Take a small town in southern Alabama, and a young lady, just slightly out of step. Add gnarly family trees, entrenched traditions, and everyone living with skeletons in their closets - welcome to Gallagher. There one will find an extraordinary cast of insane characters. And, it could only happen in the South.
Are you ready? It's that time again. The Grand American Coon Hunt is upon us. (An annual event I mentioned last year.) Just next weekend, the nations largest field trial
for coon hounds and a qualifying event for the World Coon Hunt (who knew?) will be held in our fair town. So for three days ten of
thousands of coon crazy hunt'n fans with their trucks
some just rear'n to go,
some in fine form,
some showing off,
will put us on the map or enhance our Wikipedia page as the case may be.
My mother has been giving the grandchildren Christmas stockings since they were little. And, she continues the tradition. Although, since her home does not have a fireplace, she hands out decorated bags filled with goodies. And, they are random goodies to say the least. Now, I have mentioned as a child, Santa brought us a combination of oranges, shelled nuts, hard candy, firecrackers, and sparklers. I can always remember getting the same thing every year. I guess it was our family tradition.
I have never really paid attention to what the grandchildren had in their stockings at Mama's. I did, however, note that there was always much laughter and merriment when the kids went through them every year. And, this pleased my mother a great deal. This year my daughter held up a package of large plastic paper clips, "Look, paperclips." My 16 year old niece laughed and chimed in, "I got some also. Look at mine." "That's a useful gift," I said being honest. All the grandchildren rolled in laughter. (Now you have to remember they range in age from 10 to 26.)
Then my daughter looked up, "Wait a minute, we've been upgraded." With that she held up a can of Pringles "No way," my 10 year old nephew chimed in as he looked in his bag. "And, look, Post-it Notes," added my niece. The conversation went on.
When we got home, I commented to my daughter that I thought paperclips were a practical thing. She just started laughing. "Mama, we get the same thing every year - paperclips, Post-it notes, miniature lint rollers, and usually Animal crackers. The Pringles was a surprise." "So that's why y'all were laughing so?" "That's what is so funny. It's the same thing every year. Do you know how many of those paperclips I have at home?" "Well, that's because it's the same Santa I had growing up." "You got plastic paper clips and lint rollers?" "No, those things weren't around in the 'olden' days." Then I told her about our stocking traditions as a child of oranges, shelled nuts, hard candy, firecrackers, and sparklers - every year. "Consider yourself lucky. Your Santa Claus doesn't shop at the Dollar Store. "Thank God for small favors!"
This may sound
like a "Bah Humbug" comment but so be it.
I was in
Wal-Mart early this morning with my (hopefully) last grocery list before
Christmas, trying to beat the crowd with 527 other ambitious folks having the
same idea. Everyone seemed to be friendly, even festive. Life was merry until I
was almost run down on the baking aisle by a woman in one of those motorized
shopping carts. And, then to add insult to (almost) injury, she commented that
I needed to move.
Now given that I
am always very careful to keep my buggy on the right side of the aisle. And,
when the aisle is crowded, try to stay as close to the shelves as possible, I
did not take her accusation well.
It is my
understanding that these carts are provided as a service by the merchant to
give adults with mobility challenges the ability to have access to their stores
- to shop freely. However, I take issue when they take this service as a
license to intimate. The "drivers" I deal with have this idea that with
the cart comes the God given right to control access to the aisle. All other
shoppers are to move - immediately. These motorized carts must have a force
field that require an additional two feet on either side.
And, while I am
venting, are you required to weigh at least 250 pounds to drive one of these
carts? At least in our town you must be. I have never a "driver"
weighing less. I definitely am in favor of the merchants providing these carts
for those in need. However, I think one should have to apply for andpass a test for a "Motorized Shopping
Cart" driver's permit and also a course in general manners.
OK, I've vented. To anyone I have offended I apologize. Meanwhile, does anyone know how to get tire marks off the side of one's pants?
thing you could not call my father's family at Christmas was
"stodgy". My Granny, Aunt Kat, Aunty, and Uncle Make enjoyed the
holiday like no other. And, I have evidence that backs up their tales in my father's 8mm movies of them prior to my own memories of Christmas in Wagram.
the traditional treats and sweets, southern holiday meal, and small town
festivities, they had a very unique tradition - stockings. But not just regular
Christmas Stockings, oh no. These were like none other I have ever seen or
heard about since. They would exchange names and spend the year collecting
"goodies" to fill the stocking - a ladies nylon stocking. Since these
stretch, by the time they were filled and ready for the big night, they would
be four to five feet in length and bulging with the "treasures" they
held. Each would be tied at the top with a piece of ribbon and a tag with the recipients name.
was the parade of everyone coming into the living room, one by one, carrying
(or sometimes dragging) their stocking before my Daddy's 8mm camera to be
recorded for posterity. This was a site to see. Imagine my very proper Granny,
my Aunt Kat with her Christmas corsage on her shoulder, my Aