We were unlucky growing up, in that we were the only family who lived Far Away from the rest of the clan. But lucky, because Far Away meant six hours by car which hardly daunted my mother from sharing in the clan's most festive activities, and lucky because we had cousins!! to play with when we got there. For many years I was the youngest cousin, and obligingly fulfilled the roles of: neglected, sneaky spying resentful left-out one, adorable, tattling brat, older kid prank innocent cover child or distraction...as necessary.
One year I was experimenting with honesty. I thought it sounded like a good thing.
You know, blunt honesty.
Thanksgiving was at our house that year, which was even better - all the cousins in one place, all the bunkbed cots set up in the playroom, and our parents so deeply engrossed in catching up with one another that, short of setting a fire on the dining room table, we were free to do whatever we could think up. I can't remember if that is the same year that the turkey foot got dangled from an upper bunk in a certain brother's face to wake him up and thus began his lifelong
So, the kids were all at the 'kids table' which was fine by us, even (or especially) for the teens, as we were separated by a heavy swinging door and much wine induced laughter from the 'adults table'. Kim and her sister and my sister, were all 'superteens' of the seventies, and they had dressed up for dinner in their best Tiger Beat replications. And they had feathered hair. And noticeable jewelry. Dangly stuff. And hoop earrings. The 'never been seen before' thin wire, but Big, Gold Hoops. Those were Kim's. She looked fantastic; I know they had left me out of a makeover party earlier; I was only eight and I would have gotten in big trouble for wearing makeup anyway. But it still pissed me off.
So, I got to sit next to Kim. Kim, with her super blonde, feathered hair. Kim, with her fringed suede jacket that swooshed, and that I could smell all leathery and cool stronger than the food in front of me. Kim, with her perfectly white smile and silly philadelphia accent - she said wutter for water! Kim, with her giant, dangling, golden hoop earrings.
And I looked up at a moment that I had apparently deemed appropriate, and said,
"Kim, I hate your earrings."
That was it. No other words or explanation, and I went back to eating.
She started laughing. In disbelief at first, and then everyone else started laughing and she was laughing harder. I wasn't trying to be funny, I thought.
Next thing I knew, she was coughing. Sputtering. Choking????
She ran into the nearest bathroom and then there was retching. That much was clear.
She came back a few minutes later and, in between bouts of explosive laughter, she said that she was so very sorry that I did not like her earrings.
And then she told us how vomit came out her nose when she threw up from laughing so hard.
And when I sidled up to her about a year and a half ago, at my mom's surprise birthday party, she looked down at her plate and then at me, and said, "Please don't make me throw up!"