Syd Says: November 2023

  • Post Author
    by Talk
  • Post Date
    Sat Nov 25 2023

This November, I asked WSUM members to be a little honest. There's always one crazy story from a family gathering that sticks with you. Remember when you were nine years old, everyone was in the living room and they were recalling funny stories from previous gatherings? This time around, WSUM members were able to embrace their inner storyteller and let the world know how completely normal their families are. 

— Ray Kirsch, Talk Director

What is your most unhinged family gather story?

One year when I was very, very young, my family went up to my Grandma's house in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving dinner. Grandma told us to wash up about ten minutes before she and my dad were done cooking. My grandpa and all the grandkids were sitting around the dining room table when he reached out over the table and grabbed the turkey. In front of his grandchildren, he tore apart the bird like he was a wild beast. With unparalleled savagery, he ripped off one of the bird's legs just as my father and grandmother came in. He finally realized how unruly he was being when they started laughing their asses off at him. Now whenever there's a particularly large haunch on a bird, we all tell the story of the time Grandpa George acted like a caveman.

— Oliver Gerharz

Thanksgiving is foreign to me, literally. I have never experienced it ever, and all I have is a longer break from academics due to a different festival in India that lasts longer and is more significant. I am totally mad for never experiencing it. This is about family gatherings though. Who doesn't love an actually chaotic story from a time the whole family is together?

We were having a massive family reunion in a resort in the south of India, where most of my relatives in my extended family on my dad's side live. This is also in the middle of nowhere, with the closest town being about 50 miles away and downhill. I was 4 at this time. We were in the resort going to food, and 4-year-old me had the urge to eat some pasta. We get to dinner, and seeing that a resort near the rural parts of a South Indian state did not have any Italian food, I absolutely freak out. I screamed and cried for a solid 2 and a half hours and would refuse to eat anything. In a room of over 100 people from the same family, a 4-year-old child was able to silence the entire event. The chef upon seeing this ordered someone to drive to the nearby town and get a pack of cheap pasta just to get it over with. It took about 2 and a half hours, but I did get a pasta meal out of it. Do I regret this event more the more I grow up? Yes. Did the pasta taste good? Yes. Do I care? Yeah, I'll be honest, what I did was kind of bad.

Aniruddh Nambudiri

My most unhinged family gathering story is definitely the time that my uncle Victor hosted an impromptu family party at his house where he then announced he just got married to his then girlfriend of 9 months (for reference this is his FOURTH marriage) and that they had just done it at the courthouse earlier that day. Then while we were cutting the cake to celebrate he told us he was moving to Florida with her (???) and that they would be leaving next week. My cousin, his son, had to move to Texas with his mom (my ex-aunt) because of this and my dad didn't tell my sister about ANY of this (they have an estranged relationship). So then she found out from Facebook, called me, and my dad told everyone at the party that she wasn't available to come, which was what I told her, so she called dad and then they got into a huge argument. Anyways, that was back in March and my sister and my parents haven't talked since (she and I are cool though, we just celebrated her 29th birthday).

— Nicole Borras

The most unhinged family gathering that I can remember in recent years was the last Christmas spent in Texas with all of my cousins and our subsequent grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, etc. The thing that really set the tone for some chaotic holiday energy was that my Dad and his two sisters, having recently visited our ancestral land of Scotland and still feeling very passionate about it, made the whole family sit and watch Braveheart together. Now, Braveheart is a THREE-hour movie about the independence of Scotland, chalk full of mostly fighting and gore, lots of men in kilts, and few plot points. Let's just say it was not a crowd favorite. The next night (Christmas Eve), yet another three-hour movie was queued in the events of the evening– personally, The Sound of Music was much more to my grandma's and my liking– but it was safe to say that everyone had negative patience for a long movie after the day before. So, the cousins took it upon themselves to liven up the evening and give our youngest cousin a fresh haircut and color with kitchen scissors, and blue box dye. Two words to describe Christmas: bright and blue. This was much more entertaining. 

I'm not sure how this year's Thanksgiving with the same side of the family can top the aforementioned Christmas celebrations, but I can't wait to see what's in store.

