Posts Tagged ‘Family’

It’s all relative

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


By Tiber 

Today is Ancestor Appreciation Day! So get out there and appreciate an ancestor!

You’ll notice I said pick just one.

We go back so many generations now, we’re all bound to be a bizarre, sorry, I mean, interesting mix.

People who are rich now had some dirt poor forebearers along the way.

Insecure strugglers today are related to confident successes of the past.

But all of us are bound to find at least one ancestor who was responsible for founding a town! That’s right! Impressive, isn’t it? He actually helped to build up a new city from scratch…because everybody else hated him so much, they went down the road and formed another community, just to get away from him.

Water, water everywhere

Monday, August 29th, 2011

By Tiber

We’ve had some flooding. Water can be so serene and beautiful but when it surges through like this, what a mess.

Nestor, the one remaining gardener, certainly can’t clean the whole estate by himself. So Dad has recruited all of us to help. And everybody’s okay with that since we want the place back to the way it was before.

We’ve had a little flooding in the past and the interesting thing to me is all of the unknown items that end up with you. (While some of your own possessions have floated away.)

Dad said we should make a real effort to return the items we find. But then we found a squash racquet. And nearby, there was an actual squash. There was a cantaloupe too so they probably came from a fruit stand or something but Dad thought someone might have actually been trying to play squash with a squash so he’s keeping the racquet “to keep his I.Q. from dropping any lower.”

We also ended up with somebody else’s lawn furniture. And our own was gone. Dad said in that case, why not just let everybody go with what they have? Mom likes ours a lot better, though, so I can already see us forced to be weird little Oliver Twists, roaming the neighborhood going,

“Please, sir, do you ‘ave our ‘litul’ French wrought-iron table?”

The one thing we thought we’d have no trouble returning was a large plastic tub filled with chopsticks. There’s s Chinese restaurant in the village so…but then we saw written on the side of the tub, “Property of Luigi.”

I knew right then, this is all going to be a lot harder than I’d thought.

Cheapy cheapy bang bang Part II

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Tiber

You may recall that last year on Independence Day, Dad said we couldn’t have real firecrackers because he was “concerned about our safety.”

We knew right then, of course, that his “concern about our safety with  firecrackers” just meant that he didn’t want to pay for them.

Now, this year, he’s not going to pay for them again.

His reason?

Well, since last year we were forced to pretend to have fireworks…now that’s traditional! We can’t win.

Unfortunately, this time, Dad also invited some friends to watch.

Once again, Dad coerced family members and staff to “be the fireworks” by banging on pans and running really quickly in and out of the woods waving flashlights covered in colored cling wrap.

As I said before, we’re not so much “going low-tech” as actually collapsing into “subterranean.”

Then, this year, to cap it, Dad actually allowed his grandchildren, the triplets, to write their own words to some John Phillip Sousa music.

Really, Dad? Come on! You know these people!

So, not surprisingly, after the “fireworks display,“ our friends were treated to patriotic tunes like, “Da-Da-Dee-Dum-Dum, It’s Time To Smell Your Feet.”

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the audience, even though it was comprised of people who know us and seem to like us, didn’t look so much entertained as… perplexed.

I guess Dad saw it too.

So he went for our number one 4th of July crowd pleaser!

He had our butler, Brunty, dress up once again as the Statue of Liberty!

Oh, who am I kidding? Brunty could have dressed up as Genghis Khan. The point was, he was pushing a well-stocked liquor cart.

Some traditions just work better than others.

Dinner is served and you’re served too

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

By Tiber

Dad has always insisted that everybody bring an interesting contribution for the dinner table conversation.

I think his initial plan was for us to be able to hold our own at dinner parties. Of course, since “interesting” is the only criterion, a lot of the things we’ve come up would only get us thrown out of dinner parties.

When we were little, a lot of our offerings came from two categories. 1) waste products and 2) strange animals. Dad would gamely try to expand on them and after Duncan’s first two-headed animal story, Dad said,

“You know, in the 19th century, showmen like P.T. Barnum would display oddities like that in an extra-pay sideshow.”

Vanessa: “Oh, come on, Dad. They called them freak shows!”

Kru: “Duncan goes to freak shows!”

Duncan: “You are a freak show!”

Vanessa: “Well, you’re just a freak! Without the show!”

Me: “But he could bet on something in a freak show! Win, place or show!”

