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!!!” Well... 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.
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Scene: Halle’s Department Store on Cleveland’s west side circa 1960. The Brown family is on a Christmas shopping excursion. Dad and his 3 boys … Ricky (age 9), Jimmy (8) and Donny (7) are patiently waiting for Mom and sister Kathy (age 5) at the candy counter near the store’s main entrance … center stage. Dad is clutching a bag.
Jimmy – that sure is a beautiful scarf we got Mom for Christmas!
Donny – SURE IS!! She’s gonna love it.
Dad – Yes boys. Whether she wears it like a scarf … or a babushka … she’ll look beautiful!
Donny – and don’t forget the hanky!
Jimmy (authoritatively) – it’s a matching HAND … KER … CHIEF … Donny!
Dad (chuckling) - now keep this a secret okay? We want it to be a surprise.
Ricky – Kathy’s gonna blab. She’s a big blabbermouth.
Dad – She’s young Ricky. But just in case … let’s tell her we got Mom a RADIO! Okay?
The boys nod their heads enthusiastically in agreement.
Dad - Ricky … you take Kathy aside and whisper to her that it’s a secret but we got Mom a radio for Christmas.
Ricky – OOOOOH - kay … but she’s gonna BLAB!
Dad – SHHH! Here they come.
Mom and Kathy enter stage right, stroll up to the candy counter and everyone exchanges greetings. Ricky discreetly pulls Kathy aside. He puts his hand up to her ear and whispers to her. Kathy immediately begins fidgeting.
Kathy – MOM! They gotcha somethin’ but I can’t tell ya WHAT it IS ‘cause it’s a SECRET!
Mom – That’s okay Kathy. I like to be surprised. It’s Christmas.
Ricky, Jimmy and Donny – Be QUIET Kathy!
Kathy – It’s a SECRET … so I CAN’T TELL!
Mom – It’s okay Kathy.
Dad is stifling laughter.
Kathy (fidgeting uncontrollably) – It’s a SECRET! And I can’t TELL you ANY … THING … except … except … EXCEPT … that it SAYS … “You’ve been listening to KYW! K … Y … DUBBA YEEEEEEWWW !!”
Donny and Jimmy – JEEEEEEZ!!
Ricky – told ya.
Dad – himself
Mom – her “I like to be surprised” self
Ricky – his 9-year-old self
Jimmy – his 8-year-old self
Donny – his 7-year-old self
Kathy – her 5-year-old fidgeting blabbermouth self
like a thorny rose,
full of spite.
Hollies are most lovely
and deadly just the same.
Poinsettias will kill
the cat, they say.
The lights can spark
and tinsel can fly
up your nose.
For the holidays
are deadly, dear,
as you well know.
Rick's Books, Naked Sunfish Caviar
& Best Bites,
are available at:
book, Best Bites is available at:
Lulu.com & Amazon.com
Jimmy Mak's new book,
Daddies Shouldn't Breakdance,
is available at:
Amazon.com & CreateSpace.com
Elva Griffith's new book,
The Analysis of H Final,
is available at:
Electronic Sign on Spring Street
aNna (Wellman) rybaT
The Power of One
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Scene: The interior of a new, rented, Jeep Laredo … Grandpa Steven is at the wheel … driving north on Ohio State Route 3 to Great Gramma & Great Grandpa's 65th Anniversary party. Great Uncle Rick rides shotgun. Daddy Joel sits next to Great Grandson Solomon (his 8-year-old son) in the backseat.
VROOM!! ... the back window rolls down.
Solomon - how come the window won't go ALL THE WAY down?
Daddy Joel - back windows don't.
Solomon – WHYYYYYYYY?
Grandpa Steven - can you roll that window BACK UP please?
Solomon - WHYYYYYYYY?
Grandpa Steven (patiently yet a tad testy) – BEEE cause … the air conditioning is ON … and it’s loud … and windy …AAAAAAANNND …
Great Uncle Rick (interrupting matter of fact - ly yet mildly sarcastic) - because 8-year-olds have been known to get sucked out of the car… stuck to a semi-truck … and end up wherever the truck happens to be going!
About a minute of silence …
VROOM!! ... the back window rolls up.
Grandpa Steven – his mostly patient, driving grandpa self
Daddy Joel – his very patient Daddy self
Great Grandson Solomon – his 8-year-old, pushing the boundaries, inquisitive self
Great Uncle Rick – his subtly sarcastic, matter of fact Great Uncle self
Rear Window – its half down or half up? VROOM – ing self