Summers in my family can be described by just one word -- CHAOS
Every summer, my mother loaded the station wagon with coolers, sandwiches, beach towels, chairs, her kids and the neighbor's kids and sat in the 70 mile long stretch of traffic headed for the Jersey Shore. In 100 degree weather with no air conditioning in the car, we sat yelling and complaining while my mother made threats we knew she would never keep. "Just keep fighting and I'll turn this car around right now." Yeah, okay. HOW? There's a thousand cars here and nowhere to go even if you wanted.
When I was about six years old, I distinctly remember all my siblings and the two neighbor girls standing in the velvet rope line, swatting at "green head flies" to keep them from biting us. We were so anxious, and all so very different in personalities.
My oldest sister, Renee, has always been whimsical, yet somewhat reserved. She's never been loud or aggressive like the rest of us. We talked her into a tour of the castle knowing that even at 20 years old, she was too afraid to go in. After waiting an hour in line, and walking about thirty feet into the attraction, she grabbed my brother's hand and ran out. She tried to tell us he was scared, but we knew it was her.
Our group was taken into a room with a fireplace, adorned with a portrait of Dracula. While a worker distracted us, the picture slid sideways and a live "Dracula" jumped from behind the picture ... threatening to suck our blood. Abby's response was, "Did you brush those fangs today? How hygienic is blood sucking?" He stomped his foot and threatened us some more before we were led to another room. Lee yelled at him, "You're not so scary!" Abby grabbed her arm, urging her not to push her luck.
This time, a mad scientist produced a fake hypodermic needle and lunged toward me. I hid behind my sister, Lee, who pointed in the woman's face, "You ain't touchin' my baby sister. Go pick on someone else." I think Lee was more terrifying than the "ghosts" in the castle. Our neighbor, Chantel, pushed her sister forward, "Here! You can shoot my sister with a needle. I don't even like her!" The two sisters jostled each other as screams were heard from other parts of the castle.
The next room was an undertaker asking us for our last will and testament in the event we did not survive the castle. We were assured black roses would be delivered to our funerals, then informed of the cause of our impending doom.
"Our pets have not been fed lately. Do you hear them scurrying across the floor? Monster-sized rodents who hate the lights, so we apologize for the darkness in the next hallway. Should you wish to survive, I suggest you repeat our chant: Ratsy, Ratsy, big and slimey, please bite the person that's behind me."
Abby started mouthing the words right away as we felt along the black painted walls ... until the rats showed themselves. Abby screamed, "Oh my God! I felt one across my leg! I can feel their tails!"
Lee shouted back, "Nah uh! And stop chanting, cause I'M the person behind you. Do you want them biting me? If I get bit, I'm biting you!"
Being so short, I figured out the "tails" they were feeling were rubber hoses glued to the walls. And naturally, I slunk between the girls and wiggled the hoses, making my sisters and the neighbor girls scream and shout.
By the time we got out of the castle, Abby was hyperventilating, Lee was threatening all the workers, I was laughing, and the neighbors were fighting with each other. We teased Renee for being chicken, spent the rest of the day playing games and hanging on the beach ... then headed home ... but with a "passenger" we didn't expect.
Lee found a jellyfish washed ashore and decided to keep it. A DEAD jellyfish. Unbeknownst to any of us, she scooped it into a soda cup and carried it the whole two hour car ride home. She kept it in her bedroom, and it smelled so badly, my mother finally put it on a paper plate and threw it out the back door on a the patio.
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By the time Lee came home from school that day, the jelly had literally evaporated, leaving only the internal organs on the paper plate. It was actually a pretty star formation, but Lee cried hysterically.
"My PET! You killed my PET!" she sobbed.
My mother threw her hands up, "Lee, you're 17 years old. Don't you know that thing was dead? And it stunk up the house."
"I don't care what you say. You're a murderer!" She cried the rest of the summer over a dead "pet" that was dead when she found it.