Rants & ramblings of the disaffected

Archive for the tag “relatives”

A Shoebox Stuffed With Memories

Somebody said once, “Always know where you’re from because you might not always know where you are going.” The older I get, the more sense that makes. I haven’t always been sure of my direction in life so it’s been an anchor of stability to me knowing where I’m from. I can’t imagine not being part of a family and having an identity. That would be like having a tree without the roots. I was fortunate to grow up in a small town, mine just happened to be in the north central part of Missouri. I and my two younger brothers grew up among all the trappings of an idyllic childhood. We went fishing, we rode bikes and horses, climbed trees and fell out of them, and caught frogs. I liked to draw, Andy played the piano, and Tom read books. Dad built us a club house in between working, mom also worked full time…at home resolving crises. I remember many things about growing up, most of them pleasant but all of them a vital part of the thread that gives our lives continuity. shoebox2

Memories are sort of like all those old photos arranged in disarray in a shoebox. You probably have one too in your home, stuffed full of old photos with frayed edges, probably sitting on the top shelf in the closet. Pulling that cardboard repository of black & white pictures down is much like taking a trip into the past in a time machine. Often we forget we have a box like this until we happen to run across it. Each picture is special and evokes warm memories as they’re pulled out one by one in no particular order to examine them. It’s a part of your life that you almost forget was there tucked away deep in the subconscious of your mind, buried beneath the demands of everyday life.

You don’t realize just how much time has passed until you stop and look back. Then you can only wonder where time went because life, like a river, is always flowing, almost imperceptibly but never static. Drifting along lazily, carried by the currents of time, we fail to realize that the landmarks are constantly changing around us as we drift on until one day we notice that the scenery on the bank has changed. Nothing appears as it used to be.

            Here are just a few of the snapshots in the shoebox of my recollections, presented in no certain order, just like you would find them.

You might say that my hometown was on the small side. Small but not insignificant, there is a difference. There are probably more people wandering around aimlessly in the mall closest to you than lived in my entire town. Population of 623, unless of course, you were approaching from the other side of town, then it swelled to 656. Everything in town was accessible by walking. We walked everywhere, to school, to the grocery store. There is something about the place that you grow up in that transcends geography. Dad taught history at the high school, which is how we came from southern Missouri to reside in the North central part of the state.

Memories from an early age remain, like living in the upstairs apartment above Miller’s Hardware on Main Street. Or the time my younger brother, Andy locked mom and I in the storage room. Main Street ran one block straight through downtown and was the epicenter of enterprise in the community. I recall the hardware store, a little cafe, a post office, and at one time we had two grocery stores, one across from the other. They were wonderful affairs with ceiling fans and the smell and creaking sound of wooden floors walked on. One store even had a walk in cooler for the perishable items; a popular place in the summer time. There was a doctor’s office, too. And who could forget Mr. Ware’s barbershop. This was the information exchange center of the metropolis. You could find out the latest news on anything going on in the town. Not always completely factual but certainly more interesting. I think they call it, “artistic license.” All the town notaries made periodic appearances, holding court to their fellow acquaintances. Dignitaries like “Tinker,” an affable and energetic gentleman, or “uncle” Jesse, the eccentric old man who was the unofficial town talebearer. He didn’t just tell the news, he pollinated it, much like a bee going from one flower to another, injecting his own flavor into it. Current events were disseminated along with tidbits from the past, archived from his memory, and retold for every one’s benefit. He was the self appointed chronicler of town history.

Our town had no shortage of memorable characters, one of which lived down the street. We called him the Fire Chief. I suppose he was that before he retired since I never actually saw him put out a fire. Mostly all he did was hunt or fish. Or entertain three wide eyed visitors with his stories. I can’t attest to their validity but they sounded authentic to us. No one would argue that I lacked discernment, but even I, gullible as I was, could detect that he was a bit eccentric. He did seem larger than life in our little mundane world. He was large and brash. Looking back now, he seemed like a caricature of Teddy Roosevelt. Some things added to his mystique. He often wore a handgun in public. He seemed to be an authority on anything you could ask. Or maybe your question was an admission of your ignorance, which meant that he knew more about it than you did or you wouldn’t have asked him in the first place. He certainly had an opinion on everything. He was undeniably an oddity, even professing to be fond of turtle soup. Yep. Our town had no shortage of characters.

