Putting on the Ritz

“You guys will be on your best behavior, right?”

Last night we had dinner at Uncle D’s house, which is a bit like leaving our ramshackle, backwater hut and checking into the Ritz.  It is an  upscale zen oasis – and not just because Uncle D is Japanese…though that’s a big part of it. Where we have laminated Dr. Seuss alphabet posters, he has beautifully framed pressed ferns….that he made.  Instead of Sponge Bob pump soap that someone has smeared across the mirror, he has a glass filled with floating orchids…that he grew.   And in lieu of crusty, faded couch cushions – “who was eating applesauce in the living room…again?!” – he has silk throw cushions…that he made!

In other words, he lives in a gay man’s paradise.

Into this ocean of calm we brought our particular brand of crazy – 3 active kids and 2 tired parents.  Just another day in our pandemonium paradise.

Within 5 minutes of our arrival, Uncle D observed, “wow, the energy in the house really changed.”

We were a force to be reckoned with.  Nick and Gabe immediately made their way to the kitchen and, despite having sandwiches and snacks in the car, proceeded to systematically eat their way through the fridge. The artfully displayed hors d’oeuvres – melted artisan cheese and sesame rice crackers – held no interest for them.  Not when there was yogurt, fruit juice, celery, and “bubble water” in the gayest cups known to man. Seriously, these cups not only had a light show of neon colors in the base, but they also played Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” when you tipped them.

“Do they always eat like this,” he asked, as Gabe plunged his fingers into the yogurt container then shoved his entire fist into his mouth in order to get every last bit of peachy goodness.

“Yes, and Gabe really?  Can you at least pretend to have manners?”

“OK, Nana.  I listen,” he smiled.  Then he licked his fingers clean.

Uncle D laughed as his eyes swept the room before landing squarely on Olivia who was deep in conversation with a wine rack filled with $200+ bottles mere inches from the floor.

“I’m just going to move these,” he said, leaping from the kitchen to the dining room.  Meanwhile, I distracted Olivia placing her over the cast iron floor register that she proceeded to drool into.  Huh.  I didn’t even know they came in black.  I thought the s#*-brown bulk purchase ones we had from Home Depot were the only kind available.  Learn something new every day…

Nick had excused himself moments before “for privacy,” which is code for “I have to go number 2.”  He would emerge some 20 minutes later commenting on the fancy soap (“It smells like flowers!”) and asking for a plunger, all the while completely unaware that his pants were down by his ankles.

“No problem!”  And Uncle D leaped from the kitchen to the bathroom, while Lori and I poured ourselves another glass of $4 pinot grigio that we had picked up from Dominick’s.

“Does anything phase D?”  Lori asked as she football-held Gabe over the sink to wash his hands and mouth.  I thought back over the 25 years I had known D.  Sharing an office during our college internship, coming out to our families and one another, his overseas work under the most extreme conditions…

“Nope, nothing at all.”

After asking for a sheet to cover the rug beneath the table – who puts carpet under a place where you eat?!  Ah right, people without kids.  We had a carpet under our dining table…until the first time Nick had spaghetti – we sat down to eat.

It was a brief affair, which is unfortunate because Uncle D is a marvelous cook.

Nick and Gabe shoveled food into their mouths before running into the living room to watch the Olympics.  Surely that will hold their attention.  But alas, within moments they were jumping back and forth from the couch to the coffee table, over Olivia, who had decided that this was the absolute best place to be.  As Nick explained, and Gabe echoed, they were just copying what they saw on TV.  How their actions approximated swimming is beyond me.

I swear these kids were housebroken when we left our place.

“Do you guys want to do bubbles?”  Uncle D in his infinite wisdom had purchase bubble wands for the kids.  So out they went onto the porch so we could have at least 30 seconds of uninterrupted conversation.  We were just into our 31st second when Nick re-entered covered in bubbles, Gabe quick on his heels.  Before Nick could explain, Gabe blurted out, “Nick did it!”


Their faces just inches apart, I knew this was going to ugly fast.

“Who wants dessert,” I interrupted.

“Yeah!” said Nick.

“Happy Birthday!” said Gabe.  Still not sure why that’s his go-to phrase.

We walked 3 blocks to the frozen custard shop where Gabe opted for an eye-level Tootsie Roll lollipop (“Nummy nummy!”) and Nick for a sheet of Candy Buttons.  (“I can eat these all week!”)   We brought Cheerios for Olivia, but she kept eying our frozen treats.

By the time we corralled the kids back to the car, Uncle D looked decidedly more tired than either one of us on our worst days.

“You ok, D?”

“Wow.  I forgot how active they were.”

“Wish you had some?”

He thought about it for a moment, then smiled.

“Nah.  I get just enough “crazy” whenever you guys come over.”

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