Family vacations are challenging. I like to use the word challenging because sometimes I like to rise to the challenge, and sometimes I feel like I’d rather stick my helmet-less head into outer space.
This one is more challenging than usual. To start off, it’s last minute, and rightly so, I suppose. It’s my maternal grandparents’ anniversary and my grandfather’s birthday. A fucking double whammy. So where do we go to celebrate this momentous occasion? None other than geriatric paradise—Orlando, Florida.
Upper crust WASP’s go to Europe. Middle America goes to Florida. Each to their own crack, I suppose. But the funny thing is, my family isn’t even from Middle America. We couldn’t be more opposite, but I guess somewhere in the back of my grandmother’s deteriorating mind, she thinks her grandkids are still five-years-old and want to go on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride until we puke out the pink cotton candy we stuffed our faces with an hour earlier.
So I get into Orlando at 7:00am Saturday morning having flown out really early from New York. My cell phone goes off constantly right when I turn it on, and somehow I already have five text messages from my girlfriend. Great. She’s probably PMSing and wants to talk to me about her insecurities. I turn my phone off. I’m hungover as shit, completely dehydrated, and running on zero energy from an all-night bar-hopping ragefest the night before. (I say “ragefest” with facetiousness, by the way. To say it seriously would make me a huge douchefuck.)
“Robbie! Robbie! Robbie! Robbie is HERE!”
“Oh shit,” I swear under my breath as I see my little cousin gallop towards me, taking four strides for every two my uncle takes to keep up with him.
“Heya bud.” I manage to smile. I haven’t seen this kid since he was in a cradle, and now he has tufts of blond hair sprouting everywhere. And snot. Lots of snot. Nevertheless, he’s seems like a spiffy dude, and I decide to like him.
“Looks like Tim likes ya just fine. How was the flight?”
“Oh hey, Uncle Rich. It was alright.”
He grins suggestively. “Long night, eh?”
“Um, yeah I guess.”
“Yeah, I remember those college days.”
“I’m not in college anymore, Uncle Rich. I graduated two years ago.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” he scratches his head, “so your girl keep you up all night? What’s her name again? Heather, right? Is she a fox in—“
“Rich!” My aunt has caught up, clutching one baby in her right hand and grasping the hands of two other toddlers. I forget every time what a traveling circus this family is.
“Hi Auntie Kim. Hi Rose. Hi Lily. Hi Petunia.” They all return my greeting except for Rose, who is still suckling at her mother’s huge teet.
“Is Rich bugging you again about the college heydays?” Auntie Kim says, readjusting her shirt. I can’t stop staring. I mean, her nipples are fucking gargantuan. It’s a little off-putting, to say the least, but I guess that’s what you get after four kids.
“Nah, it’s cool. Is my mom—“
“—Because you know it’s all about the grad school days. Remember, Rich? That’s how baby number one happened.”
“Oh I remember, peachy cakes.”
Oh god, before they start fucking right there on the blue and grey airport carpet in front of their kids and everyone, I interject and suggest we make our way out.
When we finally get to the hotel, I say hi to everyone—there’s 21 of us total. I barely have fifteen minutes to take a shower and get dressed before we take off for Disney Land. I find Ryan and Rita, both of whom are still in college, but are closer to my age and cynicism than the four young ones who are practically wetting themselves with excitement at the moment.
“Hey, man. You look like shit,” Ryan pats me on the back.
“Hey, nice to see you, too.”
We laugh. It’s kind of nice to see everyone again in some sort of sadistic way, I suppose.
Disney Land sucks. We walk around. I eat five churros because that’s what you crave when you’re hungover. I am coerced into going on several rounds of the Indiana Jones ride with Tim, which makes me puke up the abundance of churros. Lily and Petunia are pretty much grossed out by me and proceed to gossip about my tendency to puke incessantly throughout the rest of the day.
“Really lovely girls, you have there Auntie Kim.”
“Aw, thanks Robbie! I think they really like you.” She thinks I’m being sincere. “I hope you had fun today. Thanks so much for watching our little kiddlywinks. Your uncle and I really made use of those two hours.” She winks.
I almost puke again, but there’s nothing left in my stomach. But that’s okay, because now we’re on our way to the shitstorm of food Americans like to call buffets. This is where the fun really begins. We usually get separated into “the kids table” and “the adults table,” but my dad suggested we do it by first, second, and third generation table and fourth generation table. That way Ryan, Rita, and I wouldn’t have to sit with the flower children and their nannies.
I start to regret my dad’s political correctness about ten minutes into dinner, as I am sandwiched between my parents and at least five people away from Ryan and Rita.
“Why don’t we check out the beach tomorrow?” my mom proposes.
“Can you just stop planning for one second. It’s my dad’s birthday. Let’s just have a good time,” my dad spits back.
So I just sit back and remember why I love family get together so goddamn much, when oh great, Uncle Richie and Aunt Kim sit in front of us. Yay, more fake happy talk about their bitter lives as parents and mourning childless, single life.
Before I know it. It’s time for my grandparents to blow out their candles. They bring the kids over and Tim instantly clings to me, wiping his snot on my pant leg. Whatever. He’s in a helluva lot better place than I am right now. Happy Birthday to you, we sing. It takes my grandfather three successive tries to blow out the single candle they have planted on a small crème brûlée. Everyone starts to cry. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, babies. My mother cries. Auntie Kim cries. Uncle Richie cries.
I take Tim to the bathroom and he lays a big one in that pristine white toilet bowl. Not bad kid, not bad.