She is Mad but She is Magic: How I Hacked My Family’s Genome.

And Something’s odd –within—

That Person that I was —

And this One – do not feel the same—

Could it be Madness –this? – Emily Dickinson

When I decided to hack my genome in between washing my toddler’s socks and making a scrapbook of her third year, I should have known there would be a few surprises lying in wait. Many people in my position would question whether they really even wanted to know what predestiny held for them in their genes or at least give it a second thought but not me. My overly curious nature determined that I had to know everything about my DNA from the moment I knew it was a possibility. I also had to hack the DNA of all my relatives who could be convinced to give up their saliva for a DNA test that I inevitably bought them for their birthday. They pretty much thought I was crazy, and how right they would end up being.

“A Beautiful Mind” the biopic of the late John Nash, who died this past weekend at 86, is a portrait of a man burdened by schizophrenia and brilliance, what is popularly known as touched by fire. As it turns out, a beautiful mind might be closer to my own reality than I would ever have imagined before spitting in a test tube. My genetic predispositions have made me feel the weight of my 46 chromosomes worth of underachievement and at the same time intensified my awe of men like John Nash who under the darkness of schizophrenia made startling advances in mathematics, game theory and our conception of our world and ourselves. I may be an underachiever but at least I am a profoundly curious one, and what I have come to discover is that there is probably a gene for that.

After hacking my DNA, my mother’s, my father’s and my daughter Eva’s father’s DNA I have put together an interesting picture of our collective medical risks, personality quirks, and a lot of odd facts that I can categorically say I am no better off knowing. For example I have a gene SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) that predisposes me to sneeze when exposed to sunlight. This has plagued me my entire life, and now we are all better off for knowing that I wasn’t coming down with something it is just a genetic mutation on rs10427255, also called a photic sneeze reflex, an oddity I share with about 25% of people.

On a more concerning note both my mother and I have a ten fold higher risk of breast cancer, and my mother is a survivor, something I believe I am better off knowing, especially as my daughter will likely have inherited at least half of those SNPs. Out of the numerous Snps that predispose a person to cancer we have two of the possible 25 causal mutations on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes in addition to a host of other SNPs.

After surmising my discoveries I called my mother and father together for a genetic meeting of the minds or rather bodies, my two genetic donors to let them know all about their DNA and what they had given me other than a good education. “I have one gene for hazel eyes like dad, and three for blue eyes and blonde hair like mom, but that one hazel gene makes a lot of sense because my eyes are not blue like mom’s and a lot of people think they are green, now I know why.” They were bored already so I decided to take it up a notch.

“I am going to die at 11am.”


“Your genes, tell you that?”

“No, I am going to commit suicide.”


“I’m joking… but I have a gene mutation on SNP rs7221412 which means I am an intermediate riser, I don’t wake up early or late, which is true. Research also suggests that I am more likely to die on a morning, shortly before 11am.”

“Is there any good news in our DNA?”

“We all have obesity genes and are part of the 88% of the population who cannot maintain weight loss unless by high energy exercise- SNP GS281. Sorry mom walking doesn’t work.”

“I suppose we knew that anyway.” Mom said.

“We all have sprinting muscles though.” I countered with optimism.

“I don’t think I have ever sprinted to anything but the fridge,” Mom said.

“Well we would all benefit from a low fat diet and staying away from carbs but lucky us we all have the genetic mutation that allows us to digest lactose so we can eat all the cheese we want as long as we don’t care about getting fat.”

Mom reaches for a cracker, I pick up the cheese knife and point it at her.

“Put the cracker down, carbs will add at least five pounds over night.”

Then I reconsidered, “But don’t worry you will live long enough to waste away so you might as well have a few slices, you both have longevity genes unlike me who drew the short straw and have but one gene for a shorter lifespan.”

“Are we going to get Alzheimer’s?” Mom asked.

“No, but I will probably end up with dementia- better hope you don’t live past 100.”

“Good news?”

“Dad and I have an enhanced hippocampal volume, which means we have a higher IQ.”

“Than me?” Mom asked.

“Who knows but this one might ruin my life,” I say reading from my report, “I evidently have a higher risk of diarrhea and susceptibility to the Norovirus. This alone has solidified my decision not to have any more children.”

“You need give us the good news now.”

“I have a better episodic memory- it must be why I am really good at remembering everything for my blog.”

