Christmas day was a few weeks ago. Dressed in my new blue sweater andjeans, I ventured out with my family to my aunt's house expecting thetypical sickening "family bonding" ritual. After promising myparents that I'd keep my mouth shut, (last year I had instigated adebate between my uncles and who had the bigger beer-belly, leaving myaunt in tears), I entered the House of Dread. With my lips firmlypressed together, I endured the cheek pinching, the constant "myhow you've grown" and the always infamous and extremely annoyingquestion of whether or not I have a boyfriend. As I weaved my way aroundcrying babies, pipe-smoking, wrinkly old men, and long-lost cousins, Igrimaced at the thought of five more hours.
Hiding in the cornerwith my brother (this is the only time of the year we're actually happyto see each other and communicate), I thought I was safe from mypestering relatives. Much to my dismay, I was wrong. Out of the blueAunt Bertha (let's just say she is the black sheep of the family)approached me. I watched in horror as we made eye contact. She'd foundher target and was moving in for the kill. Let me give you a littlebackground on my off-the-wall aunt.
Bertha (her real name isJennifer - how she got her nickname, I don't know) is the epitome of atarot card-reading, tofu-eating, psychic channel-watching person. Shehas bushy, bleached blond hair with an aggravating grey streak on theside. Cheap, tarnished rings adorn each of her fingers, tacky clip-onearrings cling to each of her lobes and three large crystals can alwaysbe seen hanging around her neck. To me, she could be the poster childfor the Home Shopping Channel's spring jewelry line. I don't think she'sever had a job, but instead tends to mooch off the family or her latestboyfriend. At the moment, she's with Franz, a fifty-year-old greasy shoesalesman, ten years her senior. She's eccentric, loves to talk aboutsoap operas and MTV, and always has spittle in the corners of her mouthwhen she speaks. This woman is not of my character. I'm the conservativekhaki-wearing type, and therefore our conversations never start off onthe right foot. She is the oil and I am the vinegar ... we don'tmix.
Aunt Bertha made her way across the crowded living roomtoward me. I counted the seconds until I'd get the bone-crunching hug.One, two, three ... bam! ... loss of all circulation. At first she made theusual small talk and then began rambling on about tabloids, the latestrock groups, and a new class she was taking at the local communitycollege on telepathy and palm reading. The weird thing about ourconversation was that as she told me odd sketchy stories, I felt a smilebegin to curl on my chapped lips. She sure was strange, but I wasdiscovering that she was quite humorous. Unless Jerry Seinfeld had beentutoring her lately, I assume that she always had possessed some wit.Was it her physical appearance, or her zany lifestyle that made mealways detest her presence and roll my eyes when she spoke? ThatChristmas Day mostly fit the typical pattern for a visit with myrelatives, but there was one difference: I no longer looked at AuntBertha as a complete lunatic, but more as a bizarre but funny woman. Theonly scary thing is that we are related.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.