If the contents of David Bowie’s suitcase in the ‘70s exploded it would look something like this. Every corner was awash with spangles and stars, glitter scattered on every available surface as if it was an event for an eight-year-old instead of a blossoming teen. The rented hall screamed of Auntie Sheryl, and this was not the first time it had fallen victim to her touch. Here and there I could see her daughter, Karli, had got a word in edgewise, but the majority was her mother’s pet project.
Tables were groaning with food and having skipped eating on the flight from Johannesburg, my stomach was rumbling – but I wasn’t hungry enough to endure the wrath that would surely follow if I dared so much as glance in the direction of the food. Despite the mountains of cupcakes and brownies, trays of mini hamburgers and slice of pizzas, bowls of hummus and salad, and plates filled with bagels, fried fish and pasta, Auntie Sheryl was yelling down the phone about platters that hadn’t arrived. She looked stressed, but not nearly as stressed as my mum looked. My mother can’t help but getting involved in planning other people’s events, to the point where she gets herself so wound up she ends up in tears – every time.
Unable to approach the food, I found myself in the awkward position of not knowing what to do with myself. Perhaps I could take this opportunity to slip out the door unheeded. As I crept surreptitiously towards the doorway, trying to make my escape, my eyes locked on Auntie Dora, whose eyes clapped on mine at the exact same moment.
She let out a squeal of delight and came charging towards me, yanking her pug Kia along with her. The only thing racing through my mind as she bore down upon me, was how to avoid the slobbery kiss she bestowed on everyone which, to boot, was hairier than my own moustache.
Screeching to a halt in front of me, she grabbed my shoulders and pulled me forward for her infamous greeting. I yanked my head to one side, only to get an earful of her hairy lip. The kiss has always been a thing of dread amongst the family, but we couldn’t hold it against her too much. She instantly started asking about my work, my golf and my dogs. Gifted with the memory of an elephant, Auntie Dora remembered every conversation she had with you, and always asked about others out of genuine concern instead of curiosity. With my mood softened, I suggested we help blow up balloons, to which she agreed wholeheartedly.
Granny ambled up at that moment, silent and sour, clutching the handbag that was always in the one hand, and the drink that never left the other.
Making a grand entrance as if it today was her day I saw my cousin Liora arrive. She swept past us, merely acknowledging our presence with a flutter of her fingers, imparting sanctimonious nods on others, before drifting back out the room. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and instead buried my face behind a balloon to hide my contempt for the cousin I had always struggled to like.
Mrs. Berelowitz, Karli’s piano teacher, joined our little group, enquiring whether Liora was a dancer, because she moved with such poise. I resisted the urge to tell her that she moved that way to avoid her big head from falling off her shoulders.
Granny showed no such self-restraint. She could not abide busybodies, and anyone who even dared to presume to ask how her day was going was too inquisitive. Mrs. Berelowitz’s innocent enquiries became a point of contention, and after being told to mind her own business, the piano teacher found herself well and truly riled.
Mrs. Berelowitz’s retaliation was to make a snide remark about the drink in Granny’s hand, which was a mistake with a capital M. Granny’s response was reactionary: swinging her handbag towards the nettled piano teacher’s face. Luckily I caught the bag in time. I was about to suggest that Mrs. Berelowitz would be better off asking Liora the questions, when we heard a scream.
The four of us whirled around to see what the commotion was about. Not surprisingly it was my mother, who had burst into a fresh round of tears, while gesticulating wildly. It took us a moment to realise that she was actually pointing at something: a big, brown steaming turd right in the centre of the hall. Naturally, there could only be one perpetrator: Kia.
For a heartbeat the room came to a standstill. Of course, the only other thing to do was pick up the offending pile; but nobody was in a hurry to be a hero in this stinky situation. As we stood contemplating this moral dilemma, Liora waltzed back into the hall after her grand exit.
Garnering no reaction she walked with more deliberation, and a great deal more noise, towards the centre of the room…and straight into the pile of poo. After smiling politely the whole morning, nodding at all the right intervals and saying the right things at the right time I couldn’t resist the ridiculous grin that spread across my face.
After all, it’s Karli’s Bat Mitzvah in Cape Town, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. #wouldntmissit