Monday, December 10, 2007

In Vegas, And All In (The Family)


Mom has tried her best to make
us all feel like a family. We’re a blended mishmash of adults –
children who each lost one parent at too young an age and watched with
tempered happiness as our remaining parent remarried. So it hasn’t
always been an easy fit.

For several years, Mom and
her husband have encouraged all of their children to sit respectfully
at each other’s tables, gathering for religious holidays and all five
of our babies’ birthdays. She has set us up on evenings out together,
encouraged us to seek advice from one another, facilitated the trading
of hand-me-downs. And over time, I have to say, we have gotten to feel
much closer.

Still, when faced with yet
another Thanksgiving crammed into Mom’s dining room with my 16-person
“family,” I contemplated mainlining tryptophan and sleeping through
the whole ordeal.

Thanksgiving was difficult
enough before Mom remarried. For a few years, the traditional turkey
side dishes included tongue. There never seemed to be enough room at
the table, and Mom usually spent more time thinking about the centerpieces
than the actual food.

Last year we got out of Thanksgiving
by spending it with Zev’s best friend, Aidan, and his parents at a
restaurant. No mess. No fuss. No marshmallow yams. This year, we one-upped
ourselves and headed to Vegas.

The plan was simple: Gather
Zev, Aidan and his parents, Mark and Keren, stick the whole lot of us
in a rented minivan and drive out to the desert for turkey and white

We would liberate ourselves
of so-so food and weird family dynamics and spend the weekend showing
Zev all the bizarre sights of Vegas with his best friend in tow. I started
looking forward to the road trip – however difficult I knew it would
be. And I was especially excited to spend Thanksgiving gobbling turkey
without having to do a lick of work. Best of all, we’d be in a small,
controlled group. Just six of us, able to have a conversation and attend
to our kids.

A few weeks before the trip,
Keren told us that she was bringing her nanny. And then that another
couple and their toddler would be joining us at the restaurant for dinner.
OK. Well, that’s a bit bigger than we had initially discussed, but
it’s still great. Hubby made the reservations for 10 people.

If you’ve ever balanced raw
eggs on the tip of a toothpick while trying to suppress a sneeze, then
you have some idea of what eating at a fancy restaurant with three toddlers
is like. At all times, at least one of the boys (usually mine) was being
ushered out into the artificial daylight of the “outdoor” shopping
area to prevent complete meltdowns. I had to spend all my parental capital
before the meal arrived just to ensure that Zev’s dinner didn’t
consist entirely of walnut bread and olive oil. If there were conversations
going on, I didn’t catch any of them.

At 10 p.m., with Zev still
undecided about whether to eat his fistful of turkey or throw it at
Aidan, I called Mom to check in.

“Thanksgiving was nice. It’s
over, though. Everyone left,” she said, sounding relaxed. She told
me some of the highlights and ran down the list of people who came –
a list that was suspiciously short.

“Wait,” I said, “Where
were Galit and Bruce and the twins? And where were Lilac’s parents?”

It seems we weren’t the only
people who thought it best to avoid the madness of the holiday by heading
out of town. Mom told me that the bulk of her usual dinner guests all
fled north this year.

All of us, she said, were in

“Wait,” I said. “They’re
all here?”

I could hear her try not to
laugh over the phone.

I thought only Hubby and I
would think to seek sanctuary in one of the most dizzying places on
Earth. That only we would consider the open-all-night, anything-goes
madhouse that is Las Vegas a suitable place to get a little peace and

Instead, the majority of our
blended clan concocted the identical plan, scheming to avoid being in
the exact same place … by being in the exact same place.

No wonder Mom laughed: It must
run in the family.

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