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(LONG)The Legendary Thanksgiving Blowout Extravaganza 2006(TM) Plus: TMI warning

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So, by popular request, here is the Great and Terrible Thanksgiving Blowout Extravaganza 2006(TM). Warning: TMI, Violence, Scrabble, Scrabble-related harassment, Family Dysfunction, Profound Immaturity...and humiliations galore.

A little background first. My beloved father died in February 2006. His dying wish, even though our family was dysfunctional and toxic and all four of us kids did not get along for the most part, was for us kids to be one big happy family. He always used to complain that we weren't, and although he had many, many good points, his gossip about us/to us helped to drive that wedge and create extra resentment between us all those years...but, we tried to make his wish happen. We tried to be that big happy family. It did not work. Now, you'll see why.

My sister (DS) went through a divorce in 2005/06. Her husband fell in love with another woman, who was his partner in a Scrabble tournament of sorts that he and DS participated in together. It was a very ugly divorce, involving real and imagined stalking behavior, various lawsuits involving the division of marital assets, revenge Scrabble, keying of cars, restraining orders, one arrest on domestic violence charges and general hatred from each side. You know, a typical ugly divorce.

Because she had been arrested for domestic violence (for an unfortunate incident in the kitchen involving a dispute over the ownership of a very special wooden cutting board and the elbow of a particular individual) and was assigned anger management AND her now-ex husband had secured a restraining order against her (claiming that she was stalking him), she wanted to prove that she no longer was interested in him after the divorce ended...so she hooked up with BIL#2, who from now on I will simply refer to as BIL for the sake of my typing. They married in mid-March, 2006.

They visited us on Easter weekend, 2006, as recounted in this thread: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=124246.0 DH and I did not think the visit went very well.

Now, before I go on, I should make it clear that I was not present for the following incident; however, it was recounted to me in vivid, excruciating detail by both my brother and my sister so I have both sides from which to draw in compiling this report. I have compared the two versions and what I present to you this evening is the best I can weave together based on the accounts for which there is most agreement between the two (main) parties involved. I will endeavor to be as objective as I possibly can - although, you might sense (rightly) that I lean towards greater sympathy for one side just a smidgen more than the other. But I promise I will try to keep my editorializing to an absolute minimum to the best of my abilities as a human.

For your convenience, here's whose involved:
My brother: BRO
His Wife: SIL
Their two daughters (my fabulous nieces):
         "Betsy" (Age about 14 at the time)
         "Arlene" (Age about 10 at the time)
My sister: SIS
Her (present) husband: BIL

***Continued below***

Now we begin.

In October, 2006, in a phone conversation with my brother, he mentioned that he and his family were going to have SIS and BIL over for Thanksgiving weekend. He knew about the visit earlier in the year at my house, so I can sleep with a sound conscience, knowing I WARNED HIM. He cannot say I didn’t warn him. He said he was sure they would have a good time and that I had to be exaggerating about what happened at the mrkitty house. Ok. Fine…play that card if you want to, at your own peril. (BRO and I have our own dysfunctional history that in the last few years has healed nicely and now we're very close…but at the time relations were still somewhat fragile.)

BRO and his family live in Wine Country in Northern California. SIS and BIL were planning to drive up from their home in the desert southwest (in the other post I said it was the Mountain West, but I mis-spoke. I'm sorry. Geography.), about a 16 hour drive. They were supposed to arrive around noon on Thanksgiving day and stay through Sunday and then drive home again.

About 8 a.m. BRO received a phone call from SIS, informing him that their car broke down, and would be delayed for several hours, and probably wouldn't be able to get there until at least 5 p.m.  In our family, Thanksgiving Dinner is traditionally served around 4 p.m. BRO was sound asleep when they called (neither he nor myself are morning people) and though disappointed that they would need to push back dinner, he did indicate appreciation for the advance notice, said goodbye, and went back to sleep. Secretly he was relieved that there would be yet more time to sleep in. Yay!

At 8:05 a.m. the doorbell rang. Loudly and repeatedly. Startled awake, BRO went downstairs in his rumpled pajamas and messed up bed hair (we are vain people in my family and DO NOT LIKE to be surprised when we are not looking our best). Standing at the open door was SIS and BIL, laughing and whooping it up at their brilliant prank.