“And I don’t have such a good memory?” Mom asked.

“No mom you just have cognitive impairment with ageing on snp…”

“Okay enough” She said interrupting. I ignored her.

“To tell us all something we already know- we all have at least three addiction genes, especially for nicotine.”

“What no cigarettes, no booze, no carbs, no cheese?” Mom shook her head in profound disappointment.

“Yes and you are still going to get Gout.”

“Good news?” Dad asked again.

“You have high good cholesterol. Must be all the cheese!”

“Well isn’t that the cherry on the top!”

“We probably shouldn’t eat ice cream we have a gene snp for higher sugar cravings.”

By the time I introduced the hacked family genome to the siblings, there was a family backlash brewing. When we went to Government House in Bermuda to celebrate my parent’s dual Queen’s Badge of Honor for community service, the topic naturally came up over cocktails.

Here we are at Government House: Mom, Dad and the siblings:

Government House

“We should be on spritzers, or we will end up in the Mid Atlantic Wellness Center.”


“We have a genetic mutation on snp rs1800497 for addiction.”

“Half the family is in AA.”

“Or should be.”

“Well mom and I have an officially bad gene snp that predisposes us to really BAD hangovers- our dopamine receptors don’t recover as fast as other people, but in this case I think it might be a protective gene.”

“That is optimistic.” My sister said.

“There is a gene snp for that! Mom and I have a gene for optimism and more sociable, less aggressive behavior.”

“Maybe we should try cocaine instead.” Mom offered sipping her wine with an sly smile.

“Oh no mom, we both have a snp predisposing us to cocaine and heroin addiction.”

“We shouldn’t be discussing this at Government house.”

“I don’t believe a word of it, sounds like airy fairy BS.” My sister said.

“You aren’t going to find this on you know, it’s all written up on PUB MED, this is hard science.”

“Remember what I told you?” my sister asked. I felt a Psychology 101 lesson coming on from her degree twenty years ago.

“What? – that I have an external locus of control, because I read my horoscope, talk to psychics and am now hacking my DNA.”


“Oh I remember, you believe this stuff too- you always told me with horror when we were teenagers that one’s sexual proclivities are inherited from one’s parents, therefore what you like in bed is probably what your mom likes too.”

“No I was going to say you and dad, and Giles must have a gene for being out to lunch, away with the pixies.”

“Oh well there is probably a gene for both, at least we don’t have a gene for liking to be peed on during sex.”

“Thank god for that.”

“We really shouldn’t be talking about this at Government House.” I agreed with my mother for once.

Later on over dinner, Anna Laura’s husband said to me, “I know I am not supposed to notice, but your boobs look huge in that dress.”

“There is a snp for that. I have three large boob genes, lucky me and a ten fold increase for breast cancer so Ill probably have to cut them off eventually.”

There was a collective family eye roll.

“Maybe that’s why people were staring at you at Government House.” My sister added.

“You probably have the gene snp that mom has on rs10246939 – the ability to taste bitterness.” I said with glee.

Saving the best for last, I described to everyone the difference between an Orchid Child and a Dandelion Child. Orchid children tend to be difficult toddlers, prone to externalizing and grow up to become sensitive children who need specific parenting techniques and be coddled into adult existence. Orchids need a greenhouse to thrive, whereas Dandelion children can grow and thrive anywhere, a sidewalk, a metaphorical ghetto, the fifth child of a welfare mother.

“I am definitely a Dandelion.” Announced my mother.

“Me too.” Said my sister.

“Well I’m an Orchid, at SNP rs 1800855 so someone else is an orchid.”

Everyone looked at Dad, who shrugged.

“I think you are an Orchid,” I say to my sister.


“Because you have middle child syndrome- still.”

“What happens to Orchid children who get a Dandelion upbringing?”

“They become drug addicts or generally fail at life, or become highly functioning sociopaths.” I look over at my sister; she looks at me. We laugh.

“What happens to Orchid children who do get a greenhouse upbringing?”

“Orchid children become capable of blooming spectacularly. Eva is an orchid child and I am starting to understand that her raging intemperment and sensitivity is about more than being a toddler, she is an orchid toddler.”—-how-your_b_6158588.html

Another collective family eye roll.

