The ending credits of My Cousin Vinny scroll across the tv and I tell my family we got to head home because I had to work in the morning. Our final tradition on Thanksgiving had been completed. A newer tradition, but a great little addition to the day. We watch My Cousin Vinny at my parents house and get into pajamas. We try hard to not yell the words to the next scene and we laugh at the beginning of each scene, because we know what’s coming. The movie is great, and I will not take opposing opinions on this subject.
I head to the other room to grab my daughters sneakers when I see they have a line of magic marker on the top of her white vans. One line might be a mistake, but one line on each shoe means someone decided to do this. This was an attack.
I bring the sneakers in to show everyone what I have discovered. Partially to get first reactions to see if it can help me determine guilt. See, I’ve been basically overdosing on murder mystery, detective stories over quarantine and I know the first reactions are crucial in the stories.
The list of suspects included Mammie, Bupa, myself, my wife, both daughters, and my 5 year old Goddaughter. I ruled myself and my wife out on this, because why would we do that when we would end up paying for the new sneakers. Mammie and Bupa were out for a few reasons, one, they waited on all of us all day long, fed us, and also, really had no real criminal history from what I knew. This left three suspects, one of which being the oldest daughter. Again, no motive, honors student, with no real history of lying or destruction of property. This left just my youngest, who is the owner of the sneakers and my 5 year old god daughter. I could make a case my youngest did it, maybe she wanted a new pair and this was a way to get them. A mystery her Mom and Dad couldn’t solve and would just buy a clean new pair. But, someone in that room was WAY ahead of me. Someone already had the guilty party in her sights.
I heard my mother, or Mammie to most others, say to my 5 year old goddaughter, Maya, something like “Do you have something to tell us?”. Maya was quick and strong, “Why would I, what are you talking about?”. Then, Mammie asked again “You sure?” and the light-bulb finally went off in my head. I peaked around the room and I watched as they all realized what was happening.
Mammie had the guilty party picked out the second I brought the sneakers in. She hadn’t had to be Tough Mom in many years. Her children were all grown, so she didn’t have the reps that most Moms get with kids anywhere from 2 to 16 or so. But, I’ll tell you what, she certainly hadn’t lost her fastball, and she proved again why she is a first ballot Hall of Famer of a Mom.
Maya was in the center of the room with her back to me. I was facing my Mom, the judge, jury and executioner. My Mom started with a few easy questions, letting Maya answer with confidence, but then she turned up a heat a little bit. And, if I’m being very honest, I lost all the color in my face. I thought to myself, Mark, you aren’t on trial here, relax and I sat back in my chair and pulled my shirt up to cover half my face. As the questions continued I actually walked into a different room, and I noticed I may have begun to sweat a little bit. I pretended I was good, and I sat back down, trying hard to not make eye contact with my Mom. See, I was instantly 6 years old getting caught carving my brothers name into the bed frame because I thought for sure he would get in trouble, because why would I ever carve his name, I would carve my own. She knew the second she saw the name back then, and she still let me almost believe I was getting away with it during my questioning before ruining me with facts.
So, I felt for Maya. I knew she wasn’t going to win this. I had lived this exact experience many, many times. As the questions became a little too much, Maya spilled a name of someone else who she saw do it. She sold out her step sister, who was there earlier but had left to go to her moms. I thought to myself, what a great effort, good strategy from a 5 year old to know to pick someone who wasn’t there. I was proud of her, but Mammie saw thru it. Like I said, she already knew how this game was going to be played. So, she said “ok, I need to call her Mom to tell her that she was in trouble” and Maya was SUNK. I could feel, even though I could only see her back that she was done. Her shoulders slumped and Mamie went for the kill “Go ahead Maya, tell us what happened” she said a few times before Maya finally said “ok, I’m ready” and then she paused for what felt forever, but was probably a minute, and said “My Mouth forgot what it was supposed to say. It’s in my brain, but my mouth forgot”… and now everyone was covering their faces, trying to not laugh and ruin this interrogation.
She finally owned up to it, explained she was mad we wanted to watch the movie instead of playing a game, and she apologized to her cousin. She was caught, she got the standard lecture from us all. And it was all over.
My family got in the car, and let me tell you, those are conversations you remember. Those are the conversations that mean nothing and absolutely everything. We laughed about it the whole way home. I told them I was having flashbacks to when I was kid. I thought a lot about this Thanksgiving being small and less memorable but I was proven so wrong. I was part of a memory that will tell my families story forever. We have a lot of those stories, ones that you really can’t explain why they mean so much to you, but maybe it’s just cause of who you share them with. You never know when they will happen, but each time they do, you are reminded just how life is never the big moments, it’s almost certainly always the small.
I love my family, I love my life, and I love being able to tell these stories about my tribe.