(I don't know these people; I just liked the picture.)
It occurred to me the other day that all the members of my family who knew all the family stories are no longer with us. I felt a sad sense of loss. My father and all his siblings have passed away. There were twelve of them altogether. The only person of that generation left is my Uncle O'Neal's widow, Aunt Bobbie. I don't remember all their names in order, but these are Daddy's siblings: The oldest was Wilburn Harold, then (in no particular order) came Thomas Dewey, Nellie Mae, Carlton Hubert (my father), Gladys Ruth, Ray O'Neal, Vana Lee, and Bonnie Doris; these eight all lived to adulthood. Mary Fay, Dora Fay, and Bertis Evelyn were either stillborn or died in the cradle. Robert Lee died in childhood, when he was about 12.
Most of the family stories I remember are mostly just snippets, like the names of two of Daddy's cousins, Big Dinner and Dirt Dob. I have no earthly idea what these two kids' real names were, because nobody called them by their given names. As far as I know I never met them; I believe they were older than Daddy. When the family got together for a meal, it was usually for a "big dinner" on a Sunday afternoon, and Big Dinner so looked forward to these gatherings, that's how he earned his nickname. Daddy said he never did know how Dirt Dob got her name. It must have had something to do with dirt-daubers, wasps who make their nests out of dirt and wasp spit rather than the paper-like nests of other types of wasps.
Another family event that occurred during my growing-up years, involved my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle O'Neal. Bobbie and O'Neal rented space out in the country for their mobile home. The people they rented from lived a couple hundred yards away. One day, Aunt Bobbie was visiting with them, and as she was coming back to the trailer she saw that there was smoke billowing out of the windows. She ran as fast as she could because she'd left her baby son sleeping at home, but by the time she got there and got him out, baby Ken had died. That was the first death among my many cousins.
After I graduated from high school and was working in my first library job, the trend for high school boys was to jack up the rear end of their cars. I think they thought it made the car look like it was slowing down (in case there was a cop in the vicinity). My cousin Duane, one of Aunt Doris and Uncle Oscar's sons, was driving his jacked-up car with a friend and, so the investigators believed, the wind caught the underside of the car and sent it out of control. Duane was killed in the crash, although I think his friend survived. This occurred while Duane's older brother Steve was in the army. Steve's army job was driving a forklift on a dock in Vietnam. When Duane died (I believe Uncle Oscar had already passed away), the army plucked Steve off his forklift and put him straight onto a plane headed for Atlanta. Daddy went and picked him from the airport, and on the way to Pendleton, they stopped at a motel so that Steve could take a bath and put on some clean clothes that Daddy bought for him. Steve didn't want to show up at his mother's house dirty and smelly. At the funeral, I was doing just fine until the organist started playing "Amazing Grace," one of my favorite hymns. I lost it then, but regained my composure until after the graveside prayers. Then I went up to Steve with the intention of saying something comforting, but I took one look at his face and he wrapped me in one of his bear hugs and cried, so of course I started crying again. Steve has always been one of my favorite cousins, and while we don't see each other very often any more, I always get a big, suffocating hug from him. He can really squeeze the air out of your lungs.
One summer, my Uncle Dewey, an Air Force sergeant, had to spend some time in Africa (don't know why and I was too young to care). Aunt Jessie (Uncle Dewey's war bride, from Scotland) and her four kids, Jim, Ena, Lee, and Debbie, moved from one family's home to another (many of Daddy's siblings and their families lived in the same general area) and stayed a week or so. My sister Carla and I were thrilled because we had someone to play with for a whole week! Mama told me years later that she overheard Jim and Carla talking, and Jim kept saying, "Say shit, Carla; say shit." They were no more than six years old so I'm sure Jim had heard his father use such a word and he knew it was bad, but he wanted Carla to say it anyway. I don't know if Mama reprimanded them or just laughed about it later with Aunt Jessie. Also during that visit, we lived in a house with no running water or indoor plumbing (though we did have electricity). Mama drew water from the well by the back porch to use for bathing, washing dishes, and probably doing laundry in her old wringer washing machine. When it came to bath time for us six kids, Mama and Aunt Jessie would fill up two #2 galvanized washtubs and make an assembly line: one mother would wash a kid in one tub then the kid would step over to the next tub for a rinse and drying. (I hope I was the first kid in that line; we had spent an entire day running around and playing in a yard with no grass, only dirt.) One day at dinner, we were gathered around the kitchen table, and Debbie, the youngest, had a hard time keeping quiet while my father asked the blessing. He was almost done when Debbie started yelling for "Peen-pun-jelly!!" You gotta admit, that was pretty articulate for a two-year-old.
I'll finish by telling you something small, but significant to me, that happened when I was six. We had moved into Pendleton from out in the country. It was Halloween, and Mama and Daddy decided that I was too young to go trick-or-treating. I guess I was feeling left out, so Daddy read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to me. I was fascinated, although not frightened. Adults should always read to their children, especially in such situations as that. I've been a reader all my life.
Well, y'all take care and hang on to your family memories.