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Flinging the Feelings MAG
“Come on, Aubrey! We're gonna be late!” my mother yelled through the bathroom door. I was right in the middle of brushing my teeth so my reply was along the lines of “Mmphf!” Ignoring it, she continued to bang on the door.
“You still need to help load the car!” Then she left me in peace to finish cleaning my pearly whites. What can I say? I take pride in my teeth. They are the first thing a person sees when you meet them. I flash a grin and – BAM! – people instantly like me. I have yet to discover if that's a gift or a curse.
People like my cousin Becky make it seem like more of a curse. I don't know how to handle family gatherings when she's there. She gets all attached to me and starts talking about oral hygiene. Like I said, I like my teeth, but I'm not obsessed with them.
I make my way downstairs to the kitchen. Mom is bustling around making sure all the Tupperware containers are stacked on the counter. She spots me and says, “About time. Take these out to the car and make sure they won't fall over.”
When everything is packed and ready to go, I get in the passenger seat. Mom fixes the rearview mirror and pulls out of the driveway. I turn on the radio because the silence gets awkward when we go to this annual family picnic. Mom always fights with my grandma (“Why don't you visit me more?” “Why should I? You never like it when I do!”).
We pass the sign that says the beach is just a few more miles. So, it's time to start the countdown to destruction. Maybe it'll be longer this year.
The beach is filled with relatives. We're always almost the last to arrive because Mom wants the least time with Grandma as possible. I'm not exactly complaining because I spot Becky over at the tables. She's looking around like she's searching for something.
Mom shows me where the food goes. I hold the containers up so that most of my face is covered and follow her. Her shoulders are stiff and she holds her head up high. She's trying to project that she's not in a horrible mood. But anyone could tell with all of the bad vibes coming from her. I even think I can see some.
As we get to the table I hear Becky's shrill voice in my ears. It's like fingernails on the chalkboard, no holds barred.
“Aubrey? Aubrey! Hey, when did you get here? I've been looking all over for you,” she says. I catch a glimpse of her shirt and to my horror I see my teeth smiling up at me.
“Um, where did you get that shirt?” I can't believe she's wearing a picture of me. How weird is that?
“Do you like it? I made you one too, except it has my picture on it! I thought we could wear them today!” She skips over to her bag and brings back the matching shirt.
I back away. “You know what? I won't be staying long, so I don't think I need to go through the hassle of changing.”
“Just wear it for a bit. That way I can get a photo so we'll always remember this day!”
I back up, shaking my head and waving my hands in front of my body, but nothing deters her. She shoves the thing into my hands with so much force that I bump the buffet table and spill someone's potato salad. Of course it's the potato salad, I think dryly.
My mom was by the doomed dish when it falls. I see it sliding down the front of her dress. She's dripping with anger, and matters aren't getting any better as Grandma rushes over and takes in the sight.
“What's wrong with you, Natalie? Do you have to take my potato salad down just like you did your life?” Ouch.
Mom glares at her. Her hands are clenched so tight they're white. I've never seen her so angry. Then I look over at Grandma who looks angry, but still in control of herself. Suddenly I hope Mom shows her what for, but that doesn't happen. Nobody moves a muscle.
I can hear Becky next to me beginning to wheeze. She often does that when she becomes nervous, and right now I can't blame her. It's so nerve-wracking I feel like I have to do something.
On instinct I reach over and grab a handful of mashed potatoes. I fling it and hear the splat as it hits my grandma's shirt. Bonus points for me since some of it reaches her face.
I freeze as everyone looks at me. Ignoring them, I look at my mom, whose anger has now dissipated and been replaced with laughter. I let out a shaky giggle and go over to her. She drapes her arm across my shoulders and turns to Grandma.
“Good-bye, Mother,” she says with a smile. I think it's the first smile she's given Grandma in a long, long time. Then she turns me around and walks us back to the car.
I look up at her. “So, do we have to come back next year?”
“Of course! We still need to put the coleslaw to good use, don't we?”