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Crawfish in the Family

Crawfish in the Family

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Published by Charles Dowdy

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Published by: Charles Dowdy on Feb 15, 2010
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02/15/2010

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CRAWFISH IN THE FAMILY
 Now that the whole herd is living in the neighborhood my mother has no excuse but toinvite us all to Sunday lunch. We spend too much time together already and the conversation atSunday lunch is a struggle.First we critique the sermon. This has quickly become old hat and predictable. For example, one unnamed member of the family will always say, “The sermon? Well, I really likedthat part about Jesus.” It’s funny to me that none of us will ever admit, “Man, I just put my brainin neutral and didn’t hear a word that guy said.”After sermon jousting we’ll tell stories about our children. Talk about bringing on theyawns. We live all around each other. We see each other all the time. Our children can only be socute.By the time the food is on the table a conversational impasse has set in.One Sunday someone offered up a comment on my younger and then unmarried sister and a mysterious male referred to as “Mr. X.”“Why in the world would she call him Mr. X?” My mother wanted to know.“Because she doesn’t want us to know who he is,” my older sister said.
 
“Why would she do that? Does she think we will embarrass her?”My father had an intimidation policy when young men came to pick up one of hisdaughters for a date. He would leave their offered hand hanging and not say a word as he staredthe young man down. Then my mother would overcompensate for his actions, flittering aroundlike a hummingbird on PCP.(In all honesty this good parent/bad parent policy had little effect on my older sister’ssuitors. Dunbar went for a certain type in her youth and these guys were not on their way tocareers in quantum physics. Besides, their idea of picking up a girl for a date usually meanthonking from the street or meeting somewhere like a remote Fire Tower where they would stareinto each other’s eyes by the light of burning tires. Nothing says love like coming home withsoot on your face.)That was all years in the past now. Everyone was ready for Eloise to get married, if onlyso she could start having kids and see how damned hard it was.“Mr. X sounds like a character from a James Bond movie,” I said. “At least that wouldimply some ambition. She’s graduated from jobless losers to master villains with designs onworld conquest.”My mother delicately combined her peas with the eight grains of rice on her plate.“What’s wrong with her parents wanting to know what’s going on in her life?”“Must be a loser,” Dunbar said, kicking at her son who was under the table tying our shoelaces together. “Otherwise why would she bother?”Since this Mr. X thing was troubling my mother I threw out a few alternatives, knowingshe would feel it was her parental duty to respond to each and every one. “Maybe he’s just reallyugly.”
 
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” my mother said.“Maybe he’s got some kind of social disorder.”“They have wonderful medications for that now.”“Maybe he’s been to prison.”“We should not stand in judgment if he has already served his debt to society,” mother said.“Maybe he’s still in prison.”My mother frowned. “That would create some problems.”“Maybe he’s been married like eighteen times and he’s one of those sixty plus year oldcountry club types with crinkly, sun-baked skin and big, dark liver spots. You know, serialmarriers who drive out of date Cadillacs and prey on women one third their age to fund their endless rounds of golf and casino trips.”“Maybe that’s enough,” my dad said.“Maybe he’s STILL the big, fat ‘M’ word,” I said.My mother’s face lit up. “In management? Do you think?” So we already spend a lot of time together, but for some reason, Mom expects meals atthe holidays to be different. We’re dressed nice, we’re clean, pressed, and somehow she thinksthat will make the conversation more profound. It is like she thinks we will all come to theholiday table as the family we should have been, instead of the family we became.She has always frowned on booger jokes in this setting.

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