“What is so fascinating is that all of this underlies a new genetic theory which suggests that the very genes that plague us as a species, addiction, orchidery etc evolutionarily persist in our genome because in the right environment they can create the most successful people. “

“An Orchid Bloom.”

“Yes, and what is interesting is that not only are dad and I orchid children we also share the mad genius gene.”

“Does that mean you are mad or a genius?”

I suddenly had a vision of all of my exboyfriends dressed in chorus gowns swinging back and forth in rhythm, singing “Yes Jesus!” and nodding in unison.“Crazy.”

But scientifically I answered, “Possibly both, or schizophrenic. We have a homozygous T:T allele on the Rs6994992 SNP on the neuregulin 1 gene, a 65% increased prefrontal lobe activity, high academic performance, high creativity, high psychosis risk and addiction. Touched by Fire. There is a legitimate link between psychosis and creativity, think John Nash, Sylvia Plath, Lord Byron, Van Gogh.”

“Perhaps this is why most of my followers are mental health bloggers?” I added.

“Genetic Delusions of Grandeur,” offered one of my siblings.

“Leave me alone I am blooming,” I responded.

“Are you going to cut your ear off now?”

“No but I probably would if I had become an accountant, instead I am a writer and artist in a long line of writers and artists with the same genetic predisposition for creativity, madness, and addiction. Can someone pass the red wine?”

“Somehow Dad survived thirty years as a lawyer.”

“He drank a lot of scotch.”

Our genetic conversation could continue for years, but I decided as a coup de grace I would make the following prediction for my life based on what I have discovered about my genetic predispositions:

I will die at 11am at age 70 while making love to a man half my age ( rs2811712 lack of physical impairment with age) of an exercise induced stroke ( RS1024611 increased risk of exercise induced ischemic stroke) or heart attack (rs5174 increased risk of myocardial infarction) but what a way to go ( rs53576 more likely to be an optimist) and my substantial estate ( rs6994992 mad genius gene) will be bequeathed to AA and the Mid Atlantic Wellness Center, and my very own orchid child, Eva who is mad like me or like the line from a Charles Bukowski poem, “She is mad, but she is magic, there is no lie in her fire.”

Sylvia Plath-Mommy


If you would like to hack your own genome, order a basic gene test for $99 on:

And then when you get your results download the raw data off of their website and then run it through this website for $5:

Examples in Motherhood

Okay I know I have been absent for a while- blame a holiday and the film festival. But I am back- starting off with a tame one… I ramp up from here over the next week. Stay tuned.

Sometimes my life seems more like a split end than a strand of hair. This past week was a perfect example. I was desperately trying to get a lot of work done to feel accomplished before I left on vacation. As I slowly chip away at my work load and organize my life around it I seem to overwhelm myself with the enormity of what is left. I have yet to master the art of realistic projection and I still try and do it all, and top everything off with a nice tasting bottle of red or pot of coffee to keep me going.

On my list of goals this week were several recipes, to provide Eva’s favorite food – readily accessible in the fridge while I am away for five days. My first task was to make her coconut granola that she eats every morning for breakfast. I got up early one morning and while it was in the oven I somehow got distracted by email or brushing Eva’s hair and left it in a little too long.

“Shit, I thought, it looks a little too brown.”

“Tastes okay to me, she won’t notice.”

I gave her a bowl.

She looked at it with a funny face and then put it to her mouth, cautiously surveyed it with her tongue without actually chewing it, and spat it back into the bowl.

“It needs more honey.”

The translation was for my attuned ear, “It tastes burnt.”

That evening Daddy expressed his disapproval, and mommy was back at the drawing board finally able to create a palatable version.

Another night I was cooking a “one skillet meal” of garlic spinach, pork loins and apple. How can you mess up a one skillet meal? I can mess up anything. After cooking the pork to perfection I lightly salted the dish as per direction, but my pour was little too heavy from years of making my mother vodka drinks and the top fell out of the gallon of sea salt falling right into the skillet followed by an ant pile of salt. My energy level hit the floor. I scooped out the pile of salt and served it anyway.

It was inedible. I went without. Chris’s only comment was.

“Are we on the Deliverance, is this a flashback to the Starving time, slating hogs for survival?”

“It was an accident.”

Later on the same week I decided to make kale chips, because Chris was going on about how much he loved my dad’s kale chips, and I kept saying oh yeah those are really easy to make, which begged the obvious question- well then why haven’t you made any for me yet.

