We went on a vacation to Southern California last month. Each year my wife’s whole family goes to a beach house that belongs to her aunt, so it’s a big family trip. My wife is one of four sisters. People assume that families of all girls must be such peaceful, bashful groups of passive sweetness, but it turns out that any family dominated by a large number of girls is one of the more cut-throat institutions you are likely to ever come across, just ahead of any random sampling of mothers-of-the-bride, and just behind actual pirates. Anyway, the Pews are great– we always have lots of fun with them, and like any good family of in-laws, they’re a little nuts. (Surprisingly, Macy has never noted anything odd or idiosyncratic about my family.)
We had a beautiful vacation this year. The motorcyclist that was thrown from his vehicle by a Pew driver on the PCH survived, and the junk food levels were kept in sufficient moderation that we didn’t have to give any of the kids an enema this year. Toward the end of the week, the whole family was outside playing a game of Koob on the beach. It was one of those perfect Southern California summer nights when the heat is dissolving around an ocean breeze and the sun hovers out over the water as a reminder to everyone in California that we are down to just one more hour of looking tanned and ripped. People were unwinding and having a good time and it was all extremely zen.
Last call for looking totally chill
There were people at the beach house next to ours this year, which was unusual. That night they were out on the dunes near our game drinking and laughing, a family with an older mother and several adult kids with various spouses and significant others. Their mom wandered over and spoke with Macy’s mom, and in literally less than one minute, the two were embracing. And it wasn’t a casual hug, it looked like it meant something. We eventually overheard that this lady was Brazilian, and the hug immediately made sense. These ladies spent several minutes conversing arm in arm like old war buddies, and then Randy, my brother-in-law, was motioned over to join the conversation. Randy served a mission in Brazil, so he charmed her a little in her mother tongue. I ended up over there too a few minutes later to see if my Portugal-Portuguese would impress anybody. It didn’t, possibly because it’s half Spanish now, and because I don’t actually speak it anymore. The lady was sweet and we had hugs all around, and everyone was happy that we’d made friends with the neighbors.
Then our new Brazilian friend mentioned that all her kids were here and we should all play volleyball together. My mother-in-law strongly agreed. I love volleyball. I dragged my ball and net halfway across America on the off-chance there’d be enough people to play with, and hadn’t broken them out yet. I said, sure, we’d play volleyball, and I eyed the two or three strapping twenty-something guys down the beach. Could be fun. So I went and got my ball and she went and got her people. It was a little weird to ditch the family on one of the last nights of our vacation, but I could tell my mother-in-law wanted us to build a rapport with our neighbors. And that whole Portuguese thing added a weird missionary vibe that made us all act super friendly, I’m not sure why. Randy and I, and then our other brother-in-law, Tyson stood out on the court and waited for the Brazilian dudes to come over.
The dudes stayed where they were sitting. The girls came instead. Three semi-attractive young Brazilian ladies, ready to play volleyball. Feeling awkward about this turn of events, I gave a few sidelong glances at the other guys, they sort of shrugged, and then we split up and started the game. Our wives and kids sort of stood around for a minute watching, and then they kind of quietly surrendered the beach, almost like they were trying to give us some privacy or something. The whole Pew clan just holed up in the beach house to talk about how weird it was that their husbands were out on the beach with these . . . people, while we began a volleyball game with our three new Brazilian lady friends. Paula, Priscilla, and somebody else.
The volleyball wasn’t great. It was pretty windy, and no one was very good. And nobody seemed awkward about the situation. But I was kind of dying. And it wasn’t easy to just extricate ourselves from. We were there as a kind of uncomfortable emissaries- as neighbors, as former missionaries, maybe Americans? I’m not sure what the weight of responsibility came from, but I sort of felt like I was playing by assignment from my mother-in-law, I guess. And they’ll deny it, but our wives felt like that too. These are three firecracker women who speak their minds, but all of them had the same sense that we were taking one for the family here, so they acted weirdly quiet about it all too.
Regardless of the convoluted circumstances, every few points I would look up and think “Huh, it’s our last night on vacation with our families, and we three guys are spending it playing volleyball with three Brazilian vixens while our wives have quietly disappeared. Where is this going?” The answer to that question was . . . Bianca. Mid-way through the second game, Bianca, the last of the girls in the Brazileiro family, came over to play. While the other girls were at least sort of dignified, Bianca was flirtatious, loud, lively, and plastered. She also happened to be uncomfortably voluptuous and dressed to prove it. When someone else was serving, Bianca would talk to Tyson and Randy, her teammates. When she learned their names, she’d repeat them coquettishly- “Tyson! Tyyyson! Tysoooooon! ” and giggle, and then dive drunkenly for a ball. My teammates, the more serious of the bunch, would roll their eyes. And then Bianca would start in again “Rannnndy!” Randy’s wife Molly ran out to tell us dinner would be ready in five minutes, and then demurely retreated back to the beach house (the only time I’ve ever seen any Pew girl do anything demurely). It all felt like some weird trap. Bianca made all of us uncomfortable. It’s a testament to how well trained we are that playing volleyball with a Brazilian tart, even when basically assigned to do so by your wife’s family, still makes you feel like something’s not right. But Bianca didn’t see it that way. I think she had a thing for Randy.
A Brazilian tart
Finally we pulled away and rejoined our families. But then Macy’s mom wanted a family picture taken, and someone suggested that one of our neighbors could come over and take it. Tyson looked into the distance and quietly said “Bianca.” They sent one of the guys over instead.