Da Fam-ly Part I

Posted in Life in general, Writers at 9:59 am by Marion

I’m not saying my family is nuttier than anyone else’s … but I do believe the mixed heritage, personality types and circumstances have created singular characters, American style.

As I’ve just returned from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where many of us came together for Christmas at my Grandmother’s home, with great-grandchildren, cousins and crazy uncles in attendance, it seems fitting to take a look at them.

So today, FD starts a series on non-essential holiday posts presenting these personages.

Today, it’s my cousin. We’ll call him Chuck (his name is withheld to protect the innocent.)

Growing up, we’d meet several times a year at my Grandmother and Papa’s home for vacations — Christmas, weekends, and the epic, much-awaited, summer vacation.

Understandably, I was a bit precocious and inclined to be “good.” (I learned early that if I “behaved,” the grown-ups would leave me alone.)

Chuck, on the other hand, was a time bomb, a live wire, a walking “dare me.” Once when I first got my driver’s license (I was two years older) he took my car out and as we rushed down one of those incredibly steep hills leading to a valley, he thought it would be fun to pop the transmission into 2nd gear. At about 50 miles per hour. I thought it was a bad idea, but he did it anyway … fortunately, we didn’t leave the engine there on Elk Spur Road.

One Christmas a few years later, he thought it would be a good idea to go driving around and pop into a honky-tonk type bar beside the railroad tracks, where he orders and leaves with a tall-boy can of beer.

Then there were the mudball fights with our other, rival cousins: I was about 10 or so and this cousin, from another side of the family, comes by … of course we assault him with mudballs, but the next thing I know, he’s squealing back up to the house, and the adults are calling us in.

“Who hit Morris (not his real name)?” they asked us.

“It’s just mudballs. We were throwing them around.”

“Someone hit him with a rock,” they said. I had no idea what they were talking about … we were all in trouble, nonetheless. Later Chuck tells me he put rocks in the mudballs.

There are too many stories to tell, but let me end with this one, recounted to me by my sister this weekend:

At Grandmother and Papa’s house, we only had one rule … one real rule … and we weren’t supposed to break it. Just one rule. And that was No matches in the barn. That’s where Papa kept hay for the animals.

So Chuck decides to have a haunted house in the barn. And what does he do? He makes a scarecrow, stuffs it with hay … and uses firecrackers for his eyes.

Yep, we got in biiiiiig trouble for that one.

Our childhood days were magical at Grandmother and Papa’s house. And now, it’s been more than 40 years since we played together, building dams at the creek, spending chilly nights in the cabin Papa built us.

Papa died of lung cancer in 1976 and my grandmother is 92 years old.

Today, I’m a writer … one of the last of the Great Rule Makers.

And what about my crazy, rule-breaking, mud-ball loadin’, fire-cracker-lightin’ cousin?

Today, he makes his living as … a lawyer.


  1. "Chuck" said,

    December 30, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Great story Cuz. Reminds me of the song: “Nights I can’t remember, friends I’ll never forget” . . . . .

  2. Marion said,

    December 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Indeed, Chuck … it also reminds me of car rides I wish I could forget, as well as some I hope I never forget … weddings … and eccentric family members like, well, us ….