I am woken early in the morning, as I still lie in bed recovering from last night's ill-advised drinking, by the shrill (it seems) tones of my mobile phone. It's my father. He is calling to say my grandmother died late last night (she has been ill, this was anticipated but also somehow sooner than I had expected). The funeral will be tomorrow night. Everyone is in town for the holiday but no one has anything to wear to a funeral. How long will it take me to get there and can I bring enough clothing to dress five of my closest female relatives for a formal Southern funeral?
I rush out to work to get a few things done in case I have to miss work Monday. Pulling my car out into the street, the sky is shockingly blue and my iPod shuffles on Josh Radin's "Brand New Day" and it occurs to me that I cannot remember looking up at the sky in months. Somehow on what I know will be a daunting day, I have a moment of feeling absolutely tremendously happy to be where I am and driving my car and breathing the air and just living in my skin.
My younger sister and brother-in-law arrive in town and we pile into my car and head out for the town where the funeral will be. After packing an entire suitcase full of appropriately somber clothing from my closet. And shoes for five women. Earrings for five women. Slips and cardigans and various sundry extra Anything They Could Possibly Need for five women. And clothing for myself. And my sister and brother-in-law's things as well. You get the idea. My car is overflowing with funereal clothing and looks like a goth gypsy caravan.
My younger sister introduces me to the wonders of The Lonely Island's SNL skit "I'm On A Boat." I mean, really? "If you're on the shore then you're sure not me, oh"? Wow. I am in awe. I'm so out of the loop. Note to self, must start watching television periodically. Apparently it has its moments.
We spend the last 20 minutes of our trip driving, overcome with fits of HYSTERICAL GLEE, behind a bright orange Cadillac with enormous truck tires and a huge pair of shiny metal ... well, what could only be intended to be a strikingly realistic representation of testicles swinging from the center of its rear bumper. We reach stop lights. We pull out camera phones. We try my camera phone. The resolution is too poor. We try my brother-in-law's camera phone. The people in the car next to us at the next stop light gesture wildly, making certain we are seeing what they are seeing. We ALL laugh hysterically together. Pointing. Incredulous. This goes on for miles. We have names for The Car. We start playing music we feel is appropriate for The Car to sing to if it were, in fact, able to sing along. We name the far less interesting and thus inferior cars that are driving next to The Car. The Car drives right up to and past the street we need to turn at to reach our destination. Pulling into the driveway, we cannot stop laughing.
As we were driving into town, fireworks began to go off in the distance. Blooms of red and white over the treetops. A single moment of the holiday surprising us in the midst of our crazy, difficult day. The bursts of light, silent from this distance, repeat and grow larger and change in color... Reflecting off the pendulous scrotum of the absurd car in front of us, making us all dissolve into new whoops of laughter.
We arrive. I am hugged by roughly a dozen people in rapid succession. We exclaim over how much weight people have lost and the pink streak in my adult niece's hair and my parents' dogs skitter around in excitement. My 8 year old niece who, as far as I can tell, only puts up with most people because they can reach things she can't and have mastered the ability to buy things (which she also cannot yet do), rushes me as I break from the cluster of people and grabs my lapels and pulls me down to close to her so she can kiss my face.
My baby brother's 4 month old daughter is curled up in a ball in the middle of a big old bed that has been slept on by members of my family during summer vacations for decades. She is a sweet, chubby pink ball of angelic sleeping baby and his expression softens and I say, "She's grown so big." He smiles and his normally dark face opens up and he just says, "yeah," softly.
We sit up late watching old home movies. My father keeps accidentally rewinding and replaying things because he's had too much wine. My sister-in-law (the glowing, miraculously good-natured and breathtakingly lovely mother of my new niece) sees many of us as children for the first time. She coos and is excited with each familiar face revealed in its childhood incarnation. We tell stories about foolish things we had forgotten. My father falls asleep on the couch and we listen to him laughing 20 years ago.
1am, the house is dark and everyone has found a bed or a couch or a recliner to sleep in. The house is silent except for my father's snoring and the whir of the old outdated fridge. One of my sisters tiptoes into the kitchen and whispers to me, "Is there anything to drink in here besides buttermilk and booze?"