I have two half brothers who are about the same age as my own children. You should see the looks on their friends' faces when I'm introduced as their sister. Next to them I look like I've been rode hard and put up wet. Most of the time we don't bother to explain why I'm clearly old enough to be their mother. And their friends haven't figured out a way to ask politely, come on, she can't be your sister, can she?
When my kids and my half brothers
-- my father's second set of kids after my mother died -- were
growing up as members of the same generation, there were two things we
used to do at family gatherings. The first was to take Polaroid
pictures of the holiday. Our need for immediate photo gratification
preceded digital pictures so we settled for Polaroids. As a result, we have a
huge album of photos that chronicle the years of my hair changing
color. Along with a shots of Grandma Tootie holding a huge
serving fork over an entire pie or whatever dessert we were having that
night. And dozens of pictures of my youngest younger brother with his
eyes closed. My daughters always looked lovely, of course.
The second family tradition was to
play OOMPA. This was a polka like tune that I would play on the piano
while all the kids danced around the room. Suddenly I would stop
and they would have to freeze. The winner was the person who did
the best job of not moving during the freeze portion of the game. No
laughing, either. The music was dumb. The game was silly. And we always
had a great time. After Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas dinners, Easter
celebrations, and birthdays, there was always a request for a round of OOMPA during
I know it's been at least twenty
years since we last played OOMPA. Over the years, I've introduced it to
the children of friends of mine, but it's been so long since we played
it at my folks' house that one of my half
brothers has a family of his own now. They were in town for the
weekend and I thought his daughter might be smart enough to learn to
play the family dancing game. She's a fairly precocious two and a
half. So I went
tothe piano and started to play, only to discover that I'd forgotten
the song, but after a few false starts, I figured it out again and
we taught my niece the rules of the game. She got it right away.
I started playing. She started dancing. Until I stopped playing. Then
she stopped dancing and froze in her tracks, one arm up, one leg
out, with that funny wide-eyed look of a little kid who gets the joke.
Or knows how to humor her elders. Her grandma got up and played with
her, too, posing like she was playing musical
Twister, bad knee and all. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I'm glad the tradition continues. Dumb as it is.