I used to have red hair. Now it’s a sort of mousy brown, but at one point it was red, with orange undertones. This is what I am reminded of once every three years, when all animals of the great McGinty Clan come to gather at the watering hole known as the Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania. One hundred and twenty relatives in one hotel, and eighty percent of them topped with curly auburn flames. My McGinty family takes our Scottish heritage very seriously. So much so that the fact that I have outgrown this family trademark seems to upset the elders of the clan, and so this is taken out on me at the mandatory family sporting event (known as the ‘’McLimpics’’), held on Saturday morning. (The fact that this family event must be referred to as ‘’mandatory’’ has always seemed like a red flag to my mother and me.) Now, sporting events like the McLimpics usually fall into the ‘‘incredibly stupid and unsafe’’ category of activities, because they tend to include a multitude of fat men and their drunk wives. I usually try to get out of playing (for fear of winding up on the top of the human pyramid again), but my father thinks that by participating in the games, I am showing respect for the elderly members of the family and we just can’t afford to lose another will after Grandpa’s. And so I am chosen for the pantyhose-on-the-head game, appropriately named for the way that one must pull pantyhose over the head and blindly tie it to the hose of another.

As if this wasn’t enough mortification, I’ve also had to sit at the ‘’kids’ table’’ at dinnertime, until I was well into my teens. This nightly humiliation had become a sort of ritual for me. First I would slip into a chair at the adults’ table next to my mother, and discreetly pick up the utensils in front of me to claim the seat as my own, establish my position at the table. Then I’d reach for the glass of water to take a sip, and my mother would catch my arm. “That’s Daddy’s glass. Go sit with with your cousins, sweetie.” I’d stick my bottom lip out to make myself look as pitiful as possible, but this would have no effect; my mother is too smart to be tricked. And so I’d find myself sitting at the kids’ table once again, doomed to watch my cousin Peter inhale Aunt Margaret’s blood pudding. My yearning to leave the kids’ table was completely justified, because Peter’s method of eating made me think of a water balloon stuck in the head of a vacuum. I wanted so badly to leave this chaos and listen to the conversations held between my older cousins. I would tell them about my grades and my friends and my artwork. Once we were back in the hotel room, my mother would tell me, “One day, maybe next year.”

Finally, finally, ‘’one day’’ arrived, and I found my place card waiting for me at the adults’ table. I was ecstatic. My family finally considered me an adult. I absorbed the gossip exchanged at the table, and witnessed my first real “Mom vs. In-law argument.” They would talk about such exciting things, like property taxes and the new mole on Uncle Jim’s back. Great Aunt Peggy would go over the process of making a Jell-O mold in excruciating detail. Feeling thoroughly stimulated, and with my new title of ‘’mature,’’ I smiled and quietly picked up my plate, carrying it over to the kids’ table, and sat down. I asked my cousin Meghan to show us how she can flip her eyelids inside out. Because, let me tell you, the adults’ table wasn’t all that great.

 

Hannah Fitzgerald’s personal essay, “Thirteen Years,” won second prize in the Fourth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Hannah is a Fine Arts major who has just completed her freshman year. She hopes to pursue a career in production design.