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My Seven Crazy Cousins Take The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wynne Williams-Ceci

For most people, a holiday break is a time for relaxation, catching up on sleep, and
maybe even vacationing somewhere warm. For me, though, the beginning of a holiday
break is a harbinger of impending chaos and disaster, because it means I’ll be seeing my
seven crazy cousins, the Simons. The Simons are a kind and generous clan, but any event
with them rapidly degenerates into a fiasco due to the lack of parental supervision with so
many kids (including five boys under age eighteen), and their boisterous, rowdy nature.
Thanksgiving break was no exception.

My family pulled into the Simons’ driveway after a two-hour drive, and we all remained
in the car for a minute, savoring what we knew would be our last moments of silence
until our ride home that night. My aunt had emailed my mom stating that she had planned
something special for the day, and we were on tenterhooks wondering what, exactly, we
were in for. Despite it being 9:30 in the morning on the day before Thanksgiving, all
seven of my cousins were running around outside playing tag and dodge-ball, and I
realized they had undoubtedly been up for hours. (One might think this would mean they
would be tired by dinnertime, but somehow it never does….) Before we even exited our
vehicle, the Simons greeted us in the form of a basketball thrown right at the hood of our
car, promptly followed by a chorus of “Sor-ry!!!” My mom bowed her head for a moment
of reflection, took in and held a very deep breath, and then we all left the car, steeling
ourselves for the insanity we knew would inevitably follow.

Once we hugged and kissed each of my seven cousins, we entered their house to find my
aunt and uncle who, as always, appeared harried and disheveled. My aunt ran around the
house picking up toys and herding two guinea pigs, a rabbit, and a battalion of lizards
into their cages, while intermittently asking us questions about how our school year was
going, doing her best to catch up. After 45 minutes she finally sat down with my family,
describing her “exciting plans for the day.” Apparently, we would all be riding in their
15-passenger van to New York City to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My initial
reaction was excitement, because I love museums--but it was quickly followed by dread
when I realized I would be visiting a classy place filled with valuable artwork,
accompanied by my crazy cousins! My aunt added that since my uncle had to work and
my family consisted of only three people, there were still four available seats in her van,
so naturally she invited her neighbor’s four children to join as well, because “the more
the merrier!”

We all crammed into the semi-rusted van, which was truly more like a bus, and my aunt
got behind the wheel. She remarked in passing that she hoped we wouldn’t encounter too
much traffic on the trip because the brakes were “a little shot” and had needed to be
repaired for several months. I wondered how she figured there wouldn’t be traffic the day
before Thanksgiving in New York City? Once we started getting close, my mom asked
about the plan for parking the massive vehicle. My aunt responded that she didn’t make
any arrangements, and was assuming we would figure it out once we got there. She
pulled into the clearly-marked “Buses Only” lane directly in front of the Metropolitan
Museum as though she intended to actually park there, but quickly realized this wasn’t
allowed when a tour bus pulled up behind us and honked loudly. We frantically
mapquested the nearest parking garages, but were turned away from each in sequence. As
soon as we pulled into a garage, workers waved their arms and yelled, “No! No! No! Too
big! Won’t fit! Go home!!” Our last resort was to drive around until we found an empty
lot by the East River, fourteen blocks from the museum, that charged $30 an hour to park
a bus—then slog to the museum in the windy, freezing weather.

By some miracle we all eventually made it inside the museum, and right away I realized
there was no way we would be leaving without losing at least one child. The museum
was filled to capacity with groups of people running around chaotically, and every
conceivable nook was super-crowded. Once we finally got to the exhibits I was horrified
to discover that my cousins brought their loud, obnoxious toy, called a “Bop It.” Adults
throughout the museum flashed us dirty looks as they struggled to appreciate the artwork
over the electronic din of the toy. As the Simons walked around, continuously touching
the off-limits exhibits, we somehow managed to accumulate two security guards who
followed us in a very non-discreet way, stopping every so often to yell at one of the crazy
cousins for getting dangerously close to the expensive artwork. On several occasions I’m
fairly certain that my ten-, six-, and four-year-old cousins were walking around alone,
lost somewhere in the bowels of the huge museum. Despite the miniscule chance of
success, we somehow all made it out in one piece and walked the fourteen blocks back to
my aunt’s van.

There were some driving scares on our ride home. My aunt (who insisted she is a “great
driver”) turned the wrong way onto a one-way street, then made a quick U-turn before the
stoplight changed to green and all the cars headed straight for us. This horrified my
family, but didn’t seem at all out of the norm for the Simons. Once we got close to their
house, my cousins called and ordered pizza, mentioning that they hoped the deliveryman
would not arrive before we got there—something that apparently had happened before,
more than once.

We finally pulled into my cousins’ driveway and walked inside to say goodbye to
everyone, knowing that we must leave soon for our long ride to our house. The Simons,
generous as always, offered to us to stay over, but my mom quickly declined (and I know
she would secretly rather drive through rush-hour traffic than sleep there). My mom gets
migraines, and I bet she would not be able to survive the constant noise from the Bop-It
coupled with my cousins’ family-band daily practice session. My family headed for the
door, excited at the prospect of peace and quiet--but just then my aunt waved and said she
hoped we could make the same trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art again next year,
this time with a larger group to “liven things up.”

© Wynne Williams-Ceci