Family cookout

27 May

My sister is in her stepson’s bedroom, peering out the window at the neighbor’s house.

“Look, he grows roses,” she whispers. “And tomatoes.”

Produce is a big personality plus for my sister. She is an avid gardener, and I knew she liked her boyfriend when she proudly showed him the tangled paradise behind her duplex.

And I knew he liked her when he described how he took in that backyard scene and then asked her, “Alice, are you a bit eccentric?”

She is. She is indeed.

Case in point: The present espionage unfolding at the Memorial Day cookout, my sister with her trademark topknot bun and ruby lipstick lurking behind the curtains.

Sometimes it’s hard enough to choose your produce, let alone a boyfriend.

For years, she has wanted to set me up with her boyfriend’s neighbor, a firefighter who grows roses and tomatoes. And who happens to be home because there’s his car, and why look, his door is cracked open. And yes, that means Alice is still spying on him. Shhh!

Now she wants her boyfriend to invite him over. “Hurry up,” she tells him. Bossy, bossy.

Welcome to my life. The federal holiday version.

For years, I’ve heard about this neighbor that I have to date. Just like for years, I’ve heard about the crazy guy they know who once flew a Confederate flag.

In Baltimore City. A place that was never part of the Confederacy. A place where a lot of slaves fled to get work once they were freed. Yeah, I don’t know where to go with this. Except that about six months ago I discovered Mr. Rose Grower and Mr. Confederate Flag Waver were the same man. The exact same one.

“You want to set me up with a man who once had a Confederate flag?” I think I might have even sputtered as I spoke. “Just what do you think I will have in common with a man who has a Confederate flag?”

Short answer: He’s a man.

A few months ago, my sister said if I worked at a public school I would be remarried by now. It is true that working for a school for girls from under-served neighborhoods, a school that is run by nuns, probably limits my opportunities to meet men.

(I heard once that teaching is the most common profession of women who use online dating sites. For men, it’s law. Which reminds me, a while back I went out with a lawyer who mocked teachers’ salaries. Yeah, I think he’s still single.)

When my sister said that I would be married by now if I worked at public school, I pointed out that she has worked at public schools for her entire teaching career. And she has not, in fact … cough, cough … ever been married.

We don’t love her because she’s logical.

Another case is point: Years ago, I took a great job writing for a website run by the American Red Cross. This was the late ’90s. Writing for websites was still a new thing, and my sister was unconvinced about my career choice. “The only thing that will ever make money online is porn,” she announced at a family cookout. This one was at my parents’ house.

Truth be told, I’m sure internet porn remains a very lucrative venture, but you know how my sister the spy met her boyfriend?

It was online of course.

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