Thursday, January 14, 2010

Familial Oddities (where do You go when you...well, whatever?)

So I'm making a faux-nouveau version of my Grandma Ruth's familially famous chopped liver, playing around with an extra hard-boiled egg here, some sauteed pecans there, when I happen to look at the windowsill above the kitchen sink. Semi-hidden among the potted plants and glass tchotchkes and the little round top piece to the pressure cooker is...
"A pet cemetery for cat whiskers?"
My mother startles out of her anti-dumb-American-actors conversation and looks momentarily chagrined before doubling over in laughter.
"Mom?" I ask. "Is this you?" She's laughing so hard she can't talk. My father watches us, bemused. I look back at the window ledge, just to make sure I haven't imagined it. Sure enough, on the far side of a small, potted succulent, a miniature modern art installation rises out of the soil at haphazard angles. There are six whiskers in all; all white, all different sizes. My mother is still laughing.
"You're the first one to notice," she gasps, and for some reason, the idea of my father and brother standing inches away from the little cat shrine/totem/hidden message every day as they wash their dishes or walk to the bathroom is too much. I slide down the counter, hysterical, and sit on the kitchen floor, hooting with laughter.
"How long have you been doing this?" I ask her, when I finally get my breath back.
"I don't know," she shrugs, and cocks her head to the side.
"I guess it is kind of macabre. But they're body parts. I couldn't just throw them away." She pauses reflectively, then shrugs again.
"Besides, as far as strange personal habits, this one isn't so bad. I hear someone on your dad's side used to keep a jar of toenail clippings."
I stare at her, aghast.
"Toenail clippings?" I ask.
"Uh-huh." She nods. There's a pause.
"I'm blogging this," I announce.

It's a strange house. My brother psychoanalyzes the cats (depressed and anti-social), and my father plays the baffled pater familias with disturbing accuracy. And none of us can make it through a simple conversation without breaking into song. Right now, Evan is singing "Hurts So Good" under his breath.
"Why are you singing that?" I ask.
"Because," he replies, totally serious and without a moment's hesitation, "The ginger ale I just drank burned my throat when I swallowed, but it tasted so good. It was pretty apt, actually."
He pauses. "I didn't even know I was singing."

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