These People We Call Family

Characters

Sophie 13 Is an extremely caring girl, who wants to protect her family.

Susan 60 Aunt of Sophie, she has had two completely unrelated kinds of cancer.

Mom 54 Is the single mother of Sophie, who is too cowardly to stand up to her sister.

Grandma 83 Mother of Susan, and Mom, all she wants is a little peace in the family.

Hiko 26 Son of Susan. He doesn’t think that Susan should be around his 3 year old daughter Izzie.

Jamie 25 Hiko’s wife. She’s just trying to figure out how to deal with Hiko’s family.

D.B. 84 He’s been married to Susan for 26 years. She’s his 3rd wife, but hey, “3rd time is the charm!”

Act I Scene I

(Two women sit across the table from each other, a mother and a grandmother. They are in a clean white room, sitting with legs folded, across the mahogany dining table. It’s an antique, and looks like it’s just been refinished. The mother and grandmother are each holding mugs of coffee in their hands. They look quaint. )

Grandma

You should be glad that you didn’t come to Hiko’s birthday party. Susan made a mess of it!

Mom

(Sighs)

What did she do this time?

Grandma

It was all going well. Hiko was opening presents, he really seemed to like them too. Well at least until he opened his mother’s. She gave him seats right behind first base to the Sox game against the Yankees.

Mom

What’s so bad about that? I would love to be there to boo those idiotic Yankees!

Grandma

It wouldn’t be bad under normal circumstances, but Jamie had already gotten them tickets to the same game. She’d planned out a romantic night away from little Izzie. They’d rent a room at a hotel, go to the game, and the whole night would be perfect. Jamie’d planned the whole night down to the second. From the dinner they would eat, to the time the game would be ending. She even knew how much traffic there would be, and how long it would take to get back. She made sure to tell everyone, especially Susan, about it so we wouldn’t give him the same present. And Susan just went out and bought the four tickets to the game anyway. One of them just happened to be for her.

Mom

Why the hell did she think that Hiko would want to go out with his mother on his thirtieth birthday?!

Grandma

I don’t know, she said she didn’t remember.

Mom

Well how did Jamie react?

Grandma

She’d managed to keep her composure at first, but then Susan told Hiko to throw away the tickets that Jamie had given him.

Mom

How terrible for Jamie!

Grandma

The whole party was just terrible! And even more it was emotional, two things Susan isn’t good at dealing with, parties and emotions. Everyone was so upset that they weren’t thinking straight. At one point Susan snatched back the tickets and started to rip them up!

Mom

What did Jamie do?

Grandma

In the beginning Hiko tried to calm everyone down. Let’s just say that it wasn’t the most successful of plans.

Mom

Did they leave?

Grandma

Hiko tried to be considerate; he didn’t want to ruin the party for everybody else so they made an attempt to stick around. But the whole party got to the breaking point the minute that Susan pulled out the tickets for the UCONN Women’s Basketball Game which was about to start in a half an hour. They picked up Izzie, and said goodbye.

Mom

Poor Susan. Poor Hiko and Jamie!

Grandma

I just wish that she would think before she acted is all. She doesn’t realize that sometimes you don’t have to be impressive and upstage everyone to be loved.

Mom

Well we can’t blame her for how she’s acted, not after what she’s been through.

Act I Scene II

(Grandma stands in the kitchen reading a recipe while stirring a pan of tomato sauce. The whistle shrieks warning her that the tea water is at a boiling point. She immediately puts the tomato sauce back onto the stove and takes the kettle off. She pours the water into the mugs frantically. A bit of water splashes onto the floor, and some onto her finger. She yelps in pain, but shakes it off. She seems stressed, very stressed.)

Grandma

(Murmurs)

Peas, peas, have to cook the peas…

(A dish drops to the floor)

Dammit, dammit, dammit!

(Drops to the floor, and starts to pick up the mess. Enter Susan; she wears a red dress and red sandals. Her short grey hair is messy and looks like she hasn’t combed it in days. She stands in place, her feet tapping, and watches Grandma scramble to clean things up, making no attempt to help in any way. )

Susan

Ma, clean this mess up. I’ll be waiting in the car. Tell Sophie and Elizabeth that we’ll be going to Paul’s Pasta for dinner.

