There are very few things in this world that scare me too much, however one of those few things is hearing the phrase"Family Portrait" spoken aloud by my mother. To my horror, that exact phrase was uttered this past Sunday evening just after dinner.
Mom had invited the whole family over to their place which included myself, my stupid sister, her husband Doug and my little nephew Mikey. We had a large turkey dinner with all the fixings which both myself and Dad had about three servings of each.
After the meal we all went into the living room to rest and relax after our gluttonous feast when Mom came in and casually mentioned in passing that she had set up an appointment next Saturday morning at 9 AM with a portrait studio to take family pictures of everyone.
These words sent a terrible cold chill down my spine and had me immediately bolting up straight & tense in my chair. I quickly looked over at Dad and I could see it also had a negative affect on him. I noticed the extreme aggravation on his face. I knew he would not tolerate such an insane activity, he would surely speak up and stop it 'dead in its tracks'.
"I don't really think we need the bother of going through all that again, do we dear?" Dad moaned. "Didn't we just have one taken a year or so ago?"
"Simon!" my Mom responded sharply. "The last family portraits we had done were 8 years ago, before our little grandson Mikey was even born. I think it is high time we got some new ones which include him. Anyway, I never really liked those last ones as you well know, due to the incident."
I felt the disapproving glare of everyone's eyes turn upon me when Mom mentioned the word 'incident'. She was clearly referring to me and the pictures we took that fateful day, eight years ago. I had hoped that everyone had forgotten about it. Evidently that was not the case.
You see eight years ago, just after my sister married her boring husband Doug, my Mom thought it would be an excellent idea to have a family portrait done with all of us in it.
Of course the only ones that thought this was a good idea was my Mother and my dumb sister. Doug, being new to the family and clearly already 'whipped', had no vote on the matter and my Father only went along with it begrudgingly. Anytime he has to put on a tie and suit jacket he will grumble about it for hours and make sure everyone is as miserable as he is as a result.
As for myself, I had always hated photos even way back in grade school where you had to wear a nice clean shirt and not get dirty, pose nicely, sit up straight and smile. Well I simply hated that crap and it obviously scarred me for life. I hate photographs being taken of me at the best of times but specifically ones that I must stop, smile & pose for.
Anyway, prior to me arriving at the portrait studio all those years ago, I stopped into the pub for a quick pint to calm my nerves and put myself in a somewhat amiable mood to have these damn photo taken. Well one pint turned into two and three into four and then perhaps a couple other drinks and before I knew it, I became a wee bit inebriated, well actually slightly drunk...well no, perhaps quite drunk....ok I was just hammered, I'll admit it.
Looking at my watch and realizing I was late, I quickly dashed out of the pub and ran an excruciating four blocks to where this crackpot photo studio was located. I say excruciating as that being that I was 'less than sober' my ability to run was a bit impeded and it was more of a quick stagger. But stagger I did, and arrived amazingly only 20 minutes late.
Dad was waiting for me out in the foyer of the studio and he immediately noticed that I had been drinking. I am not sure if it was the odour of the 4 pints, the Irish whiskey or the shooters that I had consumed but I think it was only really because he noticed I was having some difficulty in tying my tie as I came through the door.
Usually that task takes about 10 seconds but this afternoon it seemed like my hands were not working properly and the cheap material of the tie was not cooperating.
Dad came over and tied the tie for me and as I recall, lowered his voice to a whisper & threatened to 'bloody throttle me' if Mom found out that I had arrived there drunk.
"I don't want to be going through all this bloody drama again, boy." He stated firmly. "You just keep your mouth shut and do what you're told and we'll hopefully all get through this painlessly."
Even in my potted state I reckoned that this was pretty good solid advice, so I entered the photo area to join the rest of the family without uttering a peep.
Mom immediately approached me and straightened my hair and wanted to know why my eyes appeared to look so red and "glassy looking".
Before I could come up with any reasonable & believable response, Dad interjected and said "It's these bloody bright lights in here. Everyone's eyes are like that."
This seemed to pacify Mom for the moment and I figured I would move to the side & out of the way until the photographer was ready for us.
Between running the 4 blocks and the sweltering bright lights in the studio, I began to sweat profusely, much like a pig. I figured I would get some fresh air while the moronic photographer was still preparing his equipment, when I stumbled over some stupid foot stool that had no business being where it was. I caught myself before hitting the ground but unfortunately not before I yelled out a few choice 4 letter words and other assorted colourful profanities.
I quickly looked over and everyone was staring at me in silence, however nobody said anything so I figured I had gotten away with it, or so I had thought.
The picture session itself took about half an hour & just as we were finishing up, my sister suddenly blurted out "I smell booze" and the cat was out of the bag.
After a short public family squabble, we all got out of there that day however Mom later said that the pictures were totally ruined since the only usable one was me with a ridiculous drunken grin on my face and my eyes half closed.
That awful portrait has been hanging in their dining room ever since as a horrific reminder of that day and I cringe each time I walk past the damn thing. It is now the laughing point for the entire family, except for Mom who is still quite furious over the entire ordeal.
Some of Moms friends who have seen it have asked if there was something wrong with me or if she has a son who was 'mentally challenged'.
Dad of course finds those comments quite amusing and always blurts out the same tired & over-used response. "I wish it were that easy to explain away but I'm afraid that would be an insult to the mentally challenged community".
Mom just shutters in silence.
So back to today, Mom has booked the appointment and I am already feeling the pressure as the entire family and especially my sister, who is gleefully reminding everyone of the story I just told you.
Mom finally interrupts and states in a very matter-of-fact tone that "This year we will go early in the day and hope that your brother will be kind enough to not show up inebriated and ruin yet another important family moment."
Trying to lighten the mood in the room, I responded laughingly "I'll try my best, but I am making no promises."
The desired affect was not attained. My comments were greeted with cold hard stares from everyone. The silence was unbearable until finally my little nephew Mikey broke the ice.
Looking up at me puzzled, he asked innocently "What is drunk, uncle?"
I lowered my voice so only he could hear my response. "Something I am definitely going to be in about 10 minutes after I leave here today, but don't tell anyone!"
Unfortunately my trouble maker sister overheard my little joke and as I was heading for the door to leave I heard her yell "Mom, he's at it again, he's already talking about getting drunk."
I didn't bother to stick around to see how that comment went over.