Holiday Hoopla 2013
The Worly Building
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A Naked Sunfish Holiday Tradition
Cheer from Aunt Edith
late Uncle Wes lived with my Aunt Edith for most of his adult
life...although I’m sure it seemed like an eternity to him.
He worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore for thirty
years until he retired. He worked the night shift getting off
around 7 a.m. when he would come home for dinner. In the summer
when it was warm...and Baltimore can get very, very humid...he
would go to a movie matinee in an air conditioned theater and
sleep. If you knew my Aunt Edith you would assume what I did...even
as a child...and that was that Uncle Wes worked nights and went
to matinees to get away from his wife. He never said much. He
was a slight, wiry man of few words. And the few words he almost
always uttered were, “For Chrissakes Edith! SHUDD UPP!!”
man was almost incidental by nature. One time...after he retired
and he and Aunt Edith moved back to the Cleveland area...my brothers
and I were helping him put a refrigerator in a backyard shed because
there was no room for it in the trailer they were moving into.
After much jostling my brothers and I closed the shed door and
thought we were finished. From her perch (as supervisor of course)
Aunt Edith looked at the three of us with bewilderment and asked,
“Where the HELL is Wes?” And after exchanging confused
glances we heard muffled sounds coming from behind the fridge
in the shed. “MMMPPPHH!!! Hey!! HHMMPPHHFFF!!!” We
quickly opened the shed door, moved aside the refrigerator and
liberated Uncle Wes. My brothers and I were all embarrassed and
each, in turn, apologized profusely for our insensitive behavior.
Aunt Edith broke into the humility with a shriek of, “What
the HELL were you doing in there?” Which prompted Uncle
Wes to ... once again ... chant his mantra. “For Chrissakes
Edith!! SHUDD UPP!!” They were quite the loving couple.
Their last name was Crabtree. I am not making this up.
soon was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thirty years in the steel
mills and 2 packs a day of Chesterfield non-filters caught up
with him. The last time I saw him he was lying on the couch in
their trailer smoking the aforementioned brand of cigarettes,
quite literally coughing his lungs out ... or what was left of
them. “I TOLD him to quit those goddamned things years ago.
“ Aunt Edith offered for my contemplation. To which Uncle
Wes replied sarcastically (yep, you guessed it) “Cough cough
... For Chrissakes HACK! HACK! Edith!!! SHUDD UPPP!!!” These
were the final words I heard my uncle ever say and we all joked
at the funeral that these very words were more than likely chiseled
into his headstone.
few years after Wes passed, my brother and his new wife were having
their very first Christmas and invited everyone over...including
Aunt Edith. My parents were there along with my siblings and their
families. This included my brother Jim’s 9 year old adopted
son Matt. Matt the Brat was what my father called him. I thought
this surprisingly subtle for my Dad. If I knew where Matt is today...and
thank God I do not ... I would have to guess some one killed him
or he’s in jail convicted of several murders. I honestly
don’t care so long as he’s nowhere near me. So Matt
the Brat is playing with one of the toys some one so graciously
gave him and he broke it. This kid could break anything he got
his hands on. But in a moment of diplomacy my father (affectionately
known as Snook) said, “They don’t make anything any
good any more!!” To which...in the spirit of the season
Aunt Edith quipped, “You’re right Snook!! Everything
IS SHIT!!!” Wel l... happy holidays to you too Aunt Edith.
Inside my head I distinctly heard a voice from my past reply,
“For Chrissakes Edith!! SHUDD UPPP!”
know...there are lots of reasons to go through life believing
that “everything is shit.” There are days when it
certainly seems true to me. I have my days when Sartre’s
“Hell is other people” could easily be the thought
of the day. But...unlike Aunt Edith...I don’t want to spend
a big chunk of my life living alone in a trailer. And when I think
of this particular Christmas it strikes me how most of them blur
into each other...with the exception of a few. And this is one
of them I distinctly remember. As much as family...and sometimes
even friends ... can annoy a person ... especially at this time
of year ... I have come to realize that even some one like Aunt
Edith helped make me who I have become. I mean that in a positive
way. Imagine ... Aunt Edith’s negativity was so over the
top it MADE me consider the positive. I have no idea how she became
so bitter. My father did shortly before he died also. Yet they
both, particularly Snook, had a positive influence. They were
there. Unlike today when some people are not.
holiday season...regardless of which one you celebrate...take
the time to savor those around you...even if they drive you nuts.
They may not...for whatever reason...be there next year. And in
some strange way, which will surprise you, their absence will
make you miss them. I guarantee it. (a possible exception to this
uplifting message might be Matt the Brat) And you might consider
that next year YOU might not be here. So I suppose my holiday
message may seem bittersweet to most...but that’s how I
see it. And if anyone feels the need to take issue with my views
then I encourage you to speak up LOUDLY...’cause I’ve
got one thing and one thing only to say to you.
note: Aunt Edith died a few years ago. She was 90 years old. Her
neighbor called my Uncle Bruce and told him she had passed out
in her trailer. He went and got her up…asked if she was
alright and she said she was. He suggested she go to the hospital
to make sure everything was okay. She told him to go to hell and
get out of her house. He did just that…returning an hour
later and she was gone. Sad…surely. But she lived her last
day the way she lived every previous one. And despite her surliness
I will miss my Aunt Edith this Christmas. And I will remember
the one long ago when she informed us “Everything is shit!”
Rest in peace Aunt Edith. I can picture Jesus turning to her and
proclaiming, “Truly, truly I say unto you…For Wes’s
sake Edith…SHUDD UPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
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seem to speak
life becomes more
to grow old,
C. Mehrl Bennett
Once, when you were
So near the Sun
As with eagle's wings,
Another Icarus so you seemed,
On a late November day
When we found ourselves
In free fall
Along a nasty road
Best not taken
And the hapless journey
Has continued ever since.
I was in Fifth Grade
When the world went hush
Between each breaking bulletin.
Such a silence, such a stillness
Except for a lone girl
In the back of the classroom
Softly weeping into a grammar book
She hadn't opened since last June.
Tarnished armor and tattered tales
Cobbled into a mythic flame.
A legacy of images liberally mixed
With facts as well as fiction
In a Hollywood blender,
Half tawdry in its grandeur.
It was the first revolution
Broadcast live in Black 'n White
With wyrd sister Cronkite
Spinning a convoluted tale
Of mindless mad obsession
That still plays like the climax
Of Oz where the man behind
The curtain stands naked
Devote we were
In those golden days,
At prayer every week
In the school house basement
With our heads between our knees
In quiet meditation to
The holy missiles that
Moved like shadows
In our dreams.
Those were the wonder years
Of the American century
As it glimmered and flared
Like a bursting star.
And even you were like a nova,
Intense and brilliant
For one brief moment
Then quickly dimming
Like sullen embers
Turning cold against the night.
Once, after a flood,
I found an old Civil Defense
Barrel water logged and open
And spilling out its treasures
For life in Armageddon.
A bottle of stale water and
A pack of moldy crackers
And illustrated instructions
For turning the barrel into
A post-atomic toilet.
It was an age both different
And the same.
In a single day was
As cynics came to play.
It really wasn't the end of
Innocence for that had
Vanished long ago.
It was the end of something
The end of some conviction
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
I Am Curious (George) Yellow
Scene: It is the day before Thanksgiving. Rick is in the check out aisle of a very busy, local gourmet market. He is methodically placing his items on the belt in front of the attractive 30 something woman cashier. After his shopping cart is empty he picks up a bright yellow cloth bag with red handles. Both sides of the bag have pictures of Curious George. One reads “Curious George Takes a Job”. On the opposite side is “Curious George Rides a Bike”.
He hands the bright yellow bag to the bagger … a young, pretty, petite blond maybe (hopefully) 18 years of age.
Young, Pretty, Petite, Blonde Bagger (Smiling broadly) - I just LUUUUUUUUUUUUV your Curious George bag!!
Rick – Thanks! ALL the girls seem to really like it. That’s why I never shop without George.
The Young, Pretty, Petite, Blonde Bagger giggles loudly and infectiously.
The cashier gives her a mildly disapproving look … then smiles.
The Young, Pretty, Petite, Blonde Bagger finishes putting groceries in Rick’s bright yellow bag and hands it to him.
Young, Pretty, Petite, Blonde Bagger – You have a wonderful Thanksgiving now!