Santa’s sleigh was actually an old Plymouth. I know this because I’ve seen Santa, or at least I think it was him. You see, Santa looked a lot like Tirey Patterson. In secret I surmised it really was him. He probably only wore the costume during Christmas so all the kids wouldn’t know who he was and pester him all year for toys. Now the North Pole really wasn’t so far away. Come to think about it, I never saw a polar bear or a penguin there but make no mistake I had been there on more than one occasion. In fact, I have made several pilgrimages. It was in the North though; north of our little town, about ten miles north to be exact. We called it Moberly. Moberly was a huge metropolitan area with a massive population of over 13,000 people. Once a year, about a week before Christmas, Dad would get Tirey to drive us there in his car. Before we ever got to the toy stores, we saw an awesome display of Christmas lights and decorations that only hyped us into a frenzy of Yuletide greed. We went from one department store to the next on our route. We didn’t shop, we plundered. Blackbeard and all his pirate crew never conceived such treasure.

It is a sad fact of life that before you are old enough to appreciate someone, too often they are already gone before you can express it. I can’t remember ever telling him thank you but I think he knew.

A lot has transpired since those days, most of which occurred while I sort of drifted along, propelled by the current of circumstance and chance. While I never could really decide about my future, I have to say that I’m fortunate to have a past.

Many other memories remain and new ones are being made every day. I’m a lot older now but when I go back to that old shoebox, I’m a kid all over again. The one thing I do know is that time is slipping away from right now, whether we realize it or not.

While it’s true that you can’t live in the past, you would be foolish to forget it.


Relative Discomfort – Part One

Oh those family reunions! Going to ours is sort of like the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not version of the family tree! Don’t you hate it when you get invited to one of these functions and you don’t know a soul? Feeling a little out of place, are you? Now don’t be bashful. They don’t bite …except cousin Matilda but we already took her dentures out. Let me introduce you.

Granny is the matriarch of our family unit. She’s starting to get old but she still loves to deer hunt. She even got them to mount her deer rifle to her walker but she has to remember to chock the wheel before she shoots. It’s getting harder and harder every year to hoist her into her tree stand, ever since they blew out the hydraulics on the forklift from the last time. Seems like the tree’s starting to lean a bit too. Used to some said she favored Jabba-the-Hut but that was a couple hundred pounds earlier. Now she’s starting to look a bit more like Godzilla-on-a-walker.

She still wears her hair up in a bun on top of her head. When her wrinkles start to sag in her face, she just tightens it down like a ratchet a few more turns until it takes the slack out. The bun is handy for keeping up with her age since she’s probably got more growth rings than a sequoia. You can tell her age sort of like a rattlesnake only instead of counting the buttons on her tail, you just count the number of buns stacked on top. Every bun stacked up counts another ten years past the big 5-0. It’s been hard for her getting around since we couldn’t afford one of those new mobility motorized wheelchairs. Uncle Zelton likes to tinker so he converted her zero-turn radius yard mower into a power-scooter you operate with a game controller. Worked real good too with one minor hitch that we liked to never figured out. Turns out those mean little neighbor kids down the road got a new video game and hot-wired it to their cell phone, then hacked into her controller. Suddenly she’s scooting across the yard all out of control like one of them racing games. Next thing you know she jumped the ditch and took off down the road. She passed old man Bert’s old pick up truck like a scene out of The Fast & the Furious . It took two deputy sheriff’s cars and a nail strip to slow her down. About the third time it happened we finally caught those little scoundrels in the act. We got suspicious when they got greedy and started selling tickets for their little show.

