I don’t know what it was, but something waaaay deep down inside (perhaps past my intestines) prompted me to say yes to visiting my wife’s family’s post-Thanksgiving celebration.

Over the years I have listened to the wisdom of whatever it was past my intestines and simply stayed home (or opted for elective dental surgery over the holidays).  Home is good.  Home is quiet.  Home is where the pets are.

Unfortunately home is where the pets had to stay, I was informed, due to the expected presence of LOUD NIECE #1 and her brood, not typically regarded as a particularly social unit.

But no, I have apparently not developed the wisdom to just listen to the damn voices already.

It was truly over the river and through the woods but in this case grandma was in town from the mountainous regions of Pennsylvania, where the woods are so thick it will be years before they find your body.  Where they’re just getting their own McDonald’s.  Thick into Walmart country.

To be honest, it wasn’t that bad at first.  Although it turns out that this was because we were among the first to arrive, it still seemed nice.  The momentary reverie was interrupted within five seconds by the arrival of LOUD NIECE #1.  LOUD NIECE #1 arrive with her stereo dogs, one large mutt and one nine month old Saint Bernard puppy.   Now when I say puppy, I mean that although this puppy was nine months old, you could still saddle him up and ride into the sunset, probably without disturbing the dog.

LOUD NIECE #1 wasted no time in proving her claim by letting loose on the dogs at random intervals.  I suppose this is how loud people continue to hold their title when in the presence of other people, loud or not.

MONGO – get OUT of the FOOD!

Not to let a single solitary second go by without jarring input, several other nieces arrived, some bearing nephews.  I recognized most of them, especially LOUD NIECE #2 and LOUD SISTER #1.

But something strange had happened since the voices had started telling me to stay home: LOUD SISTER #1 had changed places with LOUD NIECE #1, granting LOUD NIECE #1 the undisputed title of LOUDEST in the room.  Any room.  Perhaps LOUD SISTER #1 got some counseling or discovered the benefits of Prozac – I dunno and don’t wish to speculate, lest the effect wear off.

Typically when visiting LOUD SISTER #1, you’d hear what could only be described as loud, random screeching of her husband’s name.  As these things go, the husband was rather quiet.  So you’d be sitting there, enjoying that first sip of hot tea, when out of the blue the heavens would part and you’d hear:

BOBBBBBBBBBBB!

Adults would jerk and look around.  Kids would fall out of trees.  Bob was never anywhere to be found.  I would routinely wind up with a lap full of hot tea.  Come to think of it, perhaps it was more than just voices advising me not to show up.  How many times can a man sport hot tea on his crotch before he learns?  Or develops a perverse enjoyment?

It got to the point that I would keep looking around for LOUD SISTER #1.  I figured if I always knew where she was, I’d get the jump on her next oral blast.   And there I was, frantically looking around, waiting for the next blast to drop.  I think they call that hypervigilance.  Oddly enough, the next blast came from elsewhere….

MONGO – get OUT of the FOOD!

And then, as if the depths of hell had opened up, the children arrived.  Eight of the little blighters, capable of sounding like at least twenty or thirty.   Out of nowhere they were everywhere: crawling on the ceiling, leaping on laps, letting a dog out the front door, and leaping on the other dog, pulling its tail like a board game.

While we will never truly know the pain of war, I was beginning to feel a tiny amount of post-traumatic stress disorder.  I kept looking around, ducking flying children, and avoiding being maimed by food, offered and otherwise.

I remember being thankful that the rest of the family wasn’t there yet.

Speaking of children, most people adore them.  I am not most people (no, really?).  In fact, I prefer to always be at least one county away from any child at any time.  Children, like cats, are unfazed by this.  Where a cat would simply sit on the lap of a person who didn’t like him, a child wouldn’t necessarily.  But the child would feel free to display all those lovely child-isms that we all find so attractive, like screaming, throwing things, assaulting pets and parents, and flying about the place with a total disregard for gravity.

Accordingly, I am a child magnet.  I have absolutely no idea what it is but when I walk into an empty room and sit down, it is almost immediately filled with the sound of people, mostly LOUD CHILDREN.  While they’re not hurling themselves at me directly, their emanations are enough to drive me to the next room, in search of the relative silence of Afghanistan.  At which point the second room becomes filled with children.

I used to think it was just me.  I continued to think it was just me, while desperately fighting the urge to DIVE DIVE DIVE under the chair (or house), right up until two brothers-in-law abandoned house, saying it was like a zoo in there….

My wonder lasted two hours, until the brothers-in-law returned with beer and sneakers.  Although I don’t really drink, I totally got the beer.  It was the shoes that confused the hell out of me.  Since when do men escape loud homesteads by going shoe shopping?  I suggested checking one of them for the presence of a vagina but my pleas were drowned out.

MONGO – get OUT of the FOOD!

Fortunately for me the television was on.  Unfortunately for me, it was sports.  Since I am also known as the AntiSports<tm>, this was not a good thing.   Although even sports seemed a refuge from the day’s events….

But wait- there was food!   I suddenly remembered that I had had very little to eat that day, as my wife dragged me out of the house early, promising great food at the party.  It sure smelled good.  Unfortunately smell does not always equate to taste, plus it seemed that in each dish, there was one little ingredient off.  There was french onion dip – with broccoli.  Veggie chips.  Little hot dogs – wrapped in seaweed.  And all the diet soda one could drink.

What seemed like only eight hours later, my wife asked me if I was ready (to go).  It might have been the tears or the fact that she had to lure me out from underneath the table, where I was huddled with a frightened Saint Bernard, but looked at me and said that she knew I must have been ready hours earlier but she was ready then.  Further, she was very sorry.

My wife spent the next two days recovering.  I guess we all recover differently.  I’m thinking of taking up drinking.  They tell me it’s never too late.