Iris Nell: “He’d hurt the sad little two-headed creature!”

Vanessa: “No, he wouldn‘t! The animal would be two brains up on him!”

Iris Nell: “That’s not nice to say!…Just make it one and a half.”

Duncan: “I could open a good sideshow with a quarter of a brain!”

Kru: “It’s a freak show! Freak show!”

Duncan: “You’re a freak show!”

I knew early on that no one from the Algonquin was going to be calling.

But maybe Dad was right. Maybe these talks did somehow expand our minds.

That one idiotic exchange alone contained biology, biography, history, entrepreneurship, capitalism, horse-racing, math and good old sibling self-defense.

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.

Home sweet theme park

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Tiber

I knew I was feeling an ill-defined urge to flee when Dad, suddenly, called us all outside for a family meeting.

He said that to bring in some extra income, maybe we could do what some British families, who also live in big country houses, do – open up part of the house and grounds to the public.

“The tickets would be much less than people would have to pay if they went to a big amusement park.”

“And with good reason,” Vanessa observed.

Undaunted, Dad continued. “Well, obviously, my wonderful children, we’ll have to put in some attractions. And all of you can contribute, depending on how much free time you have.”

I knew he was looking right at the now-downsized king of free time. Me.

“We could do a haunted woods attraction,” my sister, Erin, volunteered.

“That’s very good! What sort of scary thing could we put in there?”

“How about Duncan’s triplets, just sitting on little chairs?”

Dad started to write this down before he realized what she’d said.

“…No! That’s not funny!”

Duncan made a face at Erin but she does better ones right back and he recoiled.

My sister-in-law, Honor, reminded me of my pending nightmare.

“Maybe guests could observe when Tiber starts making our goat cheese.”

Duncan guffawed. “Plus, when so much of it goes bad, we can build a Disneyland Matterhorn out of it!”

“Oh, yeah?” I retorted, “Well, we can also do ‘It’s a Small World’ if you’ll just flash your-”

Duncan jumped me at that point and we soon were rolling around all over the ground. Unfortunately, the goats had gotten there first and the rising smell gave most of the family a valid excuse to run away.

“Stop it! Both of you! Get up!” Dad yelled.

“And in any event,“ he said, “I’ve decided not to have Tiber learn to make goat cheese, after all.”

That was the best news I’ve ever had since, I don’t know, birth.

But Dad just had to go on.

“No, I’m thinking instead, since we still have the goats…that maybe we can make some painted goat carts, you know, with cute little flowers on them and bells. And Tiber can start giving people rides in them, all over the grounds.”

I’ve fallen into hell. And that’s the tricky thing about hell. When you fall there, you just keep right on going.


Happy Valentine’s Day

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

By Tiber

Well, here we are at Valentine’s Day again and, frankly, I’ve seen better ones. I was reminding myself of how much money I was saving by not being in a relationship but then I peeled into a drugstore, bought three, huge heart-shaped boxes of candy (“Gotta please all of my ladies!”) and then proceeded to eat everything in them myself while watching a game.

If I keep this up, I won’t have to go out to be near a woman, I’ll just keep expanding so much, out the windows and doors, that eventually, I’ll be near every woman in the world, without ever leaving the sofa.

So I headed into the gym we have set up here on the third floor but all of the equipment was already being used at top speed by Kru, Iris Nell and Erin because out of all of us, only my sister, Vanessa, is dating and only my brother, Duncan, is married.

To my knowledge, Duncan and his wife have never again celebrated Valentine’s Day since their triplets were conceived on that day some 10 years and nine months ago. I guess you become wary of a champagne bottle once you see what can come out of a champagne bottle.

My parents are the ones who still will truly be celebrating the holiday. They always do. Somehow, in a sea of divorce, they just keep holding hands and swimming on through.

Maybe it helps that they have separate rooms, I don’t know. I do know that when we were little, they both perfected the art of staying sane exhibited by the Emperor Joseph II in the film “Amadeus.” Whenever confronted by a scene of excessive emotion, he would just lift his eyes, say, “Well, there is it, then,” and leave.

Actually, I thing our parents doing that has made us stronger. With six of us kids, we’ve all pretty much mastered the ninja art of fending off an assault by five other people simultaneously.

In any case, I do wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. But to those of you who may not have had the greatest time, look at the symbols. Santa brings you gifts. The Easter Bunny carries candy but Cupid? He’s the only one who comes to the party armed.