulating, It was, “Dear God, please let me make it to Times Square in time for New Year’s Eve. That, at least, will be a lot more calm and subdued than this.”

Gobble Gobble. Or not.

Thursday, November 25th, 2010


By Tiber

As you may recall, last year, in order to save money, Dad bought cases of Spam and tried to get us to eat it. Consequently, Dad still has cases of Spam.

This year, what with over 20 people here for Thanksgiving just with family and staff alone, Dad suggested that rather than buying an expensive turkey, we could model the Spam to look like one. Cook wouldn’t participate for professional – and sane – reasons, so Dad ended up doing it himself. Dad is no sculptor and the end result really looked a lot more like a bulbous pink stomach that had somehow escaped from a Pepto-Bismol commercial.

We still have the two peacocks, so my sister, Iris Nell, instantly jumped up and announced that anybody getting any ideas at all about them would have to kill her first.

So we made a meal out of the side dishes. My brother, Kru, sat there morosely trying to build a turkey out of his mashed potatoes and looked more and more like Richard Dreyfuss, in “Close Encounters,” after the aliens had zapped his brain.

Someone suggested that, for fun, the triplets could make those turkey pictures where you draw an outline of your outstretched hand. This was quickly vetoed. Not only are they about six years too old for that but knowing them, if you add a lack of protein into their everyday selves, they could easily just end up eating their own hands.

Finally, my sister, Erin, said,

“The point is, we’re all together!”

And instantly, people were yelling out things like,

“It’s not my fault!”

“I tried to lock him in his room but he got out anyway!”

“I told them Thanksgiving was in December this year but it still didn’t work!”

And then, we all realized that she’d meant it as a good thing.

And, truthfully, it was.

So Happy Thanksgiving from all of us to all of you and yours.

Cheapy cheapy bang bang

Monday, July 5th, 2010

By Tiber

Dad said we shouldn’t have any fireworks on the grounds this year, “for safety reasons.” It’s always a sure bet that when Dad says he’s concerned about our safety, what he really means is that he doesn’t want to pay for something. Either way, he insisted we could have just as much fun having a low-tech 4th of July.

The audience consisted of Mom, Duncan and Honor’s 10 year-old triplets, Honor, Jasper the renter and even the rarely-seen-out-of-her-room Aunt April, who, wisely, sat far away from Jasper since, as we all remember, she mistook him for an intruder the night he arrived and attacked him with a pitchfork. Even so, Jasper kept eyeing her, probably worrying that she still might be carrying a smaller, fold-up version of a pitchfork in one of her pockets.

So our celebration began and we had some John Phillip Sousa music which went off fine. Dad, Vanessa, Duncan and Iris Nell then proceeded to do patriotic readings and those were audience-pleasers too.

But then, we got to the fireworks substitutions, which consisted of Dad covering a bunch of flashlights with different colors of cling wrap and having us run really fast, in and out of the woods, with them. At the same time, Mrs. Brunty, the housekeeper, and all of the maids, beat on pots and pans and shook large pieces of foil for the “booming” sound effects. I think, truthfully, at this point, our efforts were not so much “low tech” as “subterranean.”

Kru and Iris Nell soon collided and Kru hit a tree and chipped a tooth. I’m always reminded of Mom going to a parent/teacher meeting for our youngest sister, Erin. She earnestly asked if there was any way for the school not to teach Erin anything about genetics, in the hope that at least one her children wouldn’t live in fear that she’d turn out like the rest of us.

Time arrived for our finale where Brunty, the butler, only had to walk out as the Statue of Liberty, holding aloft a sparkler. Unfortunately, since it was dark, he first fell into the lily pond.

His sparkler was doused so he grabbed the first wooden thing he saw, in hopes of lighting that as the torch instead. Unfortunately, when Brunty came staggering out, with his drenched clothing clinging to his skin and lily pads plastered onto his skull, he looked less like The Statue of Liberty and more like the Swamp Thing, brandishing a croquet mallet.

The triplets, after a lifetime of terrifying everyone else remotely in their orbit, actually got scared themselves and ran!

But maybe this is a way for them to learn empathy.

Oh, who am I kidding? I must still be blinded by the mind-blowing spectacle of all of those flashlights, so excitingly rolled up in Saran Wrap.

She Got A Cut-Rate Room At The Bates Motel

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010


By Tiber

We just celebrated Mother’s Day and Mom, mindful of everybody’s finances this year, said we should all skip the presents and just come up with some kind of entertainment for her. Anything at all.

