Tuesday, October 09, 2012
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.