Duschinsky Family Reunion, 2013

my cake for Duschinsky family reunion

I kept this on the down low.  I’m a Duschinsky.  Yes, that’s right, if not for a name having too many letters on the marquee in Vaudeville days, I too would have, could have, should have,  been–a Duschinsky.  A Duschinsky just like my cousins.

And now I was headed to a Duschinsky family reunion.  That is what the invitation said.  I started to reveal the information to my friends in the weeks and days before.  At book club, I announced my plans for the up coming weekend: “I’m a Duschinsky,” I said out of the blue—the way I say most things, no segue necessary.  And, this Saturday, there is a HUGE and I do mean HUGE Duschinsky family reunion.    “Duschinsky, it’s great,” Donna said.  Then she started laughing, “You would have been Fredrica Duschinsky, which sounds like Russian royalty.”  Yep, Fredrica Duschinsky would have been a mouthful.   We are Hungarian.  As my father told me, quite the opposite of royalty, we’re gypsies.

Duschinsky first cousins in the 1960s

Duschinsky first cousins in the 1960s


As the days get closer to this party, I am filled with fear.  My brother isn’t going.  He is the one I turn to ask who they all are.  “What’s that one’s name, Alan?”  “That’s Dutchie’s daughter Barbara, your first cousin, Fredde.”  “Thanks, Alan.” Not that he is  able to attend and be my crutch.   He knows their names and stories and whether they are first or second cousins.  I won’t have my bodyguard, my father.  I’d stay glued to him as a child at these functions, his cigar smoke the oxygen that filled my lungs.    Clinging to my dad made it safe in this boisterous group.   My friends acted very interested and kept asking questions.  “Are you excited about your Duschinsky reunion?” Libbie asked.  “Uh, sure” was my trepidatious answer.

When the morning arrived, I ended up sobbing in my bathroom.  The kind of crying where you can’t catch your breath.  It’s just too soon after my father’s death.  Seventeen years.  But still too soon to face the big family that sort of scared me as a child.

I couldn’t back out because my cousin Norma, who was throwing the event, had just reminded me that this was my idea.  It was?  I guess.  She also reminded me that my first line when I called her out of the blue was, “No one died.”   I phoned to gather information for a story about childhood Seder dinners at my Aunt Celie’s house.  In our conversation, I told her about the movie I made about my dad and said all of us cousins should get together and have a screening.  And now, cousins were flying in from all over the country for this occasion.   Four generations.  Here I am, trying to gather myself together to face a room full of relatives whose names I might not know, and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter because half of them have reinvented their lives by changing those names.   I was fearful about the cousin that was a bitch to me as a child.   How was that going to play out?  I have zero social anxiety, usually.  I will walk into a Hollywood party and just schmooze.  I’m fine with it.  Or let’s say a school reunion.  I’m fine.  Why is this so different?  Why is this night different than all other nights?  The Seder question passes through my mind.  Because the rock star of my life is missing from the equation.  My dad.  My rock.  My hero.  The life of all parties.  Missing, permanently.

On the long drive to Ventura, we pick up on the spot we left off on our last vacation drive of Keith Richards’ audio book.   Smoking some primo hashish with “Akhmed the dealer” in Morocco was starting to sound like fun.  I’m transported back to 1967.  I could fully envision what I looked like dressed in full hippie regalia, just as I had shown up to Duschinsky family functions in my past.   My husband, Michael had warned me about food before we left.  “You should think about eating first.”  He knows how particular I am.  I flash on the e-mail that has everyone’s name and next to it what food they are bringing.  Jell-O shots are mentioned.   Uh oh.  He’s right.