My sister, Erin, hadn’t been born yet but Mom reminded the other five of us that we had once staged “The Nutcracker” for her when we were little and it had all been “so adorable.” So entertainment again it was going to be.

Iris Nell said it might be fun to just do “The Nutcracker” once more. Plus, that way, there wouldn’t be anything new to learn. The way I remember it, it was mostly just us throwing ourselves into the scenery so there wasn’t much to learn the first time around either. Even with that incentive, though, I said no way.

First of all, you never want to allow Duncan to play a role where he’s actually called “The Nutcracker.” If you don’t want him performing this as a kid, believe me, you don’t want him anywhere near you when you’re an adult.

The part I had was “The Mouse King,” another role I can now do without. Not only does the character lose and die but, come on, you’re also called the “Mouse King.” I might reconsider if I could up it to “The Rat King” which at least has Jimmy Cagney/Humphrey Bogart overtones. Iris Nell vetoed that, however, since she was Clara, the heroine, and could.

I informed her she was also going to lose another of the original actors before I even asked him. Vanessa, who took lots of dance lessons as a kid, had wanted to perform all of those Chinese and Russian and whatever they were“Nutcracker” dances which had left our brother, Kru, to be “The Sugar Plum Fairy.”  We’d managed to talk him into it then but I said there was no way we’d ever get him into a tiara now. 

So, with “The Nutcracker” a no-go, we had to come up with something else. We all agreed it would be fun to do scenes from a film and since it was Mother’s Day, it really should be something about loving your mother a lot.

We couldn’t agree on a movie, of course, or even a genre, but after arguing for hours, “Psycho” finally won the most votes. However, Iris Nell said she’d only participate in that if we at least wrote some songs to lighten the tone.

My compositions were “She Got A Cut-Rate Room At The Bates Motel,” “Do You Mind If I Use Your Bathroom?” and the grand finale, “You And Your Mother Look Exactly Like Sisters.”

At the curtain call, we all congratulated ourselves on a show well done, which we sort of had to do – since, by then, we’d realized that both Mom and Dad had left the room altogether a long time ago.

The Maypole Dance…Triplets running amok

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

By Tiber

We’re finally getting past a hard winter here and the flowers and the topiaries are looking great. Of course, that’s Nestor the gardener’s handiwork because in spite of the money shortage, Dad hasn’t let him go. I think Mrs. Brunty’s idea has worked. As I wrote about in January 2010 in “Is that Plant Staring at Me?,”  she told Nestor to trim one of the topiaries to look like Dad’s face. Dad still hasn’t caught on that he‘s looking at himself. He’s just decided that Nestor is a genius, who has created one of the most beautiful things on the property.

Anyway, I knew spring was definitely here, when I surveyed the view from the third-floor balcony. There was brilliant blue sky. There were green plants in bloom. There was a mummy on a stick. There were birds in the-wait. Go back.


There was a mummy on a stick?!? What the hell was that? We hadn’t had a mummy on a stick in the yard before. And I didn’t think we’d been planning on getting one.

Then I heard a blood-chilling sound. I froze. The sound could only be described as demons, ripping out their fingernails and jamming them into the foreheads. Ah. That meant that the triplets were outside, playing and enjoying themselves. And the triplets in the vicinity meant there was a good chance they had something to do with the mummy.

Suddenly, a living human head tried to thrust itself out of the wrappings on the pole and I realized, that’s no mummy, that’s my sister. I hurried downstairs to help get her out.

I quickly saw what had happened. To herald the arrival of spring, Iris Nell had built a maypole for the kids and taught them how to dance round and round it, pulling on the streamers. Boredom set in quickly, though, and I’m sure it wasn’t hard for the triplets to get my sister to climb up the pole. It’s pretty easy to get her to do anything once you know her.

Example: “Hey, look, Aunt Iris Nell! There’s a bug up there! And I think it‘s in trouble!”

So Iris Nell climbed the pole and the triplets then sped round and round with the streamers until she was helplessly wrapped up like a mummy on a stick.

“How could you let this happen?,” I sighed and she whipped out her defense.

“I called out the second they started! I yelled over and over again, “Mayday, Mayday! Mayday!” but not one person came to my rescue!”