— Sara Browne

Jet-lagged but excited, I landed in New York to celebrate Diwali with my cousin, Shravan. Little did I know, he had concocted a wild plan for our celebration. Instead of the traditional diyas, he handed me glow sticks, insisting they were the “New York version of light.” Skeptical but intrigued, we transformed his apartment into a vibrant spectacle of colors and unconventional Diwali décor.

Shravan, the mastermind, rigged up a makeshift light show synchronized to Bollywood beats, turning his living room into a spontaneous dance floor. As we grooved to the music, the glow sticks pulsated in rhythm, casting an ethereal glow.

To add a dash of unpredictability, Shravan organized a surprise guest—his eccentric artist friend, who arrived on stilts, clad in a dazzling fusion of Indian and New York fashion. The room erupted in laughter and applause as the towering figure twirled gracefully, blending two worlds in an unexpected dance of cultures.

Our Diwali feast consisted of samosas paired with New York-style bagels, a bizarre but surprisingly tasty combination. Amid the madness, I realized that this unconventional Diwali in the heart of New York would forever be etched in my memory as a celebration of family, creativity and the joy of embracing the unexpected.

— Mihika Shivakumar

My most unhinged family gathering story is not a series of events, but it is more of finding information about your extended family that you wish you had not. Geographically, I live near the city while the family I spend Thanksgiving with lives inland in a city where crime is not the best, factories that once employed most of the people in the city have gone overseas, and some of the people are dissatisfied with the government. In other words, I had already known that this side of the family leaned a curtain way that I did not, but I was not prepared to hear what I heard. 

I had always seen the anti-vaccine rallies on the news and on instagram where old people would be freaking out about getting a simple, quick vaccine (maybe they were trying to hide the fact they were secretly afraid of needles). Some of my family members that I rarely see except on Thanksgiving, casually mentioned they do not believe in the power of any vaccine, even the ones that you get when you are younger; to clarify, even the vaccines the doctor's give to babies like the polio vaccine. Recently, there has been a discussion on the importance of getting the covid vaccine, but I would assume that even the people that do not want to get the covid vaccine would argue for getting the polio vaccine. 

The nonchalant way my father's cousin, who is a school teacher, baffled me. One would assume it is straightforward for elementary school teachers to get vaccinated due to their workspace and the amount of people they come in contact with. To make matters worse, my family was the only one in the house that thinks vaccines are important. Already feeling ostracized, my father then proceeds to have a classic Thanksgiving politics discussion during dinner, which obviously made things worse. While extremely outnumbered, my father kept talking about vaccines, making me feel an unsaid, unwanted presence in my gut. For context, this happened on last year's Thanksgiving, so I am not sure what this upcoming one will be like.

— Matthew Catalini 

I remember it like it was yesterday. A crisp July afternoon, and I was headed over to my grandparents' house for monthly charcuterie. Unbeknownst to me, my perception of my family would be shattered by the time I left. First, there is some important background you should know. That year, most of my family had decided to do DNA testing just for fun, but I don't think anyone foresaw what would unfold. My sister and I would eventually discover a previously unknown relative on our dad's side, and 23&Me told us it was likely the illegitimate son of either my great-grandfather, or my grandpa. Suffice to say, speculation ran wild amongst my family about this mysterious individual. It caused quite a bit of controversy, as obviously anyone involved denied having any knowledge of this relative.

The calm uncertainty we had experienced for around a year was abruptly shattered that day in July. Amongst conversations about work and recent happenings, my grandpa came forth with potentially one of the most earth-shattering statements to ever meet my ears. With my guard down in a conversational lull, my grandpa started to confess potentially being the father of this mysterious relative. I'll spare you the details but in summation it was a coming-of-age story involving a notorious brothel in the city my family is from. Trying to comprehend what he told me rewired my brain. I was hearing this not only from my grandpa, but my grandpa who is an ordained priest.

Suffice it to say, my mom, sister, and I all left that family gathering and immediately lost our minds on the drive home. The concept still boggles my mind. Being in that situation felt like getting hit with a haymaker while I was asleep. I didn't expect it and it rocked my world. But now I have an uncle in California that I'm never going to meet, so that's something I guess.

— Anonymous