"We're here! We're here! Yay! We sure fooled you!!" They shouted.

Well, BRO assisted them in and help them set up their digs in the living room. He had one of those air mattresses, so he set that up for them and showed them around and let them get comfortable while he went upstairs to dress. Meanwhile, SIL came down to serve breakfast.

BRO and SIS each (independently) told me the afternoon went along more or less smoothly.

They all sat in the family room talking and catching up (or getting to know each other) while SIL and SIS (who assisted from time to time) prepared the meal in the kitchen.

(That is one scary part and one reason among many that I'm glad I did not attend. SIS can.not.cook. One time she attempted making a pound cake whose recipe called for lemon zest. Well, she used the dish soap for that. Lemon Zest. Says so right on the bottle. She didn't know that lemon zest (for cooking and baking) is actually supposed to be ground lemon rind. {Shakes head} I'm not kidding. I know you think I'm making this up, but I'm not kidding about this. I stay away from her food. Another time she made a chicken dish FOR OUR SICK FATHER ON HIS DEATH BED that she got from some gourmet recipe book. (Yes, I know, you don't have to tell me. Lung cancer. Chemo. Special diet. Didn't matter to her. It was a chance for her to show off her mad skillz, don'cha know?) The recipe was for macadamia-encrusted chicken with mint sauce. Well, the recipe called for mint, but she didn't have any. So she used toothpaste. Toothpaste. Don't worry. Dad didn't get the food because there was an "accident" in kitchen in  which the chicken dish was "unfortunately" destroyed and his doctor-prescribed food served instead once my other sister walked in on her - thank goodness it wasn't too late. The scary part is that now she's preparing meals for a special needs child who has severe food allergies and digestive disorders in addition to his Autism  :'().

So, the food issue alone is one reason I was happy not being there. My diet may not be all that healthy, and I may not be the most talented cook in the world, but I don't put household cleaning products in the food I serve and I try real hard not to poison people.  :(

***Continued below***

Sorry for digressing.

So, they sat around talking until dinner time. According to BRO, BIL found the beer in the garage refrigerator and spent the rest of the afternoon getting more and more intoxicated, all the while louder and more animated when discussing SIS's ex-husband (who had filed restraining orders against BIL during the divorce proceedings as well). Because BIL funded SIS's legal representation during the late stages of her divorce, he had a special, burning hatred for ex-husband against whom certain threats were leveled. (Let's pause here for a moment. You do remember I told BRO about our experience at Easter, right? And the involvement of beer in the activities that commenced, right? Well, apparently, BRO either didn't take what I said seriously or he forgot. Sorry. Moving on.)

According to BRO, during the afternoon as BIL became more intoxicated, his discussion about SIS's ex became....more colorful as well as loud and animated. Normally, the colorful language is not a problem in our family, as us kids can have potty mouths at times with each other - but our policy is to keep it kid-friendly in front of any kids and any non-siblings (except spouses). But in this instance, policy was supposed to be in force because "Betsy" and "Arlene" were present - so colorful language was verbotten. KWIM?

At that point, BRO spoke up and asked him to tone down the colorful language for the sake of the children. To her credit, even SIS nudged BIL to get him to calm down. According to both versions, he did manage to reign it in - for a while - and BRO excused the girls and invited them to go elsewhere in the house to entertain themselves until dinner time.

Finally, Thanksgiving Dinner was served. Everyone was seated. It was mostly uneventful, except BRO said he didn't eat turkey. Meat and potatoes, remember? Didn't SIL have any "real meat" in the house? Bewildered looks were exchanged between BRO and SIL. SIL, being the accommodating sweetheart/saint that she is, went to the kitchen to try to find something to whip up for Mr. Patron Saint of Special Snowflakes for Ever and All Time. I think she found a couple of frozen NY strips and offered to grill them up, which BIL accepted. Meanwhile, mashed potatoes and gravy didn't go with steak (according to BIL), so what he needed was a baked potato instead....fortunately, SIL didn't use all of them for the mashed potatoes, so she delayed eating HER dinner to whip up another for Mr. Finicky.

After dinner was completed (late, thanks to BIL), and SIL (with help from nieces) cleaned up, the girls were excused for the evening and the two adult couples retired to the living room for coffee, or in BIL's case - can you guess?? - beer.

The rest of the evening was spent with BIL showing BRO and SIL a loooooooooong slideshow demonstrating all the structural problems with the new house they just bought. In excruciating, Cliff Claven-esque Florida Vacation Photos detail, until BRO mentioned that they have (relatively) early plans for tomorrow and they must surely be tired.....

So BRO and SIS said goodnight to SIS and BIL and scooted off to bed. Mercifully, the night passed uneventfully.

***Continued below***

Betsy and Arlene went off to their respective friends' houses to hang out for the day while BRO and SIL took SIS and BIL out sightseeing.

Being that they lived in famous Wine Country, they decided it would be nice to take them on a wine-tasting tour of the local wineries, and then a hot-air-balloon ride to take in the gorgeous vistas of the countryside. Surely, you can see where this is going, can't you? No, I don't think you do....you might have an idea, but there are things you can't possibly guess.

BRO told me later he was a bit worried about taking BIL to a venue containing lots of alcohol because of the day before....but I come from a people who are apparently blind to fiercely waving red flags and deaf to desperate pleas of warning from concerned individuals. But I digress.

I don't know how much experience everyone has with wineries. Being that I was born and raised in the region, I've been to a couple, but not very many. Not to insult anyone's intelligence if you're already familiar with how it works (and I apologize if I do, I sincerely don't mean to), for those who haven't been to one, the idea is not to drink so much wine that you actually get drunk, but rather take a sip or two to sample different vintages and blends.

Anyhow, that's what you're expected to do. You sit down, the server brings you several wine glasses, and pours a small amount into the wine glass so that there is a few sips in each one. They will come by as many times as you like to give you more, if you request it. And then when they do, they don't fill your cup - just a few more sips at a time.

SIS started to flirt with the waiter. Shamelessly, according to BRO. To the point where SIL and BIL became visibly uncomfortable.

The server poured a sample of wine in each glass at the table. SIS looked at it and said "is this all you're giving me? That's not enough. I'm a birthday girl - my birthday is coming up soon and I deserve more wine! You know, to celebrate my birthday!"

BRO: Your birthday isn't until April.
SIS: So? I didn't say it was today. But it's still coming up....and it's time to start to party!
Server: <Looking slightly confused> Ok. (He pours more wine so she has half a glass.
SIS: You're cute!
Server: Thank you. <Looks to be in early 20's. Looks embarrassed>
SIS nudges BIL in his ribs
SIS: BIL is getting old and you're young and hot...if BIL doesn't work out, I know where to find you <winks seductively>
Server: <Looks extremely embarrassed> Ok, well, does anyone need anything else?
BRO: No, thank you, we're all set
Server: <Looking relieved> Ok, well, if you need anything else, I'll be back soon... <practically runs away>
SIS: <Shouting after server> Yes, come back soon! You know what I need!
BRO: <Leans in to speak to SIS> What the eHell are you doing!
SIS: <Feigning complete innocence> What do you mean?
BRO: You're embarrassing us!
SIS: Oh, grow up. I'm just having a good time.
BIL: <Starts looking sullen and very, very quiet. Starts drinking the wine. Flags down waiter for more>
Server: <Looking apprehensive> Would you like more, sir?
BIL: Fill 'er up
Server: Yes, of course <pours in a few sips worth so the glass is half full>
BIL: No, all the way
Server fills BIL's glass and BIL downs it in one gulp
SIS: Yes, all the way <smiling suggestively and leering at the server as she giggles and shoves her empty glass towards him>
BRO: <whispering in the direction of SIS> Stop it.
SIS: <glares at BRO> Fill it all the way up! You haven't even given me enough to get me (a vulgar word for "aroused")!
BIL: That's it. I'm out of here. <Scoots out of booth and heads for the door>
Server: I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't think I can serve you any more. May I offer you some coffee? On the house?
SIS: There's only one thing you can offer me on the house, and it ain't coffee...
Server: I'm sorry, ma'am, but your behavior is offensive to me. I'm going to have to close out your tab now. <He turns to BRO/SIL> I'm very sorry, but...
BRO: No, it's okay. Just please bring us the check and we'll leave immediately.
Server: Yes, sir. <Leaves to get check>
BRO: What did you do that for?!
SIS: Nobody has a sense of humor
BRO: That wasn't funny. You just s@xually harassed the server! I think we should go home
SIL: No, no, let's not ruin the day. SIS didn't mean to cause any trouble...did you, SIS?
SIS: No, let's just leave
Server: <Returns with check, apologizes again> You can either pay me here or at the front
BRO: We'll just pay on our way out. I'm so sorry about this...
Server: Don't worry about it. Things like this happen sometimes...

