When Molly and I Went to Florida to Visit Our Grandmother

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 1.59.33 PMI notice that molly’s legs have ugly pink streaks running down the back.

“I think you need to rub your sunblock in better,” I tell her. I toss her the tube. 

“Bug off,” she says sleepily. She’s shifted her attention away from the Deedee/Rich saga, and is engrossed in V. C. Andrews’s latest.

“Well, at least put some on my back,” I tell her.

Molly grimaces. “No unnecessary touch!” she commands.

“Molly,” I tell her, “it’s not unnecessary. I’m your sister.”

She flings the tube back at me.“Why don’t you just put your shirt back on,” she grumbles.

By four o’clock, the streaks on Molly’s legs are more pronounced, and my back is roughly the color of a stop sign. Nanna is displeased. “I told you not to get too much sun!”

I explain that Molly has refused to put lotion on my back.

“What’s your problem?” Nanna demands. 

Molly defends herself: “You know I don’t like touching people.”

Nanna is bewildered. “But she’s your sister.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Molly says.

“Meshuggenah!” Nanna snorts. 

“Oy vey!” Molly replies.

We go out for early bird specials at my Nanna and Harold’s favorite Italian restaurant. Nanna and Harold are both having eggplant parmigiana. I’m eating chicken. Molly is poking half-heartedly at a meatball. 

“Eat!”says Nanna. “Ess!”says Harold.

Mangia! ” enthuses the waiter.

“Uh, can I have a doggie bag?” asks Molly. Molly’s status as a family legend was made by her temper, but is perpetually ensured by her distaste for things corporeal — touching people is one, and eating is another. We are used to this sort of performance, and aren’t overly afraid that she’ll starve. The meatball is stowed in a doggie bag with a minimum of fuss, and we proceed to a movie. We have arrived early enough to get good seats — Harold on the outside, long legs stretched into the aisle, my Nanna next to him, with me next to her, and then Molly. As the previews begin, an older couple attempt to take two seats next to Molly.

“Excuse me!” the man says. “Shhhh,” says my Nanna again.

Molly, outraged by this gravest of unnecessary touches, whacks his Bermuda-clad bottom with her meatball bag. “You pervert!” she cries. Half of the theater turns to look. The man sinks into the empty chair next to Molly with an air of abject humiliation.

The first ten minutes of the movie are uneventful, but slowly Molly and I begin to notice something strange. As the actors on the screen say their lines, about half of the people in the theater repeat them in loud stage whispers to their hard-of-hearing companions. The result is a kind of three-part harmony. 

“I’ll be going now,” says the actor.

“Huh?” say half the people in the theater.

He said he’ll be going now,” choruses the rest of the audience.

Even my Nanna is busily translating for Harold, with occasional pauses to ask me for lines that she herself has missed. Molly invents a new game. Unceremoniously dropping her meatball bag on the floor, she leans over in her seat and begins feeding Nanna misinformation. 

“I have good news,” says the actress. “Huh?” says Harold.

“She says she has blue shoes,” whispers Molly. Harold’s brow furrows in puzzlement as Molly’s whispers get wilder. 

“I love you,” the actress murmurs softly.

“Huh?”says Harold. 

“I’m having Elvis’s love child,” Molly says. Nanna purses her lips, and reaches over to pinch Molly’s arm. She gets mine instead. “Ouch!” I yell.

The two rows in front of us all go “Shh!” at once. Molly picks up her meatball bag and whacks me smartly. “Stop disrupting the entertainment,” she says.


Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 14 books and a contributor to the New York Times Opinion section. Online at: JenniferWeiner.com. Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Weiner, Inc.