I thought if I made a big batch of them before I left him as chief parent for a week that it would be a kind culinary gesture. I followed directions but I must have added too much oil and again too much salt ( its that heavy vodka pour) and the chips never became chips more like oily dehydrated spluge.

But I wasn’t done in the kitchen yet, I set out to make a double order of Eva’s favorite tuna fish. I have recently learned that basically all store bought mayo is terrible for you, with soybean oil or canola oil which are both generally bad and full of GMOS. So I have started making my own mayo. Ambitious I know, but to my surprise the mayo turned out well and the tuna salad was a success, the only one so hopefully it will last them the week. But my disasters were not done.

I had a collection of egg whites left over from making the mayo, so I decided to cook them up for the Piccolo’s dinner. The problem was that sometime between when I set the egg whites cooking in the pan and when they should have been ready which is only really a minute or two, I got distracted but not by a dirty dish or a thirty second email, but I decided to call Eva’s grandparents in England and have a thirty eight minute conversation with them downstairs. Opps. By the time we all said our goodbyes and I started up the stairs for the kitchen I realized something was very wrong as the stairwell was full of smoke.

“Something’s on fire.” I yelled dropping Eva on the landing as I started running up the stairs only to be stopped dead by Eva’s piercing scream of terror.

I had to return to Eva then take her to her father, admitting that not only had I lit something on fire in the kitchen and was not sure what was burning but I had also terrified my daughter by abandoning her alone in a smoke filled house. Opps.

Chris took Eva. I returned up the stairs, when I entered the kitchen I remembered the egg whites. We had no choice but to evacuate.

“Eva has earned her smoking jacket today.” Chris joked.

Eva, my mini Hugh Hefner wears her dressing gown everywhere and she has several varieties, which are on a wash rotation.

I took Eva to feed the fish and wander around outside while fresh air and fans wafted fresh air into the house.

“Cooking is usually your expertise. I think you need a vacation.” Chris joked with a twinge of disgust.

“I have lost my touch. Anything to get a week away.”

And so I left the stove and the salt shaker alone for the rest of the evening, and instead fielded obscure emails from my mother about what she ate for lunch, and if I could pack her sugar free vanilla protein powder in little Ziploc bags and hide them in my suitcase and bring them out to Colorado when I come. Luckily she was able to find some at Whole foods, which is just as well because I was given a full Security profile, and had every belonging searched. I would have had a hard time explaining why I had Ziploc snack bags filled with white powder hidden in the arms of my ski jacket.

“Its my mother’s sugar free vanilla protein powder.” Would probably earn me a few hours in the back room and a missed flight.

When I reached my destination in Colorado I was comforted by the fact that I was at least somewhere where my heavy pouring arm would be welcomed and exercised.

XX Derelict Mom

The Ornamentation of Christmas

The Holiday Season is almost upon us, and although I have the best intentions of sending Christmas cards, I never ever get around to it, in fact I probably wouldn’t have a Christmas tree if I couldn’t order that online. Every mother knows success in life is about those extra twenty minutes in a day, whatever corners you have to cut to get there, most importantly abandoning family traditions. Why send a Christmas card when you have a blog and facebook and twitter!

I have been inspired early to start posting about the holidays by Patience Brewster, an artist and a designer of beautiful Christmas ornaments. Check them out at this page. Ornaments even a derelict mother can appreciate!

Every Christmas my mother very generously gives everyone in the family a Christmas ornament and my uncle has also started bringing ornaments back from his travels. Eva is still young enough that her favorite thing about Christmas is the tree, and well maybe I am now finally old enough that we share the same love: the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the smell as it slowly dies, those pesky needles that get everywhere. There is one level to which I will not stoop- the plastic Christmas tree. That is never happening in my house.

When I finally purchased my first Christmas tree in the dawn of my delayed adulthood I had about five ornaments, mostly hand me downs from my mother. She was really disappointed I had not spent half of my pay cheque “investing” in ornaments, but really she was even more depressed that I didn’t have any children to make them for me. The glitter and glue star that I made out of popsicile sticks is enjoying its thirtieth Christmas this year, on her tree. It was around this time (the dawn of my delayed adulthood) that she started a tradition of her own, we call it: tree inspection.