BRO pays the front cashier and leave the restaurant. They find BIL standing next to the car, waiting to leave. Not looking especially happy.

BRO: <Turns to BIL and quietly says> Uh, would you prefer to go home?
BIL: No. Not at all. Let's go on and see all the other wonderful things you have planned for today.

BRO and SIL trade apprehensive looks....and proceed to drive to the small airport where the hot air balloon place is. They arrive, get out of the car, and are led to the cockpit of the hot air balloon. It's standing only, no seats. One or two other couples get on board too. (I can't remember exactly) Seven or nine people total, including the captain.

***Continued below***

Pretty much the ride starts smoothly, except BIL won't stop talking.

BIL: Whoa. Whoa! Clear air turbulence ahead!
BRO: What do you mean? This is not rough at all.
BIL: This thing is going all over the place! <Throws his hands in the air and makes wild flailing gestures with his arms while attempting to "rock" the cockpit by shifting his weight from one leg to the other>
Captain: Please hold on, sir.
BIL: You don't know how to fly, man! <Continues his flailing/rocking motion>
Captain: I'm going to have to ask you to stop that, sir.
BIL: Come on, man! Give us a ride! This is boring!
Captain: If you don't calm down, sir, I'm going to have to land.
Another male passenger: Could you please stop it? We would like to enjoy the ride.
BIL: Hey, ain't I giving you a ride? This ***h*** doesn't know what he's doing!
BRO: <Moving closer to BIL> You need to stop it right now.
Captain: Please sir, stop this.
BIL: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! <Jumping up and down> Come on, man, grow a pair! Give these (expletive deleted) a ride to remember!
Captain: Ok, that's it. We're going to land now.
BRO: dingdangity it, SIL, I told you we should have just gone home!
SIL: <Looks mortified>
SIS: <Giggles hysterically>
BRO: Moves in to shove BIL against wall of cockpit to stop him from jumping up and down and flailing
BIL: Hey, get your hands off me
BRO: I will if you promise to calm the (expletive) down. Now.
BIL: Ok, okay. You obviously can't take a joke
BRO: You're endangering all of us. This isn't funny. Now calm down.
Meanwhile, the captain found an open field and started to lower the balloon.
Captain: Men, please move yourselves between the women and the wall of the cockpit. The landing is going to be a bit rough.
BRO: <glares threateningly at BIL>
BIL: <Stays quiet for once>
The landing is slightly rough. The women in the cockpit are shoved with some force up against the men, but nobody seems hurt. (I have never been ballooning before, so I can't know whether what happened is normal or not, but my brother, who goes ballooning every once in a while, tells me that a normal landing in a balloon isn't exactly a soft landing - it's not an airliner, after all, so the landing, according to him, was pretty standard. But truthfully, I personally have no way of discerning what is usual or not  so I'm going to have to trust my brother on this one. Those of you who have more experience than I, feel free to correct me, because honestly I don't know.)

Captain: Ok, we need to exit the balloon now. <He gets on his cell phone and calls the company to inform them where they landed so they can send a truck to pick up the balloon and a van for the passengers.>
Captain: Ok, we're going to go ahead and fold up the balloon now...so this is what we're going to do....
(According to my brother, that's how ALL balloon rides end...you don't always land where you started, so when you land somewhere else, as a passenger part of the "fun" is helping to fold up the balloon afterwards...again...I've never been, so if you have done it differently, be my guest to add your thoughts...>
BIL: (To BRO): Oh, this is great.  You sure know how to plan a wonderful time...first they almost kill us and then we have to do their job for them and clean up their mess
BRO: <Glares menacingly at BIL> Let's just get this done and go home. Okay?
BIL: Sloooooowly moves to help fold up the balloon, ranting and raving the entire time

***Continued below***


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