“You have arrived at your destination,” the navigation woman announces in our car. And, I should add, the woman my husband listens to much more than me.   I walk in carrying the desserts and a sea of Duschinskys come into focus.   At least 60 of them, which later grew to 80.   One by one, I hug a relative, trying my hardest to remember who they are.  I see the dreaded girl cousin and open myself up warmly with a huge smile.  It doesn’t disarm her.  She is almost friendly at first, but then quickly dismissive.  Some things never change.  To me, she is still the cooze who would steal my brother away to play on the red anthills in my grandmother’s modest backyard.   I suddenly feel 8 years old again.

First cousin photo, 2013

First cousin photo, 2013

I put chili in a plastic bowl.  I’m about to eat a spoonful when Norma warns me it’s Antelope meat.  I am fearless with food but not in the mood and throw it back in the crock-pot.   Turns out, Norma’s husband is a hunter.  I notice decorations on the wall.  Animal heads.   I can’t help but think of a “Tales from the Darkside” episode I was in, where hunters kill me for sport.  I grab some chicken chili instead.

This house of Norma’s is filled with cousins of all ages bearing the names of our forefathers and mothers.  Lots of Melanie’s and Rosie’s, including the stunning Chesapeake Bay retriever we have just been introduced to, also a Rosie.  My husband and I share a look.  We had just thought of naming our new kitten Rosie because she sports a mustache.  Long story short is that my father used to tell people he had two sisters who shaved, so he bought them razors as gifts.  It was always a funny bit at parties.  Hence the thought to name the cat after one of my aunts who shaved.  Suddenly, in walks our own “Blue Jasmine” character, straight out of Woody Allen’s new film.  This cousin carries an attitude, a back story (about us), and a new name to go with her superiority.  We are reintroduced.

Dutchie’s daughters, now in their seventies, tell me I look just like my mother.  I say “Yes, except when I say fuck, then I look just like my dad.”  And I really punctuate the word FUCK.  It’s loud and Maurice Duke of me, and there is nothing I like more than channeling my father.   Superior Cousin actually flinches when I say fuck.  Then my two cousins say to me something I never knew.  “Swearing is a Duschinsky thing.”  They tell me everyone in the family swears.  The classy one looks at us and tells us she doesn’t.  We believe her.

Another cousin asks me about Arlise.  “Well, where is she? I haven’t seen her.”  I scan the room looking for someone who might be named Arlise.  Then this cousin looks back at me like I’m on crack and tells me I was just talking to her.  She points at a redhead.  I’m so confused, she just told me her name was Nikki.  Yes, the cousin explains, she changed it from Arlise to Nikki.  Of course she did, everyone in this family changes their name.  Funny thing is they keep Duschinsky.

All day I kept suggesting to Norma that maybe this was not a conducive atmosphere to have a screening.  She insisted, only asking the first cousins to sit in for the movie.  Finally, I had my backup with me—my dad—on the big screen.    A few were talking so loudly that the others couldn’t hear.  I felt like I had just taken some Duschinskys hostage.   The cousin I bond with most, Lori, tried, but failed, to shut the others up.   I kept thinking fuck ‘em…which, coincidentally, happens to be the title of my movie!!


A screen shot of the title of my film about my dad

A screen shot of the title of my film about my dad

Highlights of the day– to wrap this story up– now that I’ve taken you hostage:

While towering over a few of my cousins, which I get off on (I’m five feet),  Norma looked UP to me and asked how I got so tall.

During a group photo of second cousins, around thirty odd people, instead of saying cheese, in unison, they said, “Bullshit!”…those Duschinsky’s.  It’s in our DNA!

Talking to my cousin Russell, a favorite of my dad’s, he told me on a third date with his wife of now 25 years, my dad looked at her and said out loud “She looks like a good humpa!”  Which translates from his New York accent into humper.  Meaning a good lay.  HELLO, Welcome to the Duschinsky family!!! Meet your Uncle Duke!!!  Russell hadn’t found out yet if she was or wasn’t, but it seems my dad called it right.

To sum up, it was a great day.  Turns out, Superior Cousin dropped the attitude that was possibly a social phobia, not unlike me or even my mother (reserved and quiet) in this big clan.  We Duschinskys are all pretty great—even if we do swear a lot!

Below will be the two video’s on YouTube of the Tales from the Darkside that you are NOT obligated to watch.  It’s about a twenty minute commitment.  I brought two desserts to this reunion.  One is just the stand by Ralphs white sheet cake and you just can’t go wrong with it.  The bigger hit of the day were the small variety of cupcakes I got at Susie Cakes in Brentwood.

Welcome poster at Duschinsky reunion of my favorite Aunt Rosie!  She's a Duschinsky!!

Welcome poster at Duschinsky reunion of my favorite Aunt Rosie! She’s a Duschinsky!!

My dad, with me in the room!!

My dad, with me in the room!!

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15 Responses to “Duschinsky Family Reunion, 2013”

  1. tracy says:

    Wonderful writing Fredde…!!!!
    Wish I was there to video the reactions of your cousins to your fantastic film about your Dad…
    What an honor for them to have seen it together….
    So proud of you ….

  2. pauli says:

    Thank God for another slice of your life. Nothing quite warms the cockles at 3:30am than reading about your hilarious adventures in family reunionville. So spot on that I began to think that we all have the same cooze cousin no matter what family we start off in.
    Pass the antelope chili and a few jello shots please.

  3. robin says:

    hahaha! loved the story, as always, though reject completely the adjective ‘classy’ as applied to the cooze cuz. while reading it, i think about what i will say and which parts inspire commentary. (ALL OF IT) but then I couldn’t stop laughing at pauli’s comment!

  4. Alan says:

    Next Duschinsky reunion at your house.

    And you really thought you could quiet a room full of Duschinskys? Not possible.

    Sorry I couldn’t make it.

  5. Hoov says:

    You rock Wakko, you Rock!!!! Love the tale[ …] and will keep it clean.. Way cool. the write is rock!!!!! Hoov

  6. Kris Duke says:

    OMG!! I was laughing out loud! Of course, I personally know the cast of characters. Sorry I had to miss it and the antelope chili!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Julie Phalen says:

    I think this was your best story yet!! Loved it.

  8. Freddie,
    That grabbed me and gripped me. I don’t know how the fuck you do it every time. This was one of my favorites. It’s inexplicable. Thanks again for doing what you do, which is being you. So You.

  9. Augieduke says:

    Fuck yes

  10. Mumy says:

    Thank you for this one, Fredde. It’s real good! A heartfelt intense reading romp as usual. I love your boldness and just about everything else about you.

    I remain,
    your mumy

  11. Peter Duschinsky says:

    Who the hell are you guys??? (yes, swearing is a Duschinsky thing!)

    I didn’t even know you existed. Somebody please get back to me, I’m in a shock. (…and I am a real Hungarian in love with Gypsy music all my life).

    Has any of you heard of me in Canada, or of Peter Duschinsky in the UK, or the various Duschinsky rabbis from Hungary? Are we actually related???…

    If you can, please get back to me, as I said I’m in a shock.

  12. Esther Chanie Dushinsky says:

    Chanced upon this blog post when researching the Dushinsky family. Do any of you have any resources or family trees? I am trying to piece it all together and have many gaps.

    Please post here or email me at estherchaniephoto@icloud.com


  13. Karen Keating says:

    Good morning Freddie! Best way to start the day is with your writing!!Always makes me laugh!!! Happy New Year Beautiful!!!!

  14. Barbara duschinksky stone says:

    Great story Fredde I just relived that day and it was great after one shitty year we do have and did have one great family one that all of us could be very proud of we are what lots of families are not today thank u all for being part of it love u all

  15. Paul Anthony Duschinsky says:

    Hi all you other Duschinsky’s. Your reunions sound like ours, must be the name, LOL. Our ancestors were from Prussia and migrated here in the 1880s. We would love to hear from some of you and your history.

    God Bless and Keep Smiling

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