Fast forward several years to 2014, a marriage and one grandchild later: our Christmas trees-mine and my mother’s- arrive at the same time on the same day aboard the same truck because she – a savvy grandmother- orders hers online too. Hers usually goes up on its stand first, the decorating takes the better half of a week and when she is finally finished with its half seventies, half contemporary chique look, she begins the lengthy process of comparison. Keeping up with the Jones’ we all know is a dangerous game but my mother is like the domestic version of a chess master. After every Christmas Cocktail party, she asks someone in the family,

“What did you think of their tree?”

“It was nice.”

“It was way too puny for that enormous and ostentatious living room.”


“It would have looked better if the lights twinkled instead of flickered.”

“What’s the difference?”

“There is a huge difference, I might come down with epilepsy from looking at that tree for too long, I had to turn my back.”

“Does your tree twinkle or flicker?”

“Of course it twinkles! Who do you think I am?”

“A Christmas Nazi”

After mom’s Christmas tree has been finished in all its glory she takes to yelling at me as she drives out the driveway,

“You better put that tree in a bucket of water or it will die on your doorstep! “

“Okay mom, Ill make Chris do it tonight.”

A few days later we would get the tree up and she would again drive by.

“I don’t see any lights on that tree.”

“We are planning on decorating the tree this weekend.”

As soon as the lights are up she arrives on the doorstep,

“Here is a gift, it’s a (2014) ornament, why don’t I put it on the tree to get you started with the decoration.”

A few days later if she sees anything hanging off the tree, the star, a Christmas Mickey Mouse, or her ornament, she arrives, dressed head to toe in red and green, with a santa hat, and musical earrings playing “Joy to the World.” She looks the tree up and down, shaking her head.

“You need to put ornaments around the back you know.”

“Why no one is going to see them?”

“But everyone will be able to tell by the way the tree leans.”

“No one will know.”

“You never brush the back of your hair either and it’s a rats nest!”


“You need to put more ornaments lower down and higher up.”

If I didn’t distract her she would start rearranging the ornaments.

“Don’t you have any more?”


I think she thinks of a Christmas tree as some sort of emblem of how well you are doing in life, how creative, how affluent, how organized, how family orientated and how much you care about Christmas, and lets not leave out Jesus Christ. He should be at the top of every Christmas tree.

“Where is the nativity?”

“We don’t have one.”

“You have to have a nativity!”

“No we don’t.”

“You have to have a nativity now that you have a child.”

“I am a heathen, remember.”

“Your husband was an altar boy and its your duty as a mother not to spoil Eva’s religious soul.”

I had no answer for that so she bought a Fisher Price nativity on amazon to be kept at Hamma and Gigi’s house. Of course Eva loved it, and has not stopped talking about Baby Jesus and Gigi’s perfect Christmas tree ever since.

Personally I would like a tree that leans a little to the side, a tree with character. I am really suspicious of people whose trees look like they shoplifted one from the department store, or stayed up for seven consecutive nights decorating it. Why?

My mother would disagree. She has been known to try and return her Christmas trees for not having the perfectly shaped form. Maybe she should think about a plastic tree? Personally I embrace the imperfection of nature, and imperfection in all its forms.

“You need tinsel on that tree.”

“We all need tinsel, mom.”

Perhaps this year, I will purchase a few new ornaments for my tree from Patience, if only to please my mother. Eva, because she is only two years old, gets off easy she can make me something with glitter, glue and popsicle sticks- the messier the better as long as she makes it with love and dereliction. As my husband says,

“Eva takes after you, arts and crafts are not her forte.”

Xx Derelict Mom



Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part 2: Wedding One

When the week of the family wedding arrived there was a sense of anticipation palpable in everyone except the two year olds who had no idea that they were expected to preform in the wedding by walking down the aisle, pretending to be the cute well behaved children they were not, throwing flower petals instead of tantrums and smiling on cue. What Eva and her cousin Sadie had planned for the day was unknown. Their parents knew that the success of the entire week of events would somehow depend on a precise series of events being adhered to, and if any of them went wrong, it could spell a total and mounting disaster, late bedtimes, missed meals, and then there is always throw up. Throw up ruins everything.

