(This post was encouraged by David McMahon and my Mom, who actually want me to write the good stories worth reading! So thanks. )
When my Aunt Maureen turned 40 my Uncle Cliff wanted to do something exciting for her. So he threw her a birthday party on a boat a few years back. I was excited. I was envisioning a Ralph Lauren Nautical magazine layout. Complete with shiny, blond skippers with rough stubble, wearing their cute blue and white stripped shirts and waiting to serve me some kind of yummy cold drink. Yeah, that's not what happened. He rented a large brown fishing boat instead. It was nice enough, I guess. But darn my snobby great expectations!
There was quite a large turn out of guests. Young cousins to great aunts and uncles all boarded the ship for what looked to be an enjoyable late summer afternoon along the New Jersey Shore line.
My father's side is quite a large Irish Catholic family and truth be told, when there is cause for celebration, we know how to celebrate. By the time our merry group took off most of the crowd had probably had about two beers to start.
We couldn't have been more then fifteen or twenty minutes out to sea when we realized that although it was a sunny day, the swells were terribly strong and our 35footer was rocking hard.
It seemed that the laughing and merrymaking sounds were quickly dying off and the sound of uncomfortable silence and strong lapping waves was the only thing to be heard around the boat. Nobody felt like talking and I noticed how large plates of food were left untouched everywhere.
I was sitting at the back end of the boat, trying to concentrate on the horizon and being thankful that I never had breakfast. I continued to inhale deep breaths of the salty air, trying to look casual with my arm dangling from the railing. My brother Ryan however was sitting in front of me stuffing his face with sausage, cheese and olives and downing it with beer. It was nauseating. He kept trying to have a conversation with me, but even the sight and smell of his food was disgusting so I told him to go away and leave me alone. He seemed only mildly disappointed, but disappeared and left me to my thoughts and my rolling stomach. The only conversation at this point by anyone was about who was feeling more sick and who was going to throw up first.
My Uncle Tom was one of the few who seemed completely unaffected by the rocking boat and kept going around eating to his hearts content and asking “Did you throw up yet?” Honestly, my Uncle Tom was hilarious and his ability to make light of the situation was very entertaining.
Finally I decided to get up and go into the galley and get something to drink. I walked downstairs and as I surveyed the room I found three very miserable looking people. My grandmother, my Aunt Florence and my grandfather were sitting forlornly on a bench. No one was talking and they all looked green. Off to the side were the food and drinks that had previously been set up very meticulously, buffet style. At this point though the food was now sliding off the table and cups were rolling all over the floor. For some reason you could feel the swaying of the boat more intensely from the inside and it was harder to stand.
“Hi everyone!” I said. Trying to muster the most cheerful voice I could. “Umph.” Was all my Grandfather could reply. My poor aunt was holding on to the railing behind her and trying very hard to look like she wasn’t going to throw up. “Hi Colleen.” My Grandmother managed. Trying to sound as equally polite. It was obvious no one felt like talking. I grabbed a bottle of water, faked a smile and backed up slowly. Then I turned, wobbled up the stairs and plopped back down at the back of the boat.
I sat there for awhile. Praying with earnest that God would help me keep my wits about me. I also happened to think I looked pretty cute in a kickin' yellow halter top, khaki pants and flip flops. Throwing up on myself or over the edge would definitely wreck the look.
Awhile later, my brother Ryan came back to find me. This time he wasn’t eating. He sat down across from me and let out a low disgusting lunch-beer burp. “You are so gross and I can smell that.” I said. “Sorry, but I don’t feel so good now.” He said.
Our conversation was interrupted when my Uncle Cliff announced that the captain was going to bring the boat up one of the tributaries and get us off the open sea.
It didn’t take long to get us turned around and within 10 minutes we began to find our stomachs settled as we made our way up one of the little inlets.
Up until this point, it was as if everything had been happening in slow motion. Like when you press pause on the DVD player and then hit slow and watch the way people’s movements look exaggerated and their words come out long, slow and deep. Then within a matter of minutes it was as if someone hit the play button and we began talking like normal. People started coming back to life and regained their party spirit and appetites.
My Uncle Tom spent the rest of the time as the party’s main attraction. He got the scoop on everyone and had us laughing as he recapped the poor relatives who couldn't’t manage to keep their stomachs down. He had a way of teasing my Aunt Susan, Aunt Florence and Cousin Danny in such a way that instead of embarrassing them, made them feel like the main attraction. As if throw up in public is fun and enjoyable to watch.
(Mental note for my 40Th and to any family and friends who plan on being there…no parties on boats, please. Thanks.)
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