These traits are all in the family |

These traits are all in the family

Alison Berkley

I’m up in Steamboat hanging out with the fam and it’s sort of freaking me out.I love them and everything, but it’s kind of scary when you start to realize the role genetics plays in the simple things, like trying to make a cup of coffee, for example.My Dad just got this fancy new espresso machine but for some reason, nine times out of ten, the thing explodes while he tries to make an innocent cappuccino. It’s like waiting for a balloon to pop every time I hear that thing going, the hair on my arms standing up at full attention.”Damnit!” he’ll scream, his glasses sliding all cockeyed down to the end of his nose. The wet, ground coffee and scalding hot water spatters in every direction. “It worked last time.”Dad is a mechanical disaster. Every time he gets near a tool of any kind, something breaks. I remember when I was growing up and he got into cutting his own wood. My mom nearly had a heart attack every time the chainsaw started going, convinced he’d cut his own leg off (thank god he never did, though he did cut down a tree that nearly landed on our house). He is an intellectual, a guy who reads psychiatry trade journals for fun and listens to Audio Digest on his way to and from work. He is a heady man, not a handy man.Like the mirror he hung in the guest bathroom took two hours of chopping the wall to bits with the hammer and misaligned metal hanger things only to have the mirror come crashing down in the middle of the night, taking down half the wall with it. My room still smells like spilled perfume, not to mention it woke me out of a dead sleep with a scream. The mirror is still sitting on the sink, leaning against the wall where it will be much safer from future middle-of-the-night disasters.As a woman, it’s not such a big deal for me to avoid trying to do these kinds of things altogether, but I too have the tendency to break things. Only the things I break are sort of major, like cars. Since my sixteenth birthday, I have had nine cars and out of those, I’ve toasted three engines (long story I’ll save for another day), totaled one (accident so not my fault) lost one (it died and got towed away to god-knows-where) and practically gave one away (to my old friend Steve Jones who has always known how to play on my Jewish mother instincts).Then there’s my little brother, whose ADD is so severe, he gets bored and does things like sell off all his belongings and move to Costa Rica. That was over a year ago, and since then he’s become a burgeoning land baron at the ripe age of 29, buying, selling, and subdividing whatever parcel of jungle he can get his fat little hands on.I’ll admit it bothered me somewhat when he took a liking to young Costa Rican women, unfazed by the fact that they see him as a walking ATM machine. But yesterday he announces that he wants to open a whorehouse. “It’ll be great. Instead of having the girls sit around a bar, I’ll have them out by the swimming pool so it’ll be more like a resort,” he says, pacing back and forth the way he always does when he’s scheming.”Sounds like the Playboy mansion,” I say, not sure if I should take him seriously.”I’ll have it on the way to one of the big beach resorts so people can stop there on the way, and the land will be dirt cheap,” he continues, not really caring if anyone is actually listening. I look up at him over my Us Weekly magazine and raise and eyebrow.”What are you going to do when your women get beat up or raped?” I ask, trying to ruffle his feathers a little.”I’ll have plenty of security. And guns,” he says, like he’s got the whole thing all figured out.”Don’t forget about the drugs,” I reply.”My son the pimp,” my mom says, rummaging around in the kitchen and making an inordinate amount of noise. She’s opening and closing cabinet doors, running the disposal, trash compactor and dishwasher all at once so we have to yell and turn up the volume on the TV.Ever since my mom “retired” five years ago, she’s managed to make her life busier than ever, running around like a chicken with her head cut off. She’s the only person I know who can create a hectic schedule out of volunteer work, recreating outside, socializing and grocery shopping, all of which she manages to do every day. “We’re out of blueberries,” she’ll say, prompting another trip to the store. Even if the list is two items long (“Dad needs bagels. And I have to get some more dog food.”), she always comes home with 47 bags, typically filled with inane items like bottled water and cantaloupes.Working at my computer all day and going for an hour long run makes me feel lazy compared to her pace.I have to admit I have a little bit of all of them in me: my dad’s absent-minded-professor clumsiness, my brother’s hyperactive deviance, and my mom’s ability to create stress out of thin air. The next thing you know I’ll get drunk and trip over my shoelace after exercising all day on my way to some important meeting that I’m in charge of, even though I really have no idea what the meeting is about.It really is all in the genes. But when it comes to this family, we’re not talking about the designer variety, but more of a worn, comfy pair filled with holes and plenty of character.The Princess is on sabbatical and sends her love all her friends back in Aspen. Send e-mail to

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