Dysfunctionally Divine | Teen Ink

Dysfunctionally Divine

April 7, 2013
By emmabergman GOLD, ., New Jersey
emmabergman GOLD, ., New Jersey
10 articles 0 photos 18 comments

As I sprint up my Grandparents’ proverbial paved driveway, the frigid air nipping at my bare skin, my stomach lets out a deafening roar. Stepping into the cozy confines of my second home, the barren corridors of my belly grow more tempted by the delectable aroma of gooey cheese, thin crust, and spicy pepperoni lingering in the air. The subtle green walls, plastered with portraits, lure me in with an enveloping warmness, a safe haven. Lining the railing of the staircase, nine stockings hang closely together, mirroring the hierarchy of cousins. I receive an over-the-top welcoming of squeals, smooches, and smiles as I kick off my putrid basketball sneakers and toss them into the mountainous pile by the door. My Grandmom, first to greet me with a tender embrace, genuinely asks me about my day and when my next game will be as she directs me over to the crowded counter. Surrounding the dark mahogany base, my boisterous cousins perch up on their knees to reach the smooth granite surface. This counter of chaos, laden with stifling pizza boxes, is weathered with memories of our spontaneous get-togethers, countless birthday parties, and weekly escapades.
While I scoot into the tight remnant of space left at the island, a piece of fiery sausage pizza and a sugary glass of Stewart’s Root Beer are flung in my direction, as if the grumbling vacancy of my insides has magically summoned them over. Aunt Jenny hastily dishes out the savory triangles to ensure the satisfaction of everyone at the table, while Aunt Jaclyn pats off the excess grease and chops up the pizza into several bite size slivers. As she pours the saucy squares onto the tray of Emmett’s high chair, he claps his pudgy hands together and melodically coos with pure ecstasy. His elated gibber gabber can only translate to one thing...bon appétit!

Just that plain phrase alone has the power to morph me back in time to about nine years ago, when Liam and I were the only ones decked out in footy pajamas and pitter pattering through pizza night. We were the stars of the show, hogging the spotlight with our chubby-cheeked comments and oblivious observations. One pizza night is an especially vivid puddle of memory out of my jumbled hurricane of recollection. Gathered around the oak wood dining table, we rowdily repeated the motto on the Gino’s pizza box, “bon appétit!” We’d tenaciously growl, boomingly belt, and breathily murmur the simple phrase, and the house would shutter, as if there was a tropical storm dominating the night, from the howling cackles of everyone’s laughter. But now, the limelight has diverted off of me and Liam to the splurge of seven cousins born in the past six years.

I can’t contain my grin as Kieran, as if on cue, erupts into pig-like squeals of belly laughter, showing off his mouthful of chewed up food. Somehow he has managed to splatter sauce across his cheek, and into the tangled curls of his frizzy afro. His innocent goofiness causes a domino effect of giggling at the table: a cacophony of chuckles. Assembled so closely together during the playful peace before the wailing war, the one time in pizza night where there is even a sliver of silence in the air, our affectionate feelings toward one another are evident.

Liam inhales his pizza, hungrily chomping down three pieces, with secret motives to be the first upstairs in the refuge of the back room. But after a couple whiny cries of “Mommy I’m done,” a bandwagon of followers march up the stairs behind him. While I finish my pizza and engage in hearty discussions with my aunts and grandparents, the distant orchestra of piercing shrieks and incessant stomps; and the blaring of The Polar Express annihilates the silence, crushing the quiet in its clutches. Do I dare wander up?

Hesitantly tiptoeing up I’m nearly tackled by the Junie B Jones of the family, Tess. She sassily holds her hands on her hips; spit flying out of her Jack-O-Lantern mouth, as she sticks her tongue out two inches from my face. She giddily leads me into the wondrous back room, the room of imagination, where pillows, game pieces, and children litter the carpet. Sinking into the deep cherry red couch, Kieran snuggles with my Grandpop, his eyes illuminated with the images from the TV screen. Helen sits crisscross applesauce on the floor, her innocent eyes glued to the screen that sits literally three inches away from her face. Her bobbed brown hair swishes as she jerks her head around toward her other rambunctious cousins, shushing them with her endearing lisping voice. Ignoring the squeaky pleas of Helen Mae, my brother Brendan is the conductor of chaos. He choreographs frolicking dances, directs reenactments of the memorized movie, and leads the train of children. As they incessantly pump their chubby legs, the wheels on the locomotive, sweat drips down their foreheads. Colin suddenly barges in, sporting his vibrant white karate uniform. Gazing up at me, his eyes bright with pride, he displays the two rewarding stripes wrapped around his belt. He whips his gangly leg around to proudly portray his moves, but after showing off to me, swiftly scurries off to join the rest of the gang on their railroad of adventures.

“Bathtime!” the inevitable shouts of the adults scuttle into the room, resulting in massive havoc, a train wreck. The train moans to a stop, the breaks screeching with an earsplitting wail. The basking tub never fails to sear the fun. I dart downstairs to avoid the temper tantrums and melt downs that always accompany this ordeal.

Ten minutes later, the squeaky clean aroma of Johnson’s baby shampoo, wanders throughout the house as the young ones, drained and whiny, stumble down the stairs in their footy pajamas. As Tess rubs her weary eyes, she snaps menacingly at Colin. Then, Colin bursts out into hyperventilating tears propelling Brendan to defensively scream at Tess. Meanwhile Liam, unable to control his obnoxious urges, teases Brendan, who accidentally shoves him into Helen. She folds her arms across her chest and gives them the stink eye from the corner, while Kieran goes around tauntingly shaking his booty at each one of them. Emmett and Maeve watch on the sidelines, clapping their hands at the overtired calamity unfolding before them. It’s the tipping point of the moods. Pressing on the piano keys, my Grandparents harmonize in their usual kick-out-the-family duet, “We hate to see you go!” We all kiss goodbye and rush out the door, dragging out the blubbering kids. “This family is nuts,” I smirk, but I know next week I’ll sprint up my Grandparents’ proverbial paved driveway as the frigid air teases me for only wearing my basketball attire, and walking into a house jam packed with memories, family, and pizza.

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