After our mother and father divorced, Dad remarried. And in turn, as only Mother could, our mother Mary was quickly dying to spend some “quality time” with our new stepmother Beatrice and her two kids from a previous marriage.
Dad had gone on one of his annual fishing trips to Canada and would not be back for two weeks. The game was afoot! Mary hatched a scheme to entice Beatrice to go on a picnic since we were now “just one big happy family.” I think it’s abundantly clear that the phrase “one big happy family” had rarely applied while growing up Far From Normal with Mary. Also, Dad and Beatrice had not been married very long at all when Mary began Operation “Happy Family Picnic”. Finally, as events would turn out shortly after Happy Family Picnic, Mary was about to exit, stage West, from our lives for quite some time.
I’m still not sure why Beatrice agreed, but she said yes and Mary was thrilled. Mary began making her “famous potato salad” and other gourmet (aka overcooked) items. Mary insisted Beatrice just bring her appetite, which was a huge mistake (we assumed Beatrice did not enjoy food poisoning).
Away we went to pick them up and off to the park for an awkward, uncomfortable, tension-filled get together. My sister Abby and I did not know our new siblings Sissy and Kevin very well. Also, we thought the whole picnic idea was weird.
But, as usual, Mary did not disappoint in demonstrating what the word “weird” could really entail. The devil in the details quickly came out during the picnic – Mary’s crazy scheme, this weird picnic, we should have known…my sister and I had years of first-hand experience with how Mother’s mind “worked”, and while we usually tried to not out-think her (because it could drive you crazy to do so), we should have been able to guess:
Mary had scripted out various alleged experiences over her life with Dad, and she fully expected to fill Beatrice in on what Dad was ‘really like’, thereby ruining both the picnic and any illusion of happily ever after for Beatrice and Dad.
Aside from ruining the picnic, her plan did not succeed. It was a long, awkward session in the park with Mary’s horrible melange of badly-prepared food. Nobody got food poisoning, though I could tell that my sister Abby’s stomach was in knots during the picnic as Mary laid out her “case” against Dad. Our new siblings Sissy and Kevin seemed kind of shell-shocked during the whole thing. I alternated between turning various shades of angry red about the lies Mary was concocting, and laughing hysterically at some points where Mary’s detachment from reality really kicked in and she started getting the details of her stories so confused that Mary could not even follow them.
One very interesting thing is that during the whole Happy Family Picnic, Mary very rarely even noticed her two children (Abby and I) or these two new kids (Kevin and Sissy). Mary had this sort of maniacal look she could get in her eyes, that would intensely stare directly at one person or object. The entire picnic, Mary’s gaze stayed locked directly into Beatrice’s eyes as if they were the only two people in the entire park.
When our dad returned from his Canadian fishing trip, he laughed and laughed and wondered why Beatrice had agreed to a picnic with a crazy woman. I wonder if maybe this was his first glimpse that Beatrice had a crazy gene too.