“Forced Family Fun” is what my siblings and I have called the last two weeks of July for the past 22 years. The five of us, most of our spouses, our kids and now grandkids are forced onto the beaches of Nantucket for two weeks every July (Insert sad face emoji).
The beach set up was strategically designed by the numerous (God help us) engineers in our family to block the wind, hang a clothesline for wet towels and, most importantly, give shade to those that need it. Two SUVs park perpendicular to the waves with one between them parallel to the the water's edge, forming a "U" shape. There are always 2 5-gallon jugs set out on the tailgate of one of the trucks, blue for water and red for lemonade, along with two clear plastic bags tied to either side, one for trash, one for recyclables.
Several beach chairs strategically positioned to capture the sun's rays are quickly claimed by beach bags. Coolers and fold-up beach tables are set up for cocktails and games. Blankets spread out in full view of the breaking waves await kids returning from the ice cold, turbulent surf.
Set up is now a well oiled machine. Set up, oil up and sit!
After a lunch of hotdogs, sausages and hamburgers on the grill, along with leftovers from the night before, my brother-in-law, from here on out known as “Cabana boy,” opens up the back of his jeep and sets up his pop-up bar. Blender included! Virgin and not-so-virgin Pina Colada’s and Strawberry Daiquiris are a few of his specialties. Of course, he also offers cold beer and boxed wine. Personally, I refill old 16 oz water bottles with my choice of wine for the day...nothing against boxed wine.
Now, let the games begin. The boys are still in and out of the water, the girls are making a music video to the latest and greatest summer song. The adults are rearranging the chairs into a large circle to play a game of Catch Phrase.
Great game! Every other player is on the same team...you have to get your teammates to guess the word or phrase on the electronic disc-thingy and pass the ticking disc before the buzzer goes off.
Older sister says, “It’s three words, first word...not hot...not cold...”
“Tepid?! Cool?! Warm?!” Her teammates yell out, all at the same time.
“Warm!” She slides from her chair, her knees sinking into the sand. “Last word...bread...cooked bread...crunchy...”
As her teammates yell, “Sandwich!?...Bun!?...Toast!?”
“Yes, toast,” she yells.
“Warm toast,” yells one of her teammates.
She turns on her knees and slaps her rear end. “Warm.” SLAP “Toast,” she says. “Warm.” SLAP “Toast.” Warm.” SLAP “Toast.”
The timer is ticking faster...
“Warm toast!?...Butt!?...Ass!?...Warm toast ass!?” Her teammates are on their feet waving their arms.
“WARM ASS TOAST?” Somebody yells out.
“WARM AS TOAST... warm as toast. We got it!”
She passes the disc right before the buzzer goes off in my hands. Point goes to their team.
“Warm ass toast”: another one of my family’s signature phrases.
A few years back, my girlfriend Polly P and I stopped for lunch on our way home from collecting guests from the airport for my 50th birthday. My older sister flew in from Vermont. My younger sister, daughter No. 1 and one of my sisters-in-law flew in from Massachusetts. Daughter No. 2 flew in from Texas. They were all starving.
We stopped at a local Chinese food restaurant and even though it was still fairly early in the day, we were ready to have a glass of wine. (Luckily for us, this Chinese restaurant had a fairly decent selection!)
Polly P, who apparently had some sort of image to uphold, talked the bar tender into delivering our wine in coffee mugs. All the business men streaming into the restaurant were none the wiser.
I’m sure our conversations ran the gamut and most likely we never completed one thought between the seven of us. The food was delish and we shared our plates as well as what was going on in our lives. Polly P ordered another round and more coffee mugs were delivered to the table.
At the end of the meal we passed out the fortune cookies. Daughter No. 1 read the back of her fortune.
"‘LEARN CHINESE- Drunk, Tipsy.’" Then she explained that the next line had a Chinese symbol and and the Chinese word, "‘Zoo-EE.’” She sounded more Southern than Chinese.
My older sister went next, “Too-ee SHEE-you...it means to retire.” We giggled as we tried to count all of her teeth when she emphasized “SHEE.”
Next my sister-in-law, “Air you-AY...February.” She said it as perfectly as any third grade teacher would.
My turn came up. I flipped my fortune over and read in my most Chinese accent, “Toe-tahs-TAY.”
My daughter immediately grabbed the fortune out of my hand and said, ‘No Mom...that’s the english...To Taste.”
All seven of us doubled over and busted out in loud laughter. My younger sister ran to the bathroom. The game was up on the coffee mugs, now. People knew, if they hadn't guessed prior, that there was more than just coffee in those mugs.
My girls have never let me forget that. Whenever they imply that they don’t understand what I’m saying or if they plan on just ignoring me, they respond with, “Toe tahs-TAY?”
I’m retired, so my wine is poured at 5 pm sharp. I’ll wait for you to kick off your shoes, pop open your preference and get comfortable. Don’t forget, your cork will be listening...
I come from a social family. And, by social I mean, the 29 of us get together as often as possible, in all sorts of combinations as we live in six different states. We open a bottle of cabernet (or three), place it on the table next to a bottle of Spray and Wash (what does THAT tell you about us?) and let it rip.
When we were in our twenties, we would get together and see who could bring the best bottle of $8 wine. Now, we’re up to $12 and we’re considering moving it to $14. But it’s truly not about which wine we bring to the table, it’s about what that wine brings out in each of us. We can talk about the same things every week, and the stories keep getting better, well, not necessarily better, but definitely more entertaining. So, if I tell you a family story, it’ll probably be the fourth or fifth version.
Now, my husband is not as social as my family, after all we’re Irish/Italians and he’s Scottish/English (plus, he’s a rum drinker, anyway). Don’t get me wrong, he loves a tasty Cab or Meritage with a medium-rare steak, but that’s not the same as un-corking a bottle of wine just to chat.
For my birthday one year, my girlfriend Bunny gave me a fine bottle of SIMI Cabernet (one of my faves). My hubby took it out of my hands, opened the wine fridge and politely as ever said, “This goes on one of the top shelves.”
I turned to my girlfriend with eyebrows raised and said, “I didn’t know we had 'top' or 'bottom shelf' wine.”
I took a closer look at our wine cooler. Indeed, our wine was organized in a way where our--let’s be honest here…where MY daily swill was on the middle shelves and below. The “good” wine was eye level and above. I always just reached in and grabbed a bottle. I knew there was nothing in there I wouldn’t drink.
But, as I thought about it, every time my husband decided to join me for a glass of wine, the bottle came from the “top shelf", every time he offered to pop a cork for me and the girlfriends, the wine came from the middle or below.
What, we don’t rate?
So, lesson learned. I upped all my daily swill to “top shelf" wine. Now, we’re all good.
Kyle Ann Robertson
Chief Writing Officer at Ifcorkscouldtalk.com and BBWalsh.com