The wedding events began with a party at my mother’s house, of course. Proper Etiquette requires the Groom’s parents to throw the rehearsal dinner, but for my mother there was no such thing as a rehearsal it was HER wedding. She had already had several rehearsals (daughter number 1 and daughter number 2: and daughter number 2’s wedding 1 and wedding 2, to the same man- just to clarify.) So just in case you are counting: with child number 3, it was going to be wedding number 4 and she was going to out due herself, or me as it would turn out.

There were weeks of ruminations over the menu and the guest list, my mother enlisted all of our opinions and could still not make a decision. My opinion was void when I suggested a gluten free/ dairy free menu. What no fried chicken? My mother had passed her love of fried chicken- I think there is a gene- to my brother, but somehow they compromised on fish and chips. It was close but slightly more sophisticated. My mother liked to pretend she was sophisticated, my brother, sister and I went along with it, rolling our eyes behind her back. Once when she invited the Governor over for “luncheon” she introduced her housekeeper Alda, who on the day she made dress in a white top and black pants, and said she had been in her employ for twenty one years. My mother was bragging, and Alda still doesn’t speak English so their relationship works out quite well. But then on another day she cut out an employment ad placed by an older couple in her circle of friends, and was laughing that they were advertising for a driver and butler who would be in charge of “Marketing” which meant she told me, going to the grocery store, not marketing as in my sister’s career; my mother rolled her eyes. I suppose sophistication is relative.

Speaking of relatives, I rue the day I ever spent weeks in past less busy decades crafting slideshows for relative’s birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. After giving birth to Eva, I decided I would retire from this pastime and would no longer be available. And then my brother had to go and get engaged. I agreed to come out of retirement for this special event, as long as everyone in the family would keep it a secret so in the event that I did not have a chance to complete it no one particularly my brother, would be left disappointed. You have to keep your cards close to your chest when you are a parent because time seems to evaporate in increments of bedtime stories, swimming lessons and the aforementioned tantrums. As much as I try and plan ahead it never works out, inevitably I ask my parents to babysit and my sister has beat me to it from now through 2016. So in November, in a rare moment of peace I decided to start collecting pictures, and over the next several months I was able to sort, select, meet with and scan about 500 pictures from Danielle’s family and my family to aggregate a collection of childhood through adulthood pictures of both Danni and Gee and begin figuring out what themes would appear in the slideshow. I was careful not to give away what I had planned in case I would not be able to deliver, but my mother would take care of any kind of dalliance, doubt in my ability, or scheduling conflict by at some point around Christmas spilling the beans to my brother that I was creating one of my slideshows. I sighed and knew there was no way out. You would have thought being under employed for several months would have given me ample opportunity, instead I was applying for jobs, launching a fundraising campaign etc etc. in order to be able to pay for the necessities of life as you do and the slideshow got a sideline.

In the blink of an eye, and what seemed like only a few diaper trash empties later, it was May 1st, four weeks before the wedding. If I didn’t start now I would never finish. So I started by putting 500 photos in chronological order, that Xd a day off the calendar. As the days continued I was struck with the most obvious inspiration, I would craft the slideshow interspaced with clips from one the best films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. My husband constantly quotes from the film, and it is in our DVD library and evidently every kid growing up in the UK watched it every Christmas Day. Oh the Brit’s are so inspired. Now it was my turn.

I used this apt clip in my slideshow from the Wizard of Oz

The similarities were just too funny to not include. The raven haired Danielle is a fan of Cairn terriers, and she grew up with her parents at the West end of the island and her husband to be, my brother Giles grew up on the East End of the island, and of course there is a historic rivalry between the East end crew and the West End crew, which they were defying with their marriage. But really the 20 mile spread between homesteads just made their dating life inconvenient in the beginning and the wedding events difficult in the end. Therefore my mother decided to throw the rehearsal dinner on the Thursday night before a Saturday night wedding, to let all the weary travelers have a rest day in between events. She also wanted to make sure her party didn’t suffer from anyone deciding to save themselves and their energies for the wedding night and that none of the guests on her side of the family would miss the five o’clock wedding because of a hangover.

