Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Easter Dinner




I may have told this one before, but what the hell... I think of it every year. Let me tell you about the worst Easter dinner I ever had. I was in college living in the dorms, when some friends of mine had the ill advised idea of having a "Fu-Fu Drink" night. So on the Saturday night before Easter, I sat in a tiny dorm room in Kent OH and drank daiquiris, hurricanes, tequila sunrises, and weird rum punch concoctions made in an old blender. I also remember listening to the Circle Jerks blaring over the grinding of the ice. Just a big night out for some Suburban punks. What do you want? You have to make your own fun sometimes...

The plan for Easter Sunday was for my roommate and I to go to family dinners of two girls we hung out with in our dorm. My roommate was from NY, and I had no big Easter tradition in my family, so we had stayed in Kent for the holiday weekend. The girls felt sorry for us, and must have had some tear jerking image of us picking at a cold cafeteria dinner plate of processed ham in the dining hall. They called their parents, and got the OK to bring us. On our end, my roommate and I were psyched for a legit home cooked meal. With that in mind, we probably should have not attended the "Fu-Fu Drink Party".

When I woke up Easter morning, I was ready to have myself brought to the Health Center for that complete blood transplant that Keith Richards allegedly does in Switzerland whenever he is kicking junk. I didn't feel "bad". That doesn't come close to capturing the complete nausea, skull pounding headache, and total vertigo I felt that morning. It was like having the flu with an inner ear infection that made your head spin. Yet, there I was crawling into the shower to head over to some strange family dinner in about an hour.

We dressed up as best we could, which in my case meant a shirt with a collar, some ill fitting dress pants, and pointy shoes that were most likely never in style. (This was during my "awkward stage" that has been well documented as lasting from 1973-1997 and picking up again in 1999 to the present.) My roommate even wore one of those fabric square ended ties with some dark shirt that wasn't even close to matching. Still, for us, it was an improvement over the way we usually looked. We wanted to at least present ourselves on the surface as appreciative house guests.

It was determined I would go to Laura's grandmother's house in Garfield Hts. while my roommate would go with Anne to Brecksville. The house in Garfield Hts is one of those Cleveland area bungalow houses with small family room, attached dining room, and a little kitchen that had a door to the garage. Packed into this little house was about 15 people making small talk conversation. I recall Laura's brother Robert had a hearing aide, and was a little off. "Robert doesn't get jokes, so don't worry if he doesn't react." He may have been pumped full of psych meds for all I knew. He was expressionless and sat staring at me. I attempted to make small talk and hoped I would be able to eat when the time came.

Laura's grandmother was nice, and very eager to please the surprise guest. You know the way it is when someone new enters the family dynamic. People are so excited to be able to interact with someone new instead of hearing about how Fuck-Up Cousin Dave got fired from Home Depot, or Aunt Ruth's long winded update about church bingo night. I was the main attraction at Small Talk Theater. I got to talk about my major, and where I was from 14 times to 14 different people. "I grew up in Erie PA... No, I don't know Dave Lapinski... Well, Erie is big enough that I don't personally know everyone in the town... So... do you live around here? No, I don't know where that is..."

I kept knocking back 7-Up from the 2 liter bottle in the kitchen. If anyone had been paying attention, they would have thought I had just gotten back from running a marathon. "Honey, don't you think it's strange that the poorly dressed college boy has drunk that entire 2 liter of 7-Up and hasn't gone to the bathroom even once?" I was shaky, but there began to be light at the end of the tunnel. It was then we were called to dinner.

The dinner table was a series of tables pushed together into one long table of varying heights. I was seated in the middle across from Laura, and her blank faced brother. Various plates began to be passed around, and I stuck to my game plan of simple. A piece of ham here, a piece of turkey breast there, and a little mashed potatoes would probably stay down. My stomach did a little flip-flop even looking at the ambrosia with a condensation film on the top. The key to this meal would be to stick to what I know. That was when Laura's grandmother called down from the head of the table. "Greg! You didn't get any potato salad!"

"Oh, that's OK. I don't care for potato salad."

But Grandma would not be denied. "You haven't tried my potato salad", she said while slopping two giant serving spoonfuls onto my plate. Now let's be direct here. I hate potato salad. I have always hated potato salad. It's the mayo. I just can't deal with mayo. Mayonnaise grosses me out normally, so today wasn't a real good day to experiment with Grandma's Potato Salad. My mouth started to water slightly in a Pre Barf Countdown when I stared at the pile of mayo soaked glop on my plate. Look away... Must look away...

The moment passed, and I started to eat my way around the plate. But Grandma still had not lost her focus on her Special Guest. She sat down, and a look of inspiration warmed her face. "Greg, do you want a beer? College boys like beer!" All heads at the table turned to me. Everyone else was drinking soft drinks or iced tea, and there wasn't a drop of alcohol anywhere on the table. "No ma'am. I am perfectly fine with the 7-Up. I couldn't be happier." Grandma would not be deterred though. Despite numerous cries for her to sit and eat, she got up and scurried out to the garage. I would be having a beer.

A couple minutes later, Grandma came back with the beer. It was a can of Stroh's. This was no ordinary can of Stroh's, an obscure brand that was most noted by me as the cause of giving me a case of the shits outside of a high school party years earlier. No, this particular can of Stroh's was a little dusty. And warm. Very warm. It was like she had it sitting next to the furnace before giving it to me. She placed it in front of me on the table with a dull thud. By now every single person stared right at me as if I had held the old lady up for a brew. "You satisfied now? Maybe now our patriarch can finally enjoy her holiday meal you ungrateful slob." I was going to have to drink this beer.

With every one in the family staring, I cracked the can open, and poured some of the warm beer into my mouth. Every cell of my being screamed out "What are you doing!?! No!". Somehow, it stayed down. A short while later, someone started taking pictures. I used to have a picture from that dinner with that can of Stroh's in front of me. It's shocking how sickly I look. Think "kid with rickets". Think "cave dwelling ship wreck victim". I look really bad.

I have been to many holiday dinners since, but when Easter rolls around every year, that's the dinner I remember. I still avoid potato salad, blender drinks, and of course, warm cans of Stroh's.