Rick – And Curious George and I wish you all the same!
The Young, Pretty, Petite, Blonde Bagger smiles from ear to ear … then giggles even louder and unabashedly.
Rick – his shopping self
Cashier – her attractive 30 something demure self
Young, Pretty, Petite, Blonde Bagger – her unabashed, infectious, smiling, giggling, maybe (hopefully) 18 year old self
Curious George – his job taking, bike riding, babe attracting self
Skating at MacArthur Mall
Yvonne and I married young … too young. I was 22, she just 20. But back in 1974 there were few options available. Living together was still a pretty radical notion, not just with family’s perceived immorality, but landlords were not entirely enlightened either. And believe me, there were plenty of times during the wedding planning we at least talked about eloping. I was graduating from college the week before the ceremony, and Yvonne had another year of school. To be honest … we needed the wedding gifts … the loot. Neither of us had household items and we went into the whole thing pretty naively. When we left on our honeymoon we didn’t even have our own apartment in Columbus.
Love you know.
Fortunately, two epiphanies made me feel better about 6 weeks into our marriage:
- I was pretty sure … despite family tensions … I had married the right woman.
- I soon realized being married was a LOT better than getting married … empowering really.
The only genuine conflict with epiphany #2 was the fact that no one … and I mean NO ONE … was a bigger expert on marriage than 20 year old, single, never been hitched … friends. They were … for the most part … incredibly annoying with their so-called advice and “you can have sex any time you want” comments. But time has a way of leveling the playing field. And by that I mean this.
Most of those friends are divorced now … some TWICE!
The thought still makes me smile.
Yvonne and I are the oldest of our siblings and obviously the first to marry. There were precedents to set for those younger brothers and sisters that first year of matrimony (what a horrible word). The wedding had been in early June. So, the first really BIG line in the sand was … you guessed it … Christmas.
Many, many women believe what I consider a Norman Rockwellian myth. That being … they have babies, their babies have babies, etc. and EVERY holiday … EVERY SINGLE ONE … the entire procreation chain … shows up at Mom’s house on the specific day at the specific time to be determined by said Matriarch. Amish aside, I’m convinced this rarely, if ever, happens anywhere, any time except on the Hallmark Channel. And if it DOES ever happen I’m betting the holiday is a tense one indeed.
We were very poor that first year of marriage. I was driving a bus part time for the Easter Seals School, giving guitar lessons when I could, and delivering pizzas at night. Yvonne also had 2 or 3 part time jobs (including answering the phones at the pizza shop), all the while going through her senior year of college. So at first we considered skipping Christmas altogether. But the only married couple we knew (they were a little older and yes … are now divorced) convinced us to celebrate, get a cheap tree and throw ourselves into it as best we could afford.
It was excellent advice.
Yvonne and I then told our respective families that Christmas Day, Christmas Eve … all the family holidays really … were off limits. We’d be glad to celebrate the weekend before or the weekend after the actual holiday. But we were going to celebrate our first Christmas just the two of us … with our dog Daisy … and the cheapest Christmas tree we could find. The last thing I wanted to do was spend the entire holiday driving around Ohio to accommodate families. And I figured if we didn’t do this from the get go it would just get harder every year.
Of course it proved to be a not too popular decision … and hardly put parents in the “Christmas Spirit”.
But you know what? Everybody got over it … or at least kept the complaining at a lower decibel level … after a while.
So we got ourselves a scraggly little tree … one that Daisy… our pooch … tried to lay under every time we were gone … knocking it on its side each time. My mother donated some old decorations for the cause. And on Christmas Eve we exchanged small gifts and reveled in marital bliss. Christmas Day we ate Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Then we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” on our small, black and white television … Daisy sleeping soundly under our scraggly tree.
This was our very first Christmas together. And it’s one of the very few I remember vividly … and with a genuine fondness. Another one I recall involves Aunt Edith. But I remember THAT year for other reasons!
2013 marks our 40th Christmas. For different reasons, we will again spend it together … just us two … along with our pooch Henri. And both of us have realized that all young couples go through this “staking out your own holiday traditions”. The sooner the better … especially if … unlike us … you have children.
As for my epiphanies of long ago … I still realize being married is a LOT better than getting married.
And on Christmas #40 … I am very, very sure … I married the right woman.