The following is entirely true. I made up none of it. They’re really, genuinely like that.
So a distant relative of mine died a few days ago, and plans commenced for the funeral. I have no contact with this side of the family, so my mother called me up to tell me the more entertaining bits.
Mom: “So I was talking to Shirley about Shelley…”
Me: “Shirley? Shelley? Wait, is Shelley the one with the plate in her head?”
Mom: “No, that’s Shirley. Well, one Shirley. The other Shirley has forty-one cats. Shelley’s the Jesus freak.”
I paused for a moment to bray hysterically. “God! What a family!”
Mom: “No! It gets better! Shirley was saying–”
“Shirley with the plate? Didn’t she go Mormon and become obsessed with geneaology?”
“Well, yes, but that was just the plate in her head. After the accident, whenever she stood in the sun, it’d heat up and she’d get loopy.”
I paused for another moment to bray even more hysterically, which undoubtedly makes me a very very bad person.
“ANYWAY,” said my mother, determined to get through the story if it killed her, “so Shirley–with the forty cats, not the plate–was saying that if Shelley showed up in the costume to the funeral, she’d have to ask her to leave.”
“Costume?” I said warily.
“I know! She was the Jesus freak, so I was thinking–what–flowing white robes? Tammy Fae Baker make-up? So I asked…”
I waited with bated breath.
“It’s a burka!” said Mom triumphantly. “She became a hardcore Muslim!”
“I know!” Mom continued. “It’s nuts! She used to send me all these militant right-wing e-mails, and finally I sent her some links to stories about bereaved parents in Iraq, and she got really huffy and told me that we just didn’t see eye to eye and not to send her any more e-mail like that. And now she’s like a hardcore Muslim.” She paused. “Jeez, I hope I didn’t have anything to do with that…”
“Well,” I said finally, after boggling a bit, “at least that’s more interesting. I mean, Jesus freaks are a dime a dozen…but Islamofascists! How many of those do you see in the family tree?”
“That’s what Tom said! And you know, her sister’s still a Jesus freak…”
“Bet Thanksgiving at their house is a treat…”
Suddenly my art-crazed side of the family seems so very, very normal by comparison.