(Grandma stands up and looks Susan in the eye)

Grandma

I just made dinner, and I don’t like eating out.

Susan

Of course you do, Mom. Besides, you’re putting too much stress on yourself. Now clean up, and remember to tell the others. I’ll be waiting in the car. Don’t take long.

Grandma

Susan, we don’t need to go out and wait 30 minutes for our food. Not when all we have to do is put the already cooked food on a plate, and bring it into the dining room.

Susan

Dammit Mom, would you just listen for once. I’m trying to do you a favor, and you won’t even take it.

Grandma

You’re not doing me any favor right now Susan.

Susan

(Laughs like what she’s saying is absurd)

Now you listen to me, Ma. Cooking makes you worry. You’re too old to worry. And you always seem really tense; I just think you need a night off is all. Now, I don’t want to hear any more arguments. Meet me in the car as soon as you get ready.

(Turns away and starts to walk away)

Oh, and you should really clean up this place. You’re letting this perfectly nice house go to waste.

(Grandma is stunned speechless, as Susan walks away. Grandma bends down to pick up the mess, just as Sophie walks in.)

Sophie

Grandma, you shouldn’t be bending down! Your arthritis might flare up again!

Grandma

It’s nice of you to worry about me Sophie, but right now all I want you to do is go get ready to go to the restaurant.

(Sophie starts to help clean up the mess)

Sophie

But you just made dinner. I thought we were going to eat here.

Grandma

So did I, but apparently, Susan had other ideas.

Sophie

Well, you should have told her that we would be eating here. It seems a shame to let the pumpkin pie go to waste.

(Grandma sighs)

Grandma

I’ll put it in the fridge, don’t worry about it. You just go get ready, and tell your mother to hurry, she’ll snap at us all otherwise.

Sophie

You shouldn’t let her tell you what to do, Grandma. It just isn’t right! If anyone should be bossing people around, it should be you. You’re the mother in this relationship, don’t forget it.

(With that Sophie walks away. In the distance you can hear her scream “Mom, we’re going out to dinner!” Grandma sighs heavily, and makes her way over into the living room. She sits on the couch.)

Grandma

(Mutters to herself)

Like I’d ever be able to tell Susan what to do.

Act I Scene III

(It’s a couple of months later. Sophie, Mom, Grandma, Susan, Hiko, and Jamie are sitting around the dinner table. D.B, Susan’s 84 year old husband, sits in a wheelchair, making an effort to get the food into his mouth without the food spilling onto his lap. They each have a piece of chocolate birthday cake. Before they devoured it, it read in pink icing “Happy Birthday Susan!” Only Sophie doesn’t have any cake, instead she has a pool of melted coffee ice cream, sitting untouched on her plate.)

Grandma

So where is precious Izzie?

Jamie

(Jamie smiles)

We dropped Izzie off at my mother’s house before we made our way here.

Grandma

Well isn’t that nice of her.

Sophie

(Grumbles)

Yeah, great. I’m now the youngest one here, again.

Jamie

Well, if it’s any consolation, you’ll be back to being the second youngest on Thanksgiving.

Sophie

(Says dryly)

Oh joy!

(Jamie laughs)

Grandma

Sophie, let’s be polite today.

Sophie

I’ll try.

Mom

Alright, Susan! I’d say it’s time to open presents.

(D.B clears his throat as though he wants to speak)

Susan

(Her voice rises)

D.B, say something, anything, just speak! Form a sentence. Now.

D.B.

(Says at an agonizingly slow rate)

I think that you should open-

Susan

For God sakes, speak faster! You’re speaking at the rate of a slug!

(Hiko turns to Susan and says quietly)

Hiko

Mom, give D.B a chance. You know that it takes him a long time to speak, ever since the disease started.

Susan

I don’t care; I don’t know why he even tried to speak in the first place.

(Turns to D.B, and says in an agitated voice)

Tick tock, dear husband!

(D.B opens his mouth to speak)

We’ve wasted enough time, let’s just open presents.

(The room is quiet, somebody clears their throat. Everything is awkward for a moment.)

Well, somebody give me a present. I’m waiting!

Sophie

Um… Mom and I got you this…

(She shoves a nicely wrapped package into Susan’s hand. Susan smiles warmly at her and carefully unwraps the present. She smiles and holds out a bottle of Miracle, her favorite perfume.)

Susan

How did you know that I love this perfume!

Mom

It was Sophie who figured it out. I just bought it.

Sophie

Well I remember you told me once that you loved the smell and the name even more. You told me that you liked the perfume, because it reminded you of everyday that you were still alive and healthy. Reminded you of every day the cancer hadn’t come back yet.

Susan

Well it still hasn’t and hopefully won’t. So thank you very much, both of you. It’s lovely!

(She turns around and takes out a present of her own. She hands it to Sophie who looks puzzled.)

I couldn’t give you your present on your birthday last week, so I just thought it would be the perfect opportunity to open it now.

Grandma

It’s your party dear; maybe you’d like to give it to her after.

Susan

(Says forcefully)

Now, I’m giving it to her now.

(Sophie smiles, thanks her for the present, and opens it up. It’s a black box from Macy’s. She opens the velvet box, and sees a real emerald ring, with a diamond setting.)

I wanted to give it to you now, the way my Aunt Agnes gave one to me. I wanted to pass the torch. Maybe you’ll give one to your niece someday.

Sophie

Maybe.

Mom

(Whispers politely to Sophie)

Soph, why don’t you thank your Aunt for this lovely present.

Susan

(Voice rises, and sounds angry)

Let her speak for herself. She can can’t she?

Mom

(Whispers)

Yes.

Susan

Then let her. You never do! I can’t be around you people anymore.

(Gets up from the table, grabs her bag and leaves. You can hear the car skid out of the driveway.)

Jamie

She can’t leave from her own party!

Hiko

Clearly you don’t know my mother. She’ll do anything to get attention. She might even feign a seizure.

Grandma

Don’t say that Hiko! It isn’t funny. Your mother has brain cancer, and you’re trying to make a joke out of things… you should be ashamed of yourself.

Hiko

Sorry, I was just trying to lighten the mood, Grandma.

Grandma

Well you didn’t, not at all.

Mom

She left, it’s all my fault. She left.

(Mom gets up and leaves the room.)

Sophie

Mom, wait up! It’s not your fault!

(Runs after her.)

Hiko

I’ll try to go after her.

D.B.

(Says slowly)

No, don’t. She needs some time to herself.

Grandma

Then what do we do?

D.B.

Wait.

Act I Scene VI

(Two years later, Mom sits on a rusty orange couch, in a stark white room; it is the only object in the room that isn’t black. The stark white walls are streaked with gray, and footprints. It looks as if somebody smeared their dirty feet across the walls. Mom is reading a book; she is dressed in a blue t-shirt, and jeans. It’s the weekend and she’s relaxing. Sophie, who is now 12, walks into the living room quietly. She looks a bit nervous. She pauses for a moment, and then clears her throat, Mom looks up.)

Sophie

Hey Mom.

(Pauses and makes sure that she has her mother’s full attention.)

Look, I’m just going to cut to the chase; we’ve got to talk about me going on that shopping spree with Aunt Susan.

Mom

(Sets down book)

Sophie, we’ve already talked. It’s on Tuesday. The whole trip is already set to go, all you’ve got to do is show up and smile.

Sophie

(Annoyed)

Mo-ther, I really don’t want to go on Tuesday!

Mom

Alright, we can just reschedule, she said before that Thursday works too. She’s pretty flexible when it comes to shopping. Now don’t yell or you’ll disturb the neighbors.

Sophie

(Sighs exasperatedly)

Mom, I don’t want to go at all.

Mom

Sophie, she wants to take you shopping, you love shopping, now why won’t you go?

Sophie

I just won’t, alright? Lay off.

Mom

Sophie, I don’t want any “I just won’t” in this house. Give me a good reason or you’re going.

Sophie

I just don’t like her alright! She’s been a total ass to everyone she’s ever met for my whole life, and I’m not going to put up with it anymore. I just can’t!

Mom

Your Grandmother and I will be just fine, Sophie. Just go shopping and have fun.

Sophie

I can’t. I won’t.

Mom

Sophie, please just do me a favor and go.

Sophie

Mom, whenever I’m around her I have nothing to say to her. Unless of course you want me to tell her what I really think of her.

Mom

(Says in a warning tone)

Sophie-

Sophie

No, Mom, the answer is no. I refuse to go anywhere with her. I never want to see her stupid face again!

Mom

Why Sophie? I just don’t understand.

Sophie

Well for one, I always catch her staring at me. She gives me these glares. It’s like they’re especially reserved for me, because I’ve never seen her give one to anybody else. Just me. Sometimes she takes me aside and whispers these mean comments to me.

Mom

Like what Sophie?

Sophie

Like I should stop acting like a kid because I’m twelve and I should be a lady now. She’s always treating you terribly.

(Mother opens her mouth to speak but Sophie cuts her off)

And don’t say it isn’t true, because I know you remember how mean she was. How mean she is! I know that you think her temper will somehow evaporate, and someday she’ll realize how she’s acting. But she won’t. She’ll never stop hurting D.B., she’ll never stop yelling at Grandma. She’ll never stop screwing our family up!

Mom

She isn’t screwing our family up! Not at all! She hasn’t done anything wrong. She has brain cancer. She’s not the same person she used to be.

Sophie

Mom, listen to me. She isn’t going to change; she isn’t going to stop being mean. She has done something wrong! She’s hurt you, you’re just too afraid to stand up to her.

Mom

I am not a coward. I never want you to say something like that about me again. Cause I’m not. And neither is Grandma.

Sophie

What about last summer? Remember the beach? Remember that hot day? Remember how every time we spoke, she snapped at us like it was our fault. As if we had decided to make her life miserable… Remember how we hadn’t even wanted to go? How you’d wanted to stay home because you didn’t feel so good, and I wanted to finish that summer reading list? Grandma doesn’t even like the beach!

Mom

Stop overreacting; you know the medicine she was taking back than made her irritable and unreasonable.

Sophie

Back then, back then! Grow up Mom,

(Voice getting angrier)

Stop blaming her actions on her health just long enough to realize she’s using you. Controlling you. She’s the puppet master and you’re just hanging by a string.

(Shakes her head sadly and starts to walk away.)

Mom

Well what do you want me to do, Sophie! She’s my sister! I’m not going to abandon her.

(Stops walking but doesn’t turn around)

Sophie

I never said you had to abandon her. All I wanted was for you to at least talk to her about it. Because if you don’t I will. I’ll remind her of just how bad her temper can get. Just how little it takes to set her off. I’ll remind her of her birthday when I was ten. When she gave me that stupid $650 dollar ring! Who gives their niece a real emerald ring! She just wastes her money like an idiot!

Mom

Sophie, stop and listen to me for a minute! Stop ranting and listen! Have you ever thought about why she gave it to you so young? Did you ever think that her reason was more than just wasting her money? She wanted to give that ring to you, because she doesn’t think she’ll make it, she doesn’t think that she’ll be alive to give it to you later.

Sophie

So then because she might possibly die, she’s allowed to make you cry? She’s allowed to make you lock yourself in the guest room, shut off the light and cry for an hour?

(Mother stays silent)

I didn’t think so…

Mom

She might not be alive Sophie!

Sophie

Well than why doesn’t she do anything nice for Hiko? She didn’t give him some grand gesture. Why single me out? Why doesn’t she realize that I don’t want it! I don’t want her!

Mom

Listen to yourself Sophie, you sound despicable, and at the moment, I don’t see how we can be related.

Sophie

You’re right Mom, neither can I. I can’t believe that I’m related to someone without a backbone, someone who doesn’t even realize that her sister is the devil. Maybe I should go on that shopping trip… Maybe I could tell her how much I hate her there…

Mom

(Voice sounds broken.)

No, Sophie. Don’t.

(Sophie turns around)

Sophie

Give me one good reason not to. She makes you and Grandma cry, every time she opens her stupid mouth. She yells at D.B. for speaking! Give me one good reason not to make her stop hurting you, hurting them

Mom

Sophie, just please promise me you won’t.

Sophie

Sorry Mom, I just can’t, I won’t. I’m going to tell Aunt Susan, if it’s the last thing I do.

Mom

You don’t know Susan, the real Susan. My Susan, the one who used to sit on the school bus with the smelly kid, the one who used to make friends with the weird girl who had the scary scar on her cornea. The one who was everybody’s favorite. She didn’t used to be like this, Soph. And even when she expresses her feelings badly, now, everything she does now is from the goodness of her heart, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

Sophie

Really, because last time I checked, yelling at your 84 year old husband to “form a sentence” isn’t out of the goodness of anyone’s heart. Last time I checked, it wasn’t okay to yell at their family members. It wasn’t okay to be cruel! It’s not okay, and she’s got to realize that.

