is Where the Heartburn is
by Mad Dog
The truth is, if it wasnt for dysfunction
most families wouldnt function at all.
nothing like going home to bring out the worst in us. It doesnt matter how many
years youve been away, how old you are, or how much you tell yourself youre a
grown up now so you wont pout when your mother tells you to stop picking on your
sister and go to your room without dinnerreversion is unavoidable.
You do it, I do it, everyone does it. Face it, at
one time or another Ghandi hauled off and slapped his brother when they were both home for
the holidays. And you can bet your cardigan that when Mister Rogers returns for his annual
visit he doesnt ask his terminally PMSed Aunt Rhoda to be his friend.
The truth is, if it wasnt for
dysfunction most families wouldnt function at all. These dysfunctions, and the roles
that they spawn, dont die easily. We have the same arguments ("Im 32 and
youre still trying to tell me what I want to order for dinner."), use the same
childhood phrases ("You are too a poopie-doo-doo-head!"), and eat enough
to remind us why it was that when we were ten our waist measurement was more than our
If they ever hear about the "kilo restaurant" trend in Brazil where you pay for
your food by weight there will be a citizens revolt in New Jersey, with people
running wild through the streets hoisting forks and flaming brochettes
|| Recently, my brothers and I were
home to help my parents pack up so they could move to Florida. Since they lived in the New
York City area they were being forced to move to Florida whether they wanted to or
notNew Jersey state law mandates that anyone who is past the age of retirement and
still breathing must move to Boca Raton. This is a great example of a mutually beneficial
law, since it provides a steady stream of slow-moving alligator bait in Florida, which in
turn ensures that there will be plenty of healthy reptiles to turn into handbags to be
shipped to those up North waiting for to retire. All trade agreements should be this good.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that
food was a focal point, not so much for how often we ate, but how much. When I was growing
up we all ate, well, too damned much. Since then weve taken to eating better, eating
lighter, and eating healthier. At least until we hit the airport.
Maybe its the difference between
California and New Jersey, but suddenly restaurant recommendations were based on quantity,
not quality. All-you-can-eat buffets were everywhere. Reviewers in the newspaper rated
restaurants on a scale of 1 to 4 pig troughs. And every two-bit diner included soup,
salad, appetizer, entree, dessert, Rolaids, and a stretcher with the meal. If they ever
hear about the "kilo restaurant" trend in Brazil where you pay for your food by
weight there will be a citizens revolt in New Jersey, with people running wild
through the streets hoisting forks and flaming brochettes
You learn a lot about your family when you
get together. Among the things I discovered was that my father is more obsessive than I
realized. No, hes not as bad as the Japanese who are swept up in the Sanitation
Epidemic of 99, walking around the streets wearing gauze masks, going out of their
way to get their money from ATMs that sanitize it as its dispensed, and buying
We found that theyd saved every scrap of paper we even looked at, from kindergarten
report cards to seventh grade notebooks to the first piece of toilet paper they used to
wipe our butts.
cleanliness isnt Dads focus, collecting things is. Mostly paper. Its
like hes stuck on his first wedding anniversary. Hes always been an avid
clipper, cutting out articles, cartoons, and anything else he thinks he might need for
later reference during this or any of his next lives. I suspect there were a few clay
tablets in a file folder somewhere but we didnt notice since we threw them out with
the file cabinet they were in while he wasnt looking.
Dads not alone in this; Mom helps out. Or enables as they
like to say in support groups while beating on drums, hugging each other, and trying to
pretend that they actually care about everyone elses problems when they have so many
of their own. As we were going through the house we found that theyd saved every
scrap of paper we even looked at, from kindergarten report cards to seventh grade
notebooks to the first piece of toilet paper they used to wipe our butts. And they were so
disappointed that we didnt want them.
I dont know about my brothers, but
Ive spent some of the best hours of my life ridding myself of unnecessary
"things". Ive held yard sales, garage sales, given trash bags full of junk
to Goodwill, and even thrown single shoes on the side of the road to accomplish this.
Well, that and because I know leaving the shoes gives people hours of entertainment value
wondering what in the world happened to the other one.
So now my parents are in Florida where they
can start collecting things again. At least now it will be all theirs. But just because
theyre in a new place doesnt mean I have any misconceptions that anything will
be any different when the family gets together. Except, of course, for the food. Now,
instead of just quantity, there will be another important criteria to take into
consideration: dining time. After all, we wouldnt want to miss an Early Bird
Special, now would we?
©1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
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