I had to point out to my sister that since it was May Day, this probably had the same effect as needing help on Christmas Day and yelling out “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” Nobody’s going to rescue you. They’re just going to think you’re an idiot who enjoys a holiday a little too much.

Drop the chocolate and back away slowly

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

By Tiber

This year, the Big-Time Bunny Run was held for Duncan and Honor’s 10 year-old triplets. They say they believe in it all but who knows if they’re telling the truth? They’d also swear in a court of law that Great-Grandma Noni is a kangaroo and only wears that apron to cover her pouch.

At least the weather had finally cleared enough to have the hunt outside and my other siblings, Kru, Vanessa, Iris Nell and Erin and I watched it unfold from my third floor balcony.

As stated in my previous post, Dad, since he claims to know the Easter Bunny personally and is one of his top ambassadors, just refers to him as “E.B.” And every year, Dad makes sure to remind any and all kids of “E.B’s Rule #1,” which states that any candy not found by the children on Easter morning automatically goes to the Dad.

Dad, however, never bargained on the triplets. I know that at times we’ve all wanted to bargain something for them but that’s another story.

Anyway, if twins are creepily psychic, triplets are even more so. In our day, we found most of the candy but it was only accomplished with a lot of false starts and crashing into things.

With the triplets, the mental ability is honed and lethal. Today was like watching a grade-school production of “Top Gun.” The three of them could “lock on” to candy stashes in a flash and if they even sensed an adult in the vicinity, potentially slowing them down, they’d bark out, “Bogey on my left! Bogey on my left! Permission to fire! Permission to fire!”

Dad, who’s only allowed to eat candy on holidays, was in a panic. The triplets were finding all of it. The old desperate measures were needed so Dad suddenly yelled out, “What if E.B. threw some candy down the old coal chute?”

The triplets were off to check it out, which, of course, would divert them to the other side of the house.

I had no idea that Mom could move that fast. It was bad enough that Cook had once pushed an assistant down the chute but there was no way Mom was allowing her grandkids near there.

She headed them off and it was just in time for everyone to see Dad grab the last candy stash (that had been hidden in the greenhouse) and take off into the woods with it.

The triplets shrieked and flew off after him. I think we all kind of said our goodbyes to Dad at that point. This had clearly turned into a production of “Lord Of the Flies”…“Lord of the Flies” sponsored by the Hershey Corporation.

The Big-Time Bunny Run

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

By Tiber

Well, here we are again, approaching Easter and what’s known around here as the Big-Time Bunny Run. 

Dad really gets into this, partly because, though Mom can’t keep him away from Cook’s desserts the rest of the year, she has made him promise to limit his candy intake to holidays only. 

And the Big-Time Bunny Run is one candy event.

Dad always told us he knew the Easter Bunny (or “E. B.,” as he calls him) personally and was one of his top ambassadors. That was why he knew all of the “E.B. rules.” First and foremost was the one stating, “any candy not found by the children on Easter morning reverts to the Dad.”

With this kind of pressure on the five of us kids, our path would look something like that of a plague of locusts, if your own personal locusts averaged 50 lbs. each and could lift furniture.

So, of course, “E.B. ” came up with harder and harder to find hiding places for the candy.

Dad would often end up saying things like, “Oh, what a shame. You guys didn’t see the bunny’s stash up here on the chandelier. Well, as per the rules, I guess it’s mine now. Go get me the ladder, Duncan.”

I remember there was another stash we missed locating because it had been buried outside under the hedgerow. Dad didn’t get this one either, though. Some woodland creature had dug up and carried off the contents before we were even up.

Annoyed, Dad yelled out into the forest, “That’s just going to make you sick, you know!”

Mom responded that the only sound she heard was that of animals totally enjoying some candy that should have gone to the children in the first place but at least now, thank you very much, was not being enjoyed by Dad.

My sister, Erin, came along years after the rest of us, which is why we’ve always referred to her as “the surprise package.” Duncan’s always called her “The Unexpected,” making her sound like her own horror movie.

When it was her time for the Big-Time Bunny Run, even hunting alone, she was the most adept of all.

She’s a little psychic and maybe she can also just smell candy better at 20 paces but, in any event, E. B. had to become even more creative about finding effective hiding places for the chocolate.

Some of the candy no one has ever found.

In the distant future, someone will trip on a throw rug and end up finding what, in our day, was a chocolate rooster with a bow. By then, though, it will look as if one of us strangled some sort of one-eyed ghoul with a pink string and then hid the body under a floorboard.