This is not Craig
Please welcome my Cousin Craig back to Odd. He enjoys the family gene of never letting the truth get in the way of a story. It is one of my favorite things about him. Really!
My wonderful cousin invited me to write something for her My Odd Family blog. She assures me that Odd is a family-friendly site—apparently to everyone else’s family, but not so much to our own (see the name). So, the sweet spot is odd but not offensive . . . which might not even exist anymore. I yield full editorial rights to KTBJR (KaTybeth Jensen Ruscitti), and I hope we can all be friends when this is all over.
So, it’s summer. I work a job that keeps me in the office about 330 days a year, and this is my slightly quieter period. I thought, “I haven’t heard from my cousin lately, and I actually have a bit of time to write something, so I’ll reach out to her.” I was hoping for inspiration, for a topic, for an issue to grab my lance of a pen and go for a nice tilt with.
She said, “Your topic is anything.”
I tried to take that as liberating, but if I had anything interesting to write about, I might have already written it. Left to my own devices, I can be unpredictable and a bit dangerous! I need focus—an exhaust vent for my pent up . . . stuff. Then, it hit me—my odd family. My odd family provides enough material to fill a novel and enough people to fill an asylum. I recently read a wonderful (but I fear not family-friendly) book called Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. In it, Lawson talks about her family, but she changes names and states that the book is only “mostly” true. Anything too crazy or far-fetched is probably 100% true, but her family has an out. “Oh, that’s not what happened,” they can say to friends and neighbors who might not know better. A loophole was just what I needed, and fate and my cousin conspired to bring those things together. These mostly true tales are the result.
HOW I ALMOST KILLED A MAN—ON ICE
I was born in Pennsylvania, but I lived there only long enough to get my birth certificate before our family moved to sunny Florida. In addition to the heat and humidity that cause dementia (that’s science talking, folks), I had my family genes—Nitro, meet Glycerin. Unlike many of my family members, ice was something to put in drinks, not to walk on. I clearly remember playing with my toys on the sidewalk one sunny Christmas day and getting a sunburn.
Anyway, Florida is hot, and I was not a small child; I was more of an Augustus Gloop-type (Google it), and my natural grace and athleticism rivaled any octogenarian epileptic in mid-seizure. When the teacher asked, “How did you get that black eye?” I replied that my parents had beaten me. “Oh, bullshit,” they said, “you walked into the wall again.” I never could stay on a skateboard, and anything that I did that took even the slightest balance was going to end badly for any involved parties.
So, one winter, when my mother decided to take us to Houston to see my Auntie and her family, it was a fait accompli that my cousin—with the best of intentions, I’m sure—took me and my sister ice skating. There we were, two Florida kids, clinging to the railing of the stairway (that’s right, these sadists added a stairway to the ice) and begging God to help us get through the night. With my stature and weight at 5’4” and 250 lbs, trying to balance on two blade-like surfaces was not a good idea.
When I voiced this opinion, I was told, “It’ll be fun!” but I’m pretty sure that my parents and my aunt and uncle just wanted to have a few hours of peace and a few gallons of whiskey without the kids around; so, I was sent to that frozen purgatory of the mall ice rink. We made it to the ice, and my sister, knowing better than to stay within range, put a safe distance between me and her. I wasn’t mad; I wanted her to make it out alive. I clung to the wall as five-year-olds did ninja flips and spins and generally made me feel even more out of place. I tried to keep moving because I felt that it was always harder to hit a moving target and that an object in motion might be able to stay in motion. If I stopped, I would surely die.
That’s when tragedy struck in the form of false hope. I didn’t fall. I could, with my hand atop the side wall, “skate” as long as you are willing to stretch the definition a little. I felt a tiny bud beginning to grow; it was my old nemesis: confidence. Deep inside, that was the moment I knew that all might be lost. Suddenly, my cousin appeared and said to head to the concession area, and she didn’t have to tell me twice. It must have been forty-five minutes since I had eaten, and I was ready for another feeding.
Try to imagine the huge rink, the entrance on the side and a concession stand at either end. I headed for the end closer to me, the end where my cousin, had walked towards before disappearing. Again. She would have probably preferred being at home with the whiskey, and I had to admire her for falling on the grenade that my sister and I represented. Was it all for her parents, or was there money involved? I was betting some serious bidding had taken place and that she would do very well financially for this sacrifice. “There just might be some 1980s IBM stock changing hands,” I thought as I reached the door to the concession stand. I pulled, and it was locked. There I was, just feet away from at least a dozen foods on a stick, and, in a cruel trick of fate, the door was locked. I pushed forward and pulled back, but the door held. Refusing to be denied, I swung my legs up behind me and over the wall, and I landed cleanly on the carpet of the concession stand. I felt like Bruce Jenner winning the Olympic Decathlon, but I probably looked more like the seventy-something train wreck who we know today as Kaitlyn. I had faced adversity and had overcome it. I would get my deep-fried sustenance!
Dear reader, do I need to mention what happened next? Do you really think this will end well? You’ve got a lot to learn. The concession stand was closed. My cousin appeared and said that the concession stand on the other side was open and that we should go over there. I looked away, and she was gone. Again. “No problem,” I thought, and I jumped back over the wall—directly onto a man who was sitting on the ice. My first thought was that any fool dumb enough to sit against the wall on the ice rink deserved what he got. However, my fear began to grow because this guy was really pissed, but thankfully I couldn’t understand him. He was yelling in a foreign language that even I was smart enough to know was profanity. I went away and thought no more about him. I arrived on the other side, and my sister and cousin threw junk food down my throat and took me home, where I slept the sleep of the blissfully ignorant souls who know not what they do.
It was only later, after I said I had a good time “skating,” that the full story was told. Apparently, my catlike jump over the wall to get into the closed concession stand was more awful than I imagined. It was a terrorist attack. Seemingly, I fell over the fence like a bag of 7-Eleven ice. To make matters worse, on my rebound back over the fence I landed, and then with wild abandon skated over the man sitting on the other side. It seems he was trying to recover from a nasty fall. I suppose, I didn’t help. Thank God he wasn’t some Texas shitkicker; I would have been beaten to death like Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. On the other hand, he did live to tell the story of almost being being killed by the American kid on ice skates. You can’t buy that in a souvenir shop.
To this day I have never set foot in an ice rink. I’m sure that in a Houston mall somewhere there are artist’s renderings of what that kid might look like now are liberally posted with the warning legend – “Danger, do not put this man on ice! Approach with caution, hand over any food on a stick without a struggle.”
Yep. Craig certainly does justice to our family Blog. I didn’t see him often growing up, but he always made our time together memorable.
Odd Loves Company!
P.S. I’ve read all of Jenny Lawson books. I find them fun and amusing. You might know her by her blog– The Bloggess.