"Kerfuffle" is defined in Webster's Dictionary as "disorder or commotion." With eight children in my family, kerfuffle is hardly a novel thing. Before I take you on this ride, let me introduce you to the characters that you'll meet along the way:
My dad, the inspiration for the next generation of commotion-causers; my mom, the serious, shy sort whom we all know secretly loves it when she gets dragged into the chaos; Rose, a sixteen-year-old tree-hugger type who comes off as serious until you get to know her better; Ann, the highly excitable fourteen-year-old; Patricia, twelve years old with a sense of humor all her own; Therese, the sweet as sugar ten-year-old; Peter, who is eight and knows better than anyone that it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt; Lizzie, at six years old definitely the little princess of the family; and George, a whirlwind of commotion all by himself at the age of "almost two."
As I said, with all of these people under one roof, kerfuffle is commonplace. You spin until you're dizzy, you chase each other with plastic lightsabers (complete with sound effects, of course), and you chase each other without plastic lightsabers – all just for the pure fun of it. Yes, you still do all of this even if you're nineteen. Even if you're seventy, as my grandpa proved to us a few months ago. It happened during a rowdy game of indoor football between Peter and Therese. My grandpa happened to come strolling leisurely by…
All of a sudden, he had the ball.
No one was exactly sure how he had accomplished the steal. The result of it was uproarious laughter from those in the immediate vicinity and the hasty spread of the story throughout the house to those who had had the unfortunate luck to miss the epic moment. It was quite the event of the evening since none of us siblings recalled ever having seen grandpa move quite that fast!
Grandma enjoys kerfuffle quite a lot as well. She is the sort of grandma that jumps on trampolines and rides dirt bikes with the grandchildren. I have always loved the story of the time she sat on an alligator in her younger days. I wish I could see that picture!
From these stories about my grandparents, it's easy to deduce where my dad gets his crazy, fun-loving attitude. My grandma could tell all kinds of stories about the things he did as a kid – the time he almost ran over my uncle with his motorcycle, the time he decided it was a good idea to ride his bicycle off of the garage roof, how he used to walk up the school steps on his hands…the stories could potentially go on for hours. Now that he has eight children, he's exactly the same!
My mom and my dad go together kind of like peanut butter and jelly – nothing alike, yet so complimentary. My mom is very shy, and my dad is very not, so one would get the impression that if there's chaos it's my dad that's causing it and my mom is just being dragged along for the ride. This is a very common misconception. With my mom, there is the added element of surprise which only serves to add to the hilarity. A perfect example: we were holding a party at our house over the summer during which water gun wrath was visited on innocent bystanders not only by the children but also by my dad. My mom came up with a devious plot that she, scientist that she is, perpetrated with perfect precision. While my dad was outside, wreaking havoc with his Super Soaker, my mom went upstairs to the bathroom and filled a huge bucket with water from the tub. This bathroom just so happens to have a window overlooking the deck upon which my dad was standing. When my dad tried to come in the house, the accomplices (my dad's two best friends) locked him out. My mom threw open the window and proceeded to pour the bucket of water on my dad from above. That story was still being laughed over when I arrived home about an hour later. With my mom, it's wise to expect the unexpected.
Rose has always been labeled "The Serious One." It's high time that myth was debunked. Rose is the kind of girl that runs through the sprinklers on the lawn at school. Random hilarity that doesn't bother anyone, yet always leaves them laughing – that's Rose's hallmark. One could just imagine the bystanders' thoughts: "Did she just do what I thought she did? Yeah, I think she did!" Rose's tendency toward the ridiculous is most apparent when she's with her close friends. One instance that comes quickly to mind is the time that she and her friend Jon dressed up as…actually, I'm not even sure that they were dressed up as anything, but I'll put it this way: they certainly weren't dressed normally. Molly had on some striped, boxer-style shorts, a tank top, a sweater, false glasses, and to top it all off, Ugg boots. Michael donned a ratty old Chicago Bulls t-shirt, jeans pulled up well above his waist, and a baseball cap. So arrayed, they accompanied my sister Ann, my friend Marie, and I to Blockbuster to rent a movie. Oh, yes, I forgot to add that they adopted completely outlandish, lisp-laden "accents" to go along with their outrageous outfits. Needless to say, the Blockbuster employees were doing double-takes.
Ann gets in on the kerfuffle most often in the kitchen, where she likes to spend much of her time at home. Even the most experienced cooks can have mishaps from time to time, and this story was one of those times. It was just she and I at home, and I was sitting on the sofa in the living room reading while she was in the kitchen. I happened to look up from my book and saw, reflected in a nearby candlestick, flames! I jumped up and ran to the kitchen. Apparently, a napkin had gotten just a bit too close to the stove. While I grabbed a cup from the cabinet and began filling it, quick-minded Ann turned on the sink, seized the sprayer, and hosed the fire out from the opposite side of the kitchen. After a brief moment of stunned silence, we looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Next comes Patricia, who in our family is the living definition of kerfuffle. She is a rather gawkishly skinny young lady that cares little for what others think of her. Whatever ideas come to her mind, if they strike her as funny, so help her, she will carry them out. These ideas include such things as calling out, "Hi, Betty!" to a Wal-Mart employee after reading her nametag, just to see what she would do. She is noted for coming up with "taglines," the most famous of those being the peppy "Yes, yes, everybody yes!" and various sing-song versions of "Love is only true in fairytales," the latter of which is especially ridiculous coming from a twelve-year-old.
Therese is one of the sweetest little girls on the face of the earth. She's quick to do anything that will bring a smile to your face, and often does so unintentionally. She likes to twirl and tap dance around the house when she thinks that no one is watching, and if she catches you watching her she turns bright pink and laughs nervously. She, together with Peter and Lizzie, make up the usual chasers and fleers mentioned earlier on.
Peter should be called "Kerfuffle With A Plastic Lightsaber." He will challenge to a lightsaber duel any male that enters the house. Once the epic battle begins, if you don't want to find yourself drawn in it's best to stay far out of the way. He will leap off of furniture and do whatever else he has to do in his quest for ultimate victory!
Little six-year-old Lizzie puts one in mind of a sprite or a fairy. She seems to flit around causing playful mischief wherever she goes. She likes to beautify anyone who will allow her, brushing their hair, painting their nails, putting on their makeup…for all intents and purposes giving them a full-blown makeover. She also enjoys impersonating opera singers, which is both very funny and very piercing to the ears. She is quite talented in the art of annoying her two brothers, one older and one younger. Since out of all six girls she happened to get stuck right in between the two boys, it seems only natural, I suppose.
George, who is almost two, is easy-going and cheerful…unless, of course, he hasn't had his nap or his lunch in which case he transforms into the character that my dad has nicknamed "Pterodactyl." There are days when we're convinced that George really does think that he's a flying dinosaur. He likes to climb up to the highest place he can find and when he finally reaches the top, he flaps his arms excitedly and screeches. When the cranky Pterodactyl is unleashed, look out! He will throw things, hit things, screech, shout, you get the picture. But the most difficult thing about it is not laughing. George is also utterly obsessed with two things: vacuum cleaners and music. You can't walk through our house these days without tripping on a vacuum cleaner piece at least once. As for music, the older children can hardly touch their instruments before he comes zipping in with a huge grin on his face. "PLAY DA BI-LIN!" or "PLAY DA DIH-TAR!" he'll shout, clapping his hands delightedly. (Translations: "Play the violin" or "Play the guitar.") If you try to play, he will either try to play with you or try to get the instrument away from you so he can play it himself. If you try to shoo him out, the cranky pterodactyl gets unleashed, making music practice nearly impossible.
Everyone who enters our house is fair game as far as the younger kids are concerned. This is always an excellent test for a boyfriend; if he can keep up with the kerfuffle, he's generally accepted as part of the family. This has happened to both my boyfriend, Stephen, and Rose's boyfriend, Wesley. When either of them come to the door, they are greeted by a stampede of about four or five children all shouting his name joyfully. They scuffle good-naturedly in front of the door for a few moments (this part is funny unless the weather is below freezing) and then throw it open. They all shout out his name as though with one voice and then he is engulfed in a group hug to end all group hugs. Depending on whether it's Wesley or Stephen, the reaction is different. If it's Wesley, he will smile brightly and pause for a long moment, after which he simply says, with an intentionally hilarious amount of tranquility, "Hi." If it's Stephen, he will hug them back, toss them in the air, wrestle with them, and generally get involved in the commotion. The affable pestering of the boyfriend continues throughout the entire visit. I am happy to report that both Wesley and Stephen have passed the kerfuffle test.