I was still editing the slideshow when the men came with the tent, but luckily I was exporting it by the time they left. My husband had vetted it the night before and by the time I burned the DVD the caterers were arriving to set up the food stations, but the censorship authority was still open with Judge GiGi presiding. So she took out thirty minutes of her dressing time to watch the slideshow. At the end she was a good sport and her only comment was “It sounds like Derelict Mom.” “Who Me?” I said. I was a bit nervous about the reception at the actual event because although my mother had grown to accept and expect that I was going to call her “The Wicked Witch of the East,” I wasn’t sure my brother’s mother in law would be okay with her new nickname, “Wicked Witch of the West.” But I couldn’t resist and if I was going to spend three weeks crafting a thirty minute slideshow it was going to be funny.

After an extended cocktail hour, the guests watched the slideshow and laughed and enjoyed the pictorial walk down memory lane and no one seemed to hold it against me. Relief hit with a wave of fish and chips and red wine. As I was eating my dinner the speeches began, now it was everyone’s chance for a tribute. Maybe I had taken all the jokes, but there were more tears than there was laughter. My mother although not allotted a speech, took to the microphone anyway.

“Good Evening Ladies and Gentleman” She began.

My dad yelled from the crowd “Do you want your pitch fork or your axe?”

“I want everyone to know that I posed for those pictures in the slideshow.”

“There is a saying,” she continued, “that goes your son is your son until he marries his wife, but your daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.”

“I know this to be true as I have two daughters, and have yet been able to get rid of them, but we are happy to have Danni in our family and we have grown to love her as our own daughter already over the years.”

This was my mothers attempt to be soppy.

And then just because my mother cannot help her self from indulging in an inappropriate confession, she added

“When Danielle first met Giles she couldn’t have been more than 15 and she got off of the boat one day after hanging out with Giles and some friends, and it was late and she insisted she had to return to her home in Somerset, but I insisted that she stay the night….. but of course I didn’t mean in Giles’s room. But I wasn’t trying to match make or anything.”

At this point, I was thinking I should have set up Danielle as Little Red Riding hood in my slideshow and my mother as the Big Bad Wolf.

She was always trying to be the “cool” mom by the time my brother was a teenager, she always said what she got up to when she was young was far worse than anything we could imagine. I never believed her until recently- but that’s a story for another blog.

And then, not to be outdone, my sister gave a speech comparing her experience of running the NY marathon with my brother to the marathon of marriage. A few minutes before she asked me into mom’s computer room and asked me to vet her speech which she said she had just typed up that very instant, but when she read it, it felt like perfectly timed advertising copy. She was in the business.

“Marriage is like a marathon.”

“I am only at mile five, but I know that there are uphills and downhills, struggle, and balance, compromise, sacrifice, joy and camaraderie.”

Then her husband yelled, “and smelly feet.”

Instead of mile five, I thought, child number 2, was probably a more fitting marker to marriage and the uphill climbs, but it wasn’t my speech.

“It is not the finish line, it is the journey,” she continued striking the perfect balance between tears and composure.

“The people here around you are your water stops and your medical tents.”

At that point her husband looked like he was downing his entire glass of wine, just to get through her speech.

Afterwards, she wiped away her tears and hugged the bride and groom.

Then it was Christine’s turn, the mother of the bride. She kept it short,

“I think I am having a good time, I have been called a witch, the only problem I have so far is there wasn’t a sign to tell me where to park my broom.”

Then one of the bridesmaid’s got up, and started to cry before she could speak. She made one very salient point though, about marriage, which bears repeating,

“There is a saying that the most important things in any marriage, is one, a sense of humor and two a short memory.”

I would also add that these two qualities also come in handy within a family, especially when a family member has a blog called Derelict Mom.

After dinner the core group of hangers on, that would be myself, my husband, my sister and her husband, my brother’s groomsman and his wife who live on an island in the harbor and my parents settled in on the porch for a night cap and for some a cigar. It had been a successful evening therefore everyone had to celebrate until 1:30am on a school night. Luckily I disappeared in the vanishing act of an early bedtime (by Spurling standards) by midnight. For the rest of them, the only thing that vanished was groomsman Jeremy’s pack of cigarettes because my mother and sister chain smoked them all. At least my mother had given up bumming weed off my brother’s friends after he turned 21. The next morning it wasn’t the toddlers who looked like they were going to be sick, but the adults when they counted the cigarette butts and empty wine bottles. That Friday felt like the night after a party rather than the night before a party but there was one responsibility we had to adhere to that day, and that was to attend the actual rehearsal at 5pm, at the other end of the island.


Tune in next week for Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part III: Wedding Two