Mama and Mama's boy.
On Thursday, I flew to Chicago to meet up with my mom, sister and brother-in-law in order to then drive Friday morning to my hometown of Flushing, Michigan. (I did the flight in order to have the extra five hours with my family in the car. We met up with Dad in Flint.) The mission was to pick up my grandmother and head out to Frankenmuth—a town noted for its German decor and old-school restaurants—where we would celebrate her 90th birthday at Zehnder's.
Zehnder's was always about the plastic animals...the soft-serve is a recent devolution.
We didn't get to take her—my uncle "surprised" everyone by showing up at the last minute and he drove her—but we did make it to the restaurant, where we stuffed our fat faces
with chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, buttered and breaded noodles, cole slaw, cottage cheese and of course birthday cake.
My grandma got to be 90 by eating bacon and the world's best homemade pies.
Zehnder's has the feel of a sagging but beloved Walt Disney World ride, specifically The Haunted Mansion
—it has not changed in forever. The food's gone downhill faster than a fat man on a slicked slalom, but it was still a treat. The head waitress who used to work there, and who would always show our family preferential treatment, worked there until one day she felt ill and laid down before her shift started and died on the spot.
My sis and bro-in-law drove me. (Not crazy.)
Along with my grandmother's birthday, my sister was having a baby shower at The Children's Museum of Flint
, a place I never knew existed. It had one of those things where you press your hand into it and an exact impression appears on the other side It came in handy for making a baby-bump likeness, too:
I killed time with my dad until the end, helping to remove her haul while uncomfortably realizing my much younger sister and her friends are now all women over 30 with babies on board, on the way or at least deeply considered
My first niece from my side of the fam is coming!
I stayed with my grandma, which I have not done since I was under 10, but I remember the sights and smells of her house perfectly, the best one being bacon at 7 a.m. And how could I forget the sight of her spooky toilet-paper-cover doll, a crocheted cutie who, in retrospect, has always had the basilisk stare of Cindy McCain
But is she proud of her country?
I slept on a sleeper couch I'm sure my grandparents had when I was litle out in the main room, which is also where my grandfather died a few years ago. It's always been an unsettling room for me because it holds a malfunctioning player piano and a stack of encyclopediae that I used to read for fun. It's managed to remain unchanged thanks to my grandmother's careful maintenance—the carpet looks brand-new and every knick-knack I would have marveled at as a child is still in place.
The best thing about going back now is that as a kid, I figured I wouldn't even know my family once I got away from the house and lived the way I wanted to—as a gay guy. Instead, going back, I'm open and openly welcomed. Hey, I'm not even the only gay guy amongst them
I'll be watching you.
That's why returning at noon Sunday and immediately plunging into my first Gay Pride in years felt right. José and I met friends and braved the torrential downpours
that came and went:
Gay pride makes me wet.
We all enjoyed the scenery—outlandish queers, average-joe queers and gawking straight people, most of whom had a good sense of humor
and an affectionate appreciation for the parade (not including the douchebags who trashed the entire sordid affair in Spanish, meanwhile standing there like idiots to watch every minute of it).
A story with a happy end.
Interestingly enough, I ran into 30 Rock's Tracy Morgan in the airport from Detroit to New York
. Two college boys approached him and got pictures, to which a woman remarked, "You guys should feel lucky, because they don't always do that." Tracy took offense to this, correcting her that most stars really do do this, and she can't believe what she reads. This went back and forth as she took a picture of me with him, too. His point? You can't judge people and shouldn't try without getting to know them. I thought that for a crazy dude, his point made a lot of sense regarding how I once thought my extended family would react to my coming-out as well as to how many people really do react to gay people
Liz Lemon would be proud.