Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Summer Memories

I didn't get much work done yesterday, not with the bloody nose and  the roofers making all kinds of noise. I did better this morning since I  slept in and they finished up their work and went their way without  waking me up. Tells me just how tired I was from yesterday's sturm und drang. Last night was a little better.

During  all the hullabaloo I talked to my Uncle Bob and to Beanie, who was busy  wrangling her fiance's kids going somewhere. Beanie got the beads I  sent for her Xmas ornament pattern I sent her weeks ago and Uncle Bob  wanted to tell me he got the letter I sent him in January about family  stories for a history of our family for my boys and their families. He  kept forgetting to mention it when he'd talked to me every other time he  called to let me know he got my letter.

Families are like that,  focused on their own families and letting the satellites of their  extended family get lost in the noise and busy-ness of everyday life.  It's all right. I'd forgotten I wrote everyone and he is the only one,  after 9 months, that has responded at all; and I wrote a lot of letters  asking for family anecdotes and histories. At least he called. That's a  point in his favor, but then Uncle Bob is -- and has always been -- my  favorite uncle. My next favorite uncle would've been Uncle Homer, who  was really a great uncle and Grandpa May's younger brother. That's a  story for another time.

I got a call from my cousin Ellen last night and we chatted. She finally finished reading Among Women,  which is a big thing because Ellen doesn't read much. She does read my  letters and has read almost everything I've had published, but not my  books . . . until now. She has a Kindle and really loves reading on  that, which is a good thing. Even better, she loved the book and asked  when the sequel is going to be published. I'm getting to it and will  have it done, along with 2 other books, soon. I don't have a specific  date since work and preparations for the holidays has taken a big bite  out of my free time.

Ellen had a surprise for me. Aunt Lois, her  mother and Uncle Bob's wife (it works out like that) gave Ellen a file  full of papers she had kept from Ellen's younger years. She went through  the bible school papers and old grade cards (oh, the horror!) and found  an old program from one of our beauty pageants. It was the year she was  Miss Iraq and wore the costume I designed and made for her.

Every  year, Hoity-Toity and I went to spend a month up at Uncle Bob's place  in the country and every year we put together a beauty pageant. It was  better than playing school with Cutty as teacher, believe me.  (The  nicknames were the way Uncle Bob, and Grandpa May, his father, thought  of us.) Cutty was just so bossy. Okay, it was Cutty's idea to have a  beauty pageant, and the year Hoggy's (that's Ellen) program indicated is  the first year we had the pageant in the 2-car garage Uncle Bob built.  We took it over, curtaining off areas for dressing rooms and a stage,  and did it right. It was a far cry from the cobbled together pageant we  had the first year when I was runner-up.

All during the month of  our sojourn in the country, we searched the nearby local dump for glass  bottles and jars (and the thickets for berries) to clean up and use as  prizes. It was a very big deal. Mom and Aunt Lois got into the spirit of  the thing and bought cocktail dresses and formals from Goodwill and  gave them to us for our pageant. I took one of the dresses, a bright  golden cocktail dress with yards of skirt, and made what I thought would  indicate an Iraqi national costume -- an I Dream of Jeannie kind  of harem costume. I was 9 or 10, so give me a break. Hoggy had long  honey gold blonde hair and I fixed her hair up into a high ponytail,  complete with a golden mini crown to hold her hair. Some of the dress  went to make a little bra and vest and the rest to make her sheer  bloused harem pants. Uncle Bob put his foot down when I was trying to  figure out a way to put a big jewel in Hoggy's navel. She won best  national costume that year, and I won Miss Universe.

Neighbor  girls, friends of my cousins, got into the act and some even had their  costumes and formals made for them while we cobbled together our own or  wore dresses from Goodwill. It was a very big deal that got bigger every  year until we stopped having the pageants. I suppose we stopped because  we were teenagers and didn't spend that month in the country any more.

Btw,  Hoggy is Ellen's nickname, which is short for Roadhog, and Cutty is one  of Laura's nicknames; the other is Gassy, for obvious reasons. Uncle  Bob nicknamed everyone. I was Pearl; Beanie was Dick Tracy or Dick; Mike  was Pickle; Aunt Lois was Hatchet Face; Bobbi Jean was Leaky or Black  (we called her the S. S. Leakybottom); Gayle was Shepherd; and I can't  remember if he gave Hoity-Toity and The Mushroom nicknames, but you can  see I've carried on the tradition.

Listening to Ellen read off  the names and events was a trip back to those times. Images of those  summers swam through my mind and reminded me how much fun we all had. We  had little spats and did the things cousins always did (like deviling  each other), but mostly they were golden days and star-filled nights  when we rarely watched television or sat still for more than a few  minutes unless we were making something for our pageants. To see us now,  you would never know we had been so close. I miss those days and that  feeling of family.

Uncle Bob asked me if I would eventually buy a  home up here and if I would ever move back to Ohio. I might buy a home,  but it will be here. I love the mountains. Even though I love my  family, some more than others, I doubt I could find a way to fit in with  them again, not like the way we were those summers as we busily put  together our pageants and scoured dumps and berry bushes. Some things  cannot be recreated. At least we have the memories, and there are a lot  of those, but I wonder what people would make of our homemade pageants  and the way we threw ourselves into the preparations. I guess it doesn't  matter, but I still wonder.

No comments: