(Image of Betty Grable and Alice Faye in Tin Pan Alley, taken from Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance by John Kobel)
Well, hello there.
I have packed my veils and bananas and returned fom my St Cyr Sojourn in Sunnier Climes all revived, and pondering the wonderful, benign hydra that is my family. Mama Twilight's 70th birthday was duly and pleasingly celebrated and Dear Patient M was subjected to some honest-to-goodness Twilight Family Mania. It struck me how, as time has passed, my family has developed into something of a well-oiled machine. Maturing with age, I guess. We all seem to rub along quite nicely together.
Dear Patient M is the first fellow that I, at the somewhat over-ripe age of nearly 38, have taken home to meet the family. Naturally, I attempted to view the whole experience through his Dear Twinkling Peepers. Here are three things that I observed about the unruly brood from which I sprang (and, believe me, I say this with nothing but the sincerest affection):
1. We sure know how to do 'chatter'. We have never met a silence that we didn't want to fill. To the untrained ear, it must sound like so much white noise after a while.
2. Our concern with how well, or otherwise, people sleep at night is bordering on monomania. I will just say that unless one wants to be discussing pillows, blankets and sleepsacks well past the lunch hour, the safest answer to the anxious "How did you sleep last night?" that we fire at each other every groggy morning is "Oh, I slept wonderfully, thanks". Even if it felt like your bed was a concrete slab on a windy moor with a rock for a pillow.
3. We are such a bunch of hams. One of my sisters (who has recently joined a burlesque dance troupe, which is in itself rather telling..) suggested we put on a bit of a show for Mama Twilight. There was belly-dancing by Sister"Dita" Twilight, poetry about Tom Jones by Sister "Sylvia" Twilight, and a martial arts display by Sister "Uma" Twilight that literally floored me. There was hip-hop dancing and movie re-enactment by The Young Folks, all manner of mock tearful recitation by Papa Twilight and a little warbled tune courtesy of Yours Truly. Despite myself, I resisted the urge to give Dear Patient M the "they're not usually like this" look. He would not buy it for one second. He knows me too well. Rather, it was he who had the "ah, it all makes sense now" look. (Incidentally, when he first met me, he erroneously accused me of involvement in amateur theatre, a charge which has always left me mystified...I mean,moi?).
I know this might all sound a bit like the Brady Bunch Variety Hour or something similarly grotesque. You will be comforted to know that we have never run smiling onto a television stage wearing matching flare-suits in an attempt to win a silver platter for our parents. We have, of course, had all manner of darknesses in the past - self destructiveness, substance abuse, the usual tensions and recriminations that dog any family worth its salt. Which made this united commitment to unbridled silliness all the sweeter. My dear Grandma (who has been eulogised on these pages before) had a mantra that one must always rise to the occasion. And rise to the occasion we did.
So, here's to my dear Mum, Mama Twilight. Mama Twilight who has been caught smiling at a bowl of cream as she whipped it, who still thinks that 'people are nice' despite all the evidence to the contrary and who one day quietly but firmly informed us that she was, in fact, a woman who runs with the wolves. And who, along with Dad, brought us up to be ourselves and not to conform for conformity's sake, who made it known she loved us and was proud of us even when we were horrible and who unerringly embraced all of our childish enthusiasms with an enthusiasm all her own.
Ah, it all makes sense now.