(Sophie walks off stage, leaving Mom behind looking miserable)

Act I Scene V

(Sophie stands I front of the mirror, she tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear and smiles. It’s Christmas Eve, and everybody is about to come over. Grandma checks on the roast beef, while Mom flips through the newest New Yorker magazine. Everybody looks relaxed. The doorbell rings and in walks Susan.)

Susan

Hello favorite niece o’ mine.

Sophie

Susan.

Susan

(Mom gets up and hugs Susan)

And hello dear sister!

Mom

Susan, where’s D.B.? Mom told me earlier that he was coming.

Susan

Oh, D.B.? He’s well. I left him with the help tonight. I figured he’d rather watch football than be with us.

Grandma

(Makes her way into the living room and wipes hands on apron)

Why wouldn’t he want to spend time with the family?

Susan

I don’t know, he took too long to reply. So, when are my beautiful son and his wife coming?

Sophie

Don’t forget Izzie.

Grandma

Oh I forgot to tell you Soph, Izzie got the flu. She won’t be here tonight.

Mom

Well than where will she be?

Grandma

I suppose off with Jamie’s mother.

Susan

(Grumbles)

She’s always with Jamie’s mother. I’m beginning to think that I’m never going to see my granddaughter again!

Mom

Susan, I’m sure you’re just overreacting.

Susan

Trust me, Elizabeth, I know that sometimes I’m wrong, but I know that I’m right about this.

(Susan makes her way into the kitchen. She takes one look at the dishes Grandma has planned and frowns. She takes a fork out of the drawer and tries some of the asparagus)

Mom, you completely ruined the asparagus! It tastes horrific!

Mom

I think it’s fine.

Susan

(Scoffs)

Shows how much you know.

Mom

I am not going to listen to you insult me, Susan!

Susan

I am not insulting you. If anything I’m insulting our Mother’s horrible cooking!

Sophie

Don’t speak about my Grandma like that!

Grandma

I think we all need to just calm down.

Mom

Susan, I want this to stop right now. We’re trying to have a nice Christmas here.

Susan

I’m probably wrong, and you can correct me on this like you always do, you little perfect- I’m not doing anything.

Mom

(Says with teeth clenched, and anger in her voice)

I’m not perfect! You always say that I am, but I’m not! And I do not always correct you!

Susan

There you go correcting me again!

Grandma

Is the asparagus really that bad?

Sophie

Of course not, Susan’s just being her mean, old self.

Mom

You know Susan; sometimes you really make it hard to be nice to you!

Susan

Oh please, I make it hard? I think it’s quite the opposite.

Mom

What have I ever done? Loved you, defended you? What’s so bad about that?

Grandma

Shush Sophie, Susan isn’t mean.

Sophie

No, she’s just terrible, dreadful, horrific, a nightmare, oh wait that sounds like mean to me!

Susan

I don’t need to take any crap from perfect little Elizabeth!

Mom

I am not perfect!

Susan

You’re everyone’s favorite! Nobody ever pays attention to me after they meet you.

Mom

Please, you were my role model. I looked up to you since I was little.

Susan

Well it sure never felt like it. All I saw was you getting an endless amount of attention, while I sat in the background.

Sophie

Susan, you are the most ignorant person I know! You don’t even realize a compliment when it hits you smack in the face! You also don’t realize what a terrible person you are! You leave your husband at home on Christmas Eve of all days! You run away from your own birthday, and you treat your family like crap! I know that you don’t see it, cause it happens the moment you leave, but you make my mother and my grandmother cry every time you leave the room! And that isn’t okay, because they’re my two favorite people in the world, and you aren’t allowed to hurt them anymore. So wake up and smell the roses, you’re a menace.

(Susan glares at Sophie, then storms out of the room angrily. The door slams, and you can hear the tires skid, and the car driving away. Sophie runs to the door and screams something to Susan from the doorway)

See, there, you’re doing it. You’re running away again. You’re just as cowardly as they are!

Mei Li Francis, Age 12 Grade 7, MS 51 William Alexander,

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