"So what if you're what?"
"Oh," Rick patted his belly and smiled at Jim. "The big brother." The two of them shared a laugh. It had been the other way around when they were younger. Rick was athletic and healthy, and Jim was small and out of shape.
"Your problem is that you married a damned fine cook."
"Thank you, Jimmy, it's nice that someone notices." Alice said smiling and poking Rick in the ribs. "Your brother raves about my cooking anyway."
"Come on, sweetheart, you know you make the best food I've ever had," Rick said, and then kissed her quickly.
"And I suppose I'm chopped liver?" Kate said with a half smile, trying her very best to affect hurt at her husband's remark.
"Not at all sweetie," Jim said, kissing her. "I was just complimenting our gracious hostess' hospitality."
"Well maybe you'll still get some sex tonight then."
"Kate!" Alice half laughed, half gasped. "The kids!"
"Yeah you two, get a room."
"How are Pete and Mary anyway, big brother?"
"They're good. Doing real good. Pete just started fifth grade, and he's excited because that means computer science, and Mary just started second grade, and they've moved her into gifted. Or accelerated learning, or whatever they call it these days. How about yours?"
"Scott? He's good. He's in fourth, hates his art teacher, loves his science and music teachers. Wow, so Mary's in gifted?"
"Yes," Alice made a vain attempt to keep herself from beaming, but her maternal pride was unmistakable. "They said she was reading at the seventh grade level, and she was just breezing through math..."
"So they decided that she needed more of a challenge," Rick picked up the narrative. "They're going to start testing her tomorrow to see just how far ahead she is."
"Wow, that sounds serious. Great. Good to hear. Man, if only mom and dad were here for this."
"Oh God, they would be so happy to know that one of their grandkids, at least, was a genius." The two of them laughed hard. "Do you remember back when I was a freshman in high school, and Mom asked what happened, and I told her that they had the awards ceremony, and she asked me if I had got any awards, and when I told her no, it was for seniors, she told me that was no excuse."
"Or when I graduated summa from college," Jim said, trying to catch his breath. "And she wanted to know why I wasn't valedictorian."
"Don't worry, sweetie, you were close," Kate said, kissing him on the forehead.
Alice bit her lip for a moment. "I know it'll sound horrible, but I think I'm glad she's not around for this, I don't know if I would want Mary to have that kind of pressure," she said at last.
"Yeah, mom certainly knew how to lay it on thick when she wanted to..." his thought was cut short by a chorus of "is not" and "is so" coming from where the kids were playing. The parents swarmed over, trying to stop a fight that they all knew would bring a quick end to the holiday barbecue. "Okay, kids, what's going on?"
"Mary says that Nine-Eleven day is for September eleventh, but that doesn't make sense, and she won't believe me!" Scott said eagerly.
"It does too!" Mary proudly declared. "It means September eleven. What else could it mean?"
"Yeah, but today's the twelfth, dummy!"
"Scott! Don't talk to your cousin that way," his mother made an attempt to take it down a notch.
"She's right, anyway," his father added.
"See!" Mary sang, before sticking out her tongue.
"Well then why is it called Nine-Eleven Day?" Scott looked at the ground and shuffled his feet, trying to recover some of his pride.
"Well, it's not actually called Nine-Eleven Day, sweetie," his mother tried consoling him. "What is it? Like citizen day, or hero day, or something?"
"Terrorist Day." Alice said.
"Patriot Day," Rick corrected.
"Well then why do we call it Nine-Eleven Day?" Pete asked.
"Well," Jim began, trying to remember history lessons that these children would be sitting through in a few years. "I think it's because some terrorist blew up a building or something. What? Sixty years ago?"
"That's right. The Freedom Center," said Rick.
"Except back then they called it the World Trade Tower," Kate corrected.
"Well why do we celebrate it on the twelfth?" Pete was by now thoroughly confused.
"It's a federal holiday, sweetie," Alice said. "Which means that the people who make the calendar pick either a Monday or a Friday closest to the eleventh of September. It's so we can have a long weekend."
"Why don't we just celebrate it on the eleventh?" Scott sensed the chance to salvage his dignity. Losing an argument was bad enough, but losing one to a girl was unacceptable.
"Because then we wouldn't have a long weekend," Mary said. "Aren't you listening?"
"Mary, don't be mean to your cousin."
"And Scott, well, look at it this way. The eleventh was yesterday, right? And you would have Sunday off anyway, right?"
"Yes, Uncle Rick."
"And that means that you wouldn't get a day off if we celebrated it on the eleventh. It doesn't matter why you have the day off from school, does it?"
"Okay," Alice said. "Now that that's settled, does anyone want any more food?"
"Can we have some ice cream?" Pete asked eagerly.
"How about we stop for some after the fireworks tonight, instead?" Alice's suggestion met with eager approval from everyone. The kids returned to playing somewhat peacefully, and the adults started cleaning up the grill. If they wanted a good spot for the fireworks, they would have to leave in an hour or so, and they all wanted the chance to enjoy as much of Nine-Eleven Day as they could.