Friday, December 5, 2008

The Joy of Coffee

Every family has that thing that they like to do together.

Some families hunt and fish. Some family raise and ride horses. Some families own successful businesses. Some families take their vacations together.

Not mine. We...drink coffee. It's the one thing that binds us all together. When we get together for holidays, we go through several urns, and each urn contains 30 cups. None of those little 8 oz. cups for us, we drink it out of 16 or 20 oz. styrofoam cups and although we always start with the best intentions of putting our names on the cups so we only use one each, we go through a whole package of cups in one day. The problem of styrofoam not breaking down in the landfills and taking up too much room can probably be directly traced back to my family parties.

Winter, spring, summer or fall...always coffee, always hot. If anyone drinks iced coffee in the summer, they hide that fact from the family at parties. Even if it's the dog days of summer, that urn is pumping out our molten, caffeinated goodness.

I recently heard a story about when my great uncle passed away in 1985. Two of my younger cousins were horsing around at the wake and one of the older cousins took them on a walk so they could calm down a bit. All three of them walked into a deli and when the counterperson asked what they wanted, they replied, in unison, "Ten coffees." Apparently, this counterperson nearly had a stroke and repeatedly asked, "Are you sure you want TEN coffees?" It seemed like a resonable request in my family, even considering that the 2 younger ones were only about 8 years old at the time.

Then there's the story of the family headed to a music festival in Philly. There were about 8 of them and about half were taking their own sweet ass time getting ready to go to breakfast. Then, it seems, my father had an A-HA moment. He took off to the car like his pants were on fire and returned with a thermos of coffee that was brewed the morning before. It had been stashed under the driver's seat and he poured it into the attached cup and promptly begain sipping. Uncle B caught him and said, "What, you holding out on me?" Dad shared with Uncle B while my poor mother gagged. If they had already eaten breakfast, Mom definitely would have tossed her cookies. She didn't view the day-old coffee as the hot commodity Uncle clearly believed it to be.

My cousin P, was ordering his own "extra milk coffee" at the deli counter at the age of 3. I took regularly scheduled coffee breaks with my grandmother after pre-school. My father once had an espresso and an espresso ice in one sitting at Ferrera's in NYC's Little Italy. And for the record, that was probably the only time he had trouble sleeping.

Yeah, we love coffee and are all addicted to it...but hey, it's legal, it's safer than crack and it brings us all to the table to laugh and reminisce every once in a while. How bad can that be?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's That Time of Year Again...

It's time to drag out all of those decorations from the time of yore (when the hell was yore exactly, I can't find it on a calendar). It's time to get bat-shit over the what to buy for your kid's uncle's dog-walker's nephew's girlfriend. It's time to bake 812 million cookies (that you promptly give away 'cause the smell of them reminds of all the arguments you had with the person you baked them with). It's time to start the pine needles' annual march to that soapdish in the bathtub (seriously, how do they get in there?).

And it's time to wonder, yet again, if you're adopted.

Thanksgiving is the start of what I've begun to call Doubting Season. It's the start of a time when the family gets together 3 times in 5 weeks (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) and as soon as the ball in Times Square drops, you make a solemn vow not to see these wackjobs till July 4th!!

It all started with a casual comment made by Uncle B. He asked when my father and Uncle M want to start training for the Scottish Heavy Games. The whole table, and we were 16 people, all snapped their heads to stare at him. Truth be told, more than one of us cocked our heads like a dog who's hearing a loud squeak. Several events of the Scottish Heavy Games are predessors to some Olympic events. The Javelin came from the Caber Throw and the Shot-Put came from the Stone Toss. Mind you, the shot-put is usually between 12 and 19 pounds and the stone is 56 pounds, but I digress. Oh, yeah...I forgot the best part...all of the events are performed while wearing the traditional Scottish mens' attire...the kilt.

Are you picturing it? Full-grown men, American Men, throwing HUGE objects, while wearing skirts. Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny too...and I'll give you a minute to stop laughing and compose yourselves...

Poor Uncle B, he was rather serious about this. Uncle M and my father were actually considering indulging him. I decided at that point that my contribution would be to exercise my right thumb and index finger so I could dial 911 on my cell in record time. These guys are all over 50 and truth be told my father is closer to retirement age than 50. They're big strapping guys, but not in peak physical condition. Who smokes, who takes blood pressure pills, whose idea of exercise is walking to the corner deli for ice cream rather than driving...this is a catastrophe in the making.

Also, there is a set of events that are similar to the Scottish Heavy Games that are played in Scandinavia. My cousin must have been thinking of this when he piped into the merriment that my father and uncles were going to have to change their names to Sven, Lars and Olaf. I swear, I snorted gravy through my sinuses when he said that. This cousin is usually very shy and soft-spoken but I think he was thrilled not to be invited to train with the older guys so he was perking up. I haven't laughed that hard in ages.

After that, things got serious. They were bummed they hadn't brought their datebooks so their could synchronize their schedules and they were wondering just how good their medical coverage was, you know, in case of an emergency. Uncle B, when asked what he hoped to accomplish said, "Well, we don't have to win the first year."

I had an intense need to clear the table at that point. I was piling up dishes, wondering when these guys were going to come to their senses.

Yeah, it's that time of year again...time when you look around the holiday dinner table, see the physical similarities between you and your family members, remind yourself that you really truly belong to this lot of oddballs and start timing yourself to see how fast you have an ambulance at the front door.