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!!!”
Wel l... 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.
note: Aunt Edith died a few years ago. She was 90 years old. Her
neighbor called my Uncle Bruce and told him she had passed out in
her trailer. He went and got her up…asked if she was alright
and she said she was. He suggested she go to the hospital to make
sure everything was okay. She told him to go to hell and get out
of her house. He did just that…returning an hour later and
she was gone. Sad…surely. But she lived her last day the way
she lived every previous one. And despite her surliness I will miss
my Aunt Edith this Christmas. And I will remember the one long ago
when she informed us “Everything is shit!” Rest in peace
Aunt Edith. I can picture Jesus turning to her and proclaiming,
“Truly, truly I say unto you…For Wes’s sake Edith…SHUDD
by Rick Browm
I’ve never heard someone say
“Today is the first day
of the rest of your life.”
at a funeral.
my optimistic friends
know when to keep
their mouths shut.
Hmmm # 18
“Nothing lasts forever”.
But if forever
is not forever
what is it?
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by Sue Lense
Holiday Hoopla XIX
Easton Town Center
by Rick Brown
by Rick Brown
One Christmas Eve
When Santa got too merry,
He fell off the pogo stick
(or so we were told).
Strange holiday, indeed.
Like snowflakes melting
Into streaks across
A muddy street.
Grandma died at
The Five and Dime
While next in line
of almond cookies
and pungent whiffs of pine
in a fire
On New Year's Day
(smoke hung thick
in the frosty air.)
Pretty papers, pretty lights,
All shimmering in the night.
(which is why I never
understood the phrase.)
So holy bright
(if only the drummer boys
would be quiet.)
Like the slick and icy hue
Of snow bathed red against
The sun on Winter's eve.
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The Non Fiction
Theater of the Truly Mundane
Scene: The interior of a small mini bus. Eleven
senior citizens, predominantly ladies and a couple men, sit chattering
away. Rick (the driver) sits alone in the driver’s seat,
hands on the steering wheel. They are on a lunch outing to an
historic, old restaurant outside the city.
Lady # 1 - We’ll be back before 4 won’t we? I don’t
want to miss the ballgame. Damned Yankees. Rangers gotta beat
the damned Yankees!
Senior Lady # 2 - But bingo is at 4. Aren’t you going to
Senior Lady # 1 - I told you I’m watching the BALLGAME!
Senior Lady # 3 - I might get the Rueben. You guys getting the
Senior Lady # 4 - I might.
Senior Lady # 5 - Doesn’t the river look beautiful this
time of year? And there are some fishermen!
Senior Lady # 1 - I wouldn’t eat anything that came out
of that river!
Senior Lady # 6 - I might get the Rueben too.
Senior Lady # 7 - What a pleasant little town!
Senior Lady # 1 - Where is everybody? Remember when people
used to walk around? Nobody walks around anymore!
Senior Lady # 3 – Yeah! Nobody walks around anymore.
Senior Lady # 1 – Nobody!
Everyone is quiet for a brief moment.
Senior Lady # 7 (to Senior Lady #
1) – Did you take your walk this morning?
Senior Lady # 1 – No. I did go down for coffee
Senior Lady # 7 – So, how was the coffee today?
Senior Lady # 1 – I didn’t drink any.
Senior Lady # 2 – I’m still surprised you’re
not going to bingo.
Senior Lady # 1 – I told you I’m watching
There are a few more moments of silence.
Senior Lady # 8 - You know…Christmas
will be here before ya know it!
Senior Lady # 9 – Christmas doesn’t mean anything
Senior Lady # 1 – Nothin’!
Senior Lady # 4 – Just toys and food!
Senior Lady # 3 – Yep! Toys and food.
There is another short interlude.
Senior Lady # 1 (to Rick the driver)
– You sure we’re getting back by 4?
Rick – Yes ma’am. We’ll be back in plenty of
Senior Lady # 2 – Bingo’s at 4.
Senior Lady # 1 – How many times do I have to tell you?
I’m watching the ballgame! If you hear screaming
coming from my apartment you know the Rangers are beating the
damned Yankees! Yankees have won too much! It’s
somebody else’s turn.
There is yet another moment of silence.
Lady # 3 – I’m definitely getting the Rueben.
You guys getting the Rueben?
Senior Ladies # 1 - # 9 – themselves
Silent Senior Men 1 & 2 – themselves
Damned Yankees – The Damned Yankees
The Rueben - itself