A 40th birthday is a big thing. Many people lose their minds at the thought of turning forty. When I turned forty a couple of years ago, my lovely family had a great party for me and it was very fun. As hard as it is for me to be the center of attention, I tried to embrace it, and was overwhelmed with the generosity of my cousins and aunts and uncles. This week one of my closest cousins, Jen, turns forty, and she’s planning to do so a wholly different way. A month ago she sent an email blast to the whole family saying something elegant like “bitches, I’m turning forty. And you are required to celebrate me and what I want is a family kickball game followed by fried chicken”.
Now, I understand that most of you don’t know my family, but all you need to know is that within about an hour everyone had responded with… okay, when? So last Sunday was the big glamorous day… and about fifteen of us ranging in age from 5 to 70 hit the field to play kickball. Now the great thing about kickball, if you have forgotten this from elementary school, is that everyone can play. It literally requires no skill. And thank god for that, because collectively, we have very little skill.
Jen went back and forth between apologizing for being born in early September, because it was about 100 degrees before 11 a.m., and screaming at the opposing team (boys vs. girls, natch) about their lack of masculinity. It was hilarious, and we all felt like children, and it was a great time. During the game we kept revising the winning score (we stop when we reach 12, we stop when someone reaches 10, we stop after each side gets up to bat (kick?) one more time) while expressing concern at the older generations’ stamina in this heat wave while secretly just feeling like it would be one of us that collapsed. The boys won, eventually, but only amongst rumors of cheating (Tony totally kept rushing the batters… not cool) and we quickly agreed to get back to my Aunts’ house to jump in the pool.
So back we went, where as usual we have snacks for 500 but only 30 people in attendance, including a pink lemonade with vodka drink that, with an absolute straight face, my cousins and I convinced my aunt Laura the correct ratio is totally 1:1. The kids jumped in the pool, as did most of the adults, and football was put on the televisions and we merrily waited for lunch. Laura and Jen’s saint of a husband Gregg ran to KFC to pick up the lunch, and they did not skimp on the extras. Full on extra crispy (obviously you were mocked if you even mentioned that they had some kind grilled thing now, and any of the kids looking for nuggets or fingers were summarily dismissed), mashed potatoes with gravy, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, biscuits, the whole damn thing.
We all groaned as we bit into our lunches and at one point I looked up at Jen and said ‘my god, this is delicious, why don’t we eat this stuff ever?’ and she succinctly said ‘because it will kill you, now shut up’. When you have an enormous Italian family it is pretty hard to feel alone, which is very helpful when you feel, well, alone most of the time.