Finley would like to tell a story about 212 Strangeway.
I would like to start things off with a little introduction of my own.
It was sixty-four birthday parties ago when I first stepped foot inside the big white house with the American flag out front.
Here, my name is Grandma Julie, and my friend Giselle goes by Grandma Devvi, because it was easier for some to say than Debbi.
Eighteen years ago, we two grandmas were commissioned to paint Oceanne's bedroom.
That seven-year-old big sister to Iris, believed her lovely new room with flowered walls to be gorgeous. And we paint splattered ladies were equally satisfied with our payment in the form of Jager shots and beer.
Soon after our painting careers ended, the girls received news of a little brother and then a couple years later another little brother was born.
That was when we learned to look both ways before crossing the dining room, so as not to be run over by race cars, trucks, and motorcycles flying through, some remote controlled, and others powered by the force of a hand.
I recall summersaults, wrestling matches and pillow fights that took place on the sofa I was seated on while Sponge Bob Square Pants constantly wound up in his underwear in front of me on the big screen tv.
It was around the time that Oceanne became a teenager that my son Marques and Devvi's daughter, Nicolette, began to call in the big guns for help with childcare on an occasional weeknight.
That is when the dynamic duo was born, known to most as, the grandmas.
Iris was in charge. Not only did she take care of business, but she also performed cartwheels, did the splits and danced interpretively right in front of our eyes while Kaden, her younger brother would be in the middle of a long and elaborate story that we rarely understood, and Sean, the youngest brother yet, was driving trucks over our feet.
When eight o'clock rolled around Iris would say, "Okay, boys, time for goodnight kisses."
Then she would march them upstairs, help them brush their teeth and read a couple bedtime stories.
Grandma Devvi and I would dig in the refrigerator for a snack and another beer while she was busy doing our job.
After tucking the sweeties in, Iris would return and have her grandmas all to herself. Of course, she could always persuade the dynamic duo otherwise when the hands on the clock said it was nine.
We did after all, owe her.
"Millie, are you about done?"
"Oh, sorry. Your turn."
I am everybody's favorite cat, Finley.
I showed up on the scene here at 212 Strangeway in 2018 for Kaden's thirteenth birthday. I was a cute little shaver at the time, all fresh and fuzzy and orange. Everyone said I was adorable.
Well, everyone except Oreo.
She is a black cat who was living at 212 at the time.
The story goes that Oreo was originally Oceanne's cat. They lived together in Madison and were attending college. But then Oreo tried to kill Oceanne's boyfriend, the wrestler.
Iris came to the rescue. She loved Oreo regardless of her deathly dander and she was able to smooth talk Marques and Nicolette, into letting Oreo move into 212 Strangeway with her.
That is how two felines ended up spending a couple years under the same roof on Strangeway even though Marques always claimed there would be no pets in his home on his watch.
I tried my best to entertain that cat, but she never really got my sense of humor, my acrobatic style or my enthusiasm for life in general.
She didn't even think I was that cute.
Today Oreo is off with Iris giving college another college try. Hopefully she will learn something this time around, like how to be more sociable and how to come out and play, especially when the red solo cups come out.
And to study.
At first it was weird without any sisters here. It was too quiet. We could hear Nicolette sniffling and we didn't know what to do. We couldn't help that we were all boys.
That is when I stepped it up and took control of the situation. I began to entertain Nicolette nonstop. I made use of my God given talents and I had her yelling, screaming, laughing and sometimes even crying, every day. In other words, I did not allow her time to miss anybody.
I didn't even let her be lonely while she vacuumed the house.
Did I mention that this house has wood floors that are perfect for sliding, skidding and doing donuts? The mini blinds in the dining room are great for climbing and easy to leap from one to the next. And there is a fancy water fountain that is always running, which I love after brain farting, as they call it, around the place.
Oceanne and her fiancé, that wrestler dude, the one that Oreo tried to kill, and their new baby and their little dog come here to visit a lot.
Iris comes home often too and once in a while, Oreo tags along.
Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, grandpas and all kinds of friends visit too.
We get lots and lots of company here.
I love company.
And I love parties.
Unless of course they get out of hand.
We have a pool, so, we invite friends over to swim.
We have this one uncle who puts on as many innertubes as possible, a face mask, a snorkel and flippers. Then he pops out of the shed, climbs the ladder and zips down the slide into the water with the same old crowd cheering him on and reinforcing his bizarre behavior.
And while Marques grills the chicken or burgers, and side dishes are being set out for a line to form, and a couple grandpas are around the corner having a smoke, a toothpick war almost always breaks out.
Four people, two on a team, wait like statues ready to dive as soon as that toothpick floats to the surface of the pool. When it appears, all hell breaks loose.
And they do it over and over again.
I am not the only brain farter at this address.
If you take a diving board and a pool and you play follow the leader, you are going to see some seriously interesting swan dives, pencils drops and incomplete summersaults.
Did you know that Grandma Devvi can do the jack knife? And that Uncle Jerry can just about empty a pool with a single bellyflop? And that a blow-up float is meant to be tipped over if someone is on it? And that noodles are not just for floating?
I have seen folks thrown into that water without their consent and once that happens, anything can.
How the famous hula-hoop contest in the backyard that Oceanne clearly won, and Baby came in dead last, didn't make waves over the police scanner is still a mystery.
But what goes on inside the house is even stranger.
My very first summer here is when I learned how to dodge roller blades and rip boards by leaping onto furniture. That was a blast.
Remember the Wii era?
I only saw the tail end of the craze here, but I heard that the bruise on Oceanne's forehead was from that time she and her brothers were playing tennis or maybe they were bowling.
And Oceanne's boyfriend, the wrestler dude, had Kade in a headlock and Sean squirming to get out from under his arm every time I came out of my room to see what the heck was going on out there for about two years straight.
When Kaden and Sean got those marshmallow outfits so they could bounce off each other and then not be able to get back up, I was surprised the house kept standing.
I was not downstairs the day the mouse made an appearance at that birthday party and Nicolette along with a few guests lost their shit and were standing on the bar, screaming bloody murder.
It was a mouse for Christ's sake.
I did try however, to warn the entire family about the squirrel that had gotten in and was downstairs trying to gnaw his way back outside.
If only they would have taken me seriously. I could have gone down there and taken care of business and Nicolette wouldn't have had to wear that straight jacket and be hauled out on a stretcher.
In retrospect I am glad I missed the BB gun phase. Kade said they were really good shots, but...you know.
And I am grateful the Karaoke decade was long before my time.
I have only been here five years and a thousand candles have been lit and even though Uncle Jay tries to lead everyone into the song on key, every verse is worse than the first and nothing short of a disaster.
What I like the most about 212 Strangeway is family night and movie time when we all squeeze together on the couch under a blanket and have popcorn and we have to pause the movie all the time so that Nicolette can confirm who the actor is married to or if that actress was in that other movie.
Of course, I love Christmas and the smell of prime rib and ribbons and bows too.
Sean just turned sixteen.
Sadly, we threw our last birthday party here at 212.
Did things get out of hand?
Kaden told me not to worry about moving to our new house. He swears we will like it. And he says that we have a lot more important things to think about, like golf and girls.
I hope he is right.
This new place better have wood floors, miniblinds, and a water fountain.
And we better have lots and lots of company and lots of parties.