She’s doing better lately no thanks to Gramps. Seems he’s getting a tad more near-sighted. Granny was bent over in the garden picking peas and since Gramps can’t see so well …see, he was worming the cows and got Granny too by mistake. Now don’t be too hard on Gramps. It was an honest mistake since it’s getting harder to tell her backside apart from a Holsteins. Gramps feels terrible but Granny ain’t had no worms since.

Cousin Gina is here with her new boyfriend. You couldn’t have said that a couple years ago, she was sort of on the homely side. Now she’s got them boys all standing in line. What a difference a few years can make! That and something called puberty! I want to tell them to not to get too excited because in about ten years from now, she’s gonna’ start looking like her momma. She’s learning how to drive now. She’s done backed into that big pine tree twice already. You know the one I’m talking about, the lone tree in her backyard with all the bark knocked off? As soon as she puts it in reverse and the back-up lights come on, the squirrels get nervous.

We were all chatting around in a crowd like a bunch of magpies in a tree and the preacher walked up. Everybody had the good sense to quiet down but me. I’d been quiet for about three minutes and was just about to pop so I piped up and ratted them all out. “I’m collecting sermon illustrations for next Sunday, preacher,” I says. “Already got four of them, three alone just from Regina.” This explains why no one talks to me at these functions.

You meet all kinds of people at one of these things and you can never be quite sure if you know someone or not. Seems like good memory counts more than good intentions. Sometimes you don’t know so you just have to put yourself out there and hope for the best. It’s sort of like walking the plank. Once you get going, there isn’t a graceful way to back out. “Is that your wife,” he asked just making conversation. Well, some people you just can’t get a straight answer out of. So he up and spouts off some smart remark. “Her? Not sure. I think her names Gertrude …or something like that. We just met at Walmart thirty minutes ago. I found her on the housewares aisle scoping out a new pair of fuzzy pink slippers.” Smart-alek remarks like that one explains why he has to part his hair a little lower than he used to.

Like every family reunion, there’s kin folk you want to remember and some you’d rather forget.

Buster over there with those long sideburns likes to play the guitar. He sings too. When he’s not pretending to be Elvis, he’s also the Sheriff. He only works weekends because the county can’t afford to pay him full-time. Mostly he’s staked out at the local pic-a-pak store nabbing speeders if they’re from out-of-town. He’s also been know to whack a suspected felon over the head when they resist, sort of like Buford Pusser but without the club. He uses his guitar instead which makes him more like El Ka-Bong. If they still resist, he sings to them until they handcuff themselves and put themselves in the back of his patrol car.

The patrol car looks suspiciously like the hearse from the funeral home, since his brother owns that and the local Feed & Seed store. “We Plant stuff” is their catchy slogan. Last time he was in hot pursuit, he forgot to empty out the back end of the hearse and an empty coffin spilt out the back when he took off. Who would have guessed the local drunk was sleeping it off in that casket? When it hit the pavement, he sprung up out of that pine box like Lazarus-from-the-dead and bolted off down the street. Talk about raising the dead! The good news is that he promptly gave up all alcohol from that moment on and hasn’t missed a church service since!

Last week the sheriff wrote four citations for an expired tag and one for a dog with malicious bowels and an errant aim. Said dog allegedly missed his tire and got his pant leg instead. Turns out if you know the judge you can get a restraining order on a dog’s bladder. If that dog so much as hikes up his back leg within ten feet of him, he’s got authorization to shoot in self-defence.

The men were all gathered around trying to one-up each, behaving like a bunch of unruly monkeys at a poop-throwing fight at the zoo. Sometimes it’s just best to step away from a fracas or you might get hit with a projectile. The men folk were acting stupid again which may be redundant to use the word ‘men’ and ‘stupid’ in the same sentence. This is according to Martha who’s between semesters at the local junior college and is always eager to show off her education. She’s been educated so now she’s one of those militant feminists.

Hang around a bit. No one’s looking so I’m about to slip off and grab another helping of banana pudding. I can’t believe they haven’t posted a guard by the desert table. Too many cups of coffee are starting to tell on me so I’m going to take a little detour. When you come back there’s a few more of the kinfolk you’ve got to meet.

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