The three members of the Ciriani family sit silently in their car, driving on a small French road. The yellowing core of an eaten apple sits wedged between the windshield and the dashboard of the car, its fresh juices tarnishing the rough surface it lies on. No one says a word. You can cut the tension with a knife. The silence is suddenly broken: from the back seat, Anna reaches all the way to the front dashboard, brazenly splaying herself across the seat in front of her, where her father, Giovanni, rigidly sits. She takes the apple and recoils to her seat. Neither Giovanni nor his wife Debra at the steering wheel show any specific reaction, except for perhaps hardening their stern silence. An outsider would never know what had happened to make a happy family like the Cirianis act so strangely, but from the inside, such tense moments are normal and almost necessary for the tripartite family dynamic. This is the aftermath of a collective tantrum scene
It all started when leaving a castle in the Loire valley to go to another one, in Blois. There were 24 km left in the tank and Blois was about 18 km away – a small margin of error. Everyone buckled up, and Giovanni announced that there was a gas station on the road to Blois. We took off. But instead of taking the main road, the GPS directed us to take back roads, through desolate fields and farmlands. No gas station on the way to Blois. We took a few wrong turns, asked for directions, never found a gas station…all this led to a big explosion and a half-eaten apple being thrown across the car. We got angry at each other, we pointed fingers, and it was always someone else who was to be blamed. “If we had stopped at a gas station this morning, we wouldn’t be in this mess.” – “Why didn’t you ask the lady how far it is to the gas station?” – “Why didn’t we just follow the GPS instead of asking for directions?” – “It’s your fault.” Really, my question is, “Why are we fighting about something that in the end is nobody’s fault?” The answer: baby me.
Baby me is a version of me who reverts back to the teenage stage of Anna Ciriani Dean, when I was belligerent, rebellious, and quite frankly rude to my parents on a regular basis. Ever since I moved out of the house and headed off to college, teenage Anna has slowly subsided. I’ve become a mature, self-sufficient adult who is generally well-appreciated – or at least I hope that’s how I’m seen by others. It had been a while since baby me had surfaced. It’s been a few years since I’ve spent more than a few hours at a time with my parents, so baby me hasn’t had the chance to come out. But during my parents’ visit in France, I spent about ten days with them non-stop. Baby me was back. Instead of maintaining my fairly calm, courteous, autonomous demeanor, I spiraled into the depths of immaturity. Mommy was around, so she could pick up after me. Daddy was around, so I could get a regular shouting fight in every day. I found myself childish, rude and lazy, and quite frankly, I was disappointed. But I kept reminding myself that those are the last adjectives I would use to describe myself today, and that even my parents were acting differently from what they probably do when I’m not around. My mother went back to being a coddling mom. My father became the punctilious dad who knows too well how to push my buttons.
We eventually found a gas station and the tension dissolved – despite our few spats, we really have a great family dynamic. There were other instances of baby me during their trip, but I look back on it with fondness because, well, that’s my family.