Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Comic Diving


This Thanksgiving holiday in order to mix things up a bit we took a trip to Rockport MA to see my cousin and his family. I think we amounted to about 30 people combined... and upon arrival my kids seemed very confused about these "new" family members that they had acquired.

"Mom, what do you mean he's your cousin?" I had to explain that this was my mom's sister who passed away's son. And then the other cousin... well, "That's the son of my mom's younger sister who passed away." Lots of thinking ensued. Their confusion was quickly forgotten with the arrival of a piƱata shaped like a turkey. (My cousin's daughter MOLLY has a boarding school roommate from Mexico who was in on the festivities.)

The entire experience initially felt a bit odd, as if we were hoping somewhere in the depths of our Pseudo WASP (a.k.a. assimilated Jewish) emotional past we could really feel some sense of family connectivity with people we rarely get together with. But when my cousin stood up and made a tear-inducing sober toast to the incredible power of love that has allowed our generation to heal the psychological scars of our ancestors– I thought I was witnessing positive genetic mutations in action. Shit. I mean, weren't we just a family known for our bitter sarcasm and our proclivity for excess? Do we not suffer from alcoholism, abusive relationships, vanity, obsessive compulsive disorder, unnecessary self-deprecation and a passion for butter and salt?

And then my 3 year old niece pipes in: "Um, who's that guy?" The room erupts in laughter.

We clink glasses, I stuff my sassy fresh vegetarian face, linger a bit and make "medium talk" with Stunning Mexican Roommate. Her eyebrows seem literally robbed from the face of a young Audrey Hepburn and I can barely pay attention to our topic, which has something to do with children being kidnapped in Guadalajara and the safety of life in America. I make a swift visit to the small half bathroom and I'm greeted by four large black and white photos of a "wacky" guy (think Fozzie Bear wearing swim trunks in Cuba circa 1937). I can barely take a pee.

Waka Waka Waka.

This man is my grandfather! Wait. What? All I knew of this human was that he liked to eat beef tongue and chopped liver. He was philanthropic towards libraries, cigars, Monaco, and Brown University– but otherwise did a great job embarrassing the hell out of his grandkids by treating his daughters and restaurant staff like slaves. (In many ways he was the worst side of that NYC Jewish stereotype.) I'm pretty sure I never got to see him with a genuine smile on his face, and and I always wondered if he thought his philanthropy would somehow buff out his cantankerous edges.

So back to Waka Waka... GRANDPOP!!! WTF was going on? He apparently excelled at this odd genre popular in his day referred to as "Comic Diving". And this made him smile. It made ME smile just looking at it 60 or so years after the act. Just when I thought the world was getting more boring than ever (a kind of boring only relieved by watching the creative genius that is Adventure Time on Cartoon Network) these photographic gems decided to give me a shake down.

Ugh. I have so much to learn about my family history it hurts. If this blog can help me, I will be doing the backstroke into the depths of my comic gene pool, with the hopes that my Lake Wobegon "above average" children will come to thank me for it when they reach the mental quagmire of middle age.

P.S. The title of this post was actually going to be "From Fatitude to Gratitude: The Truth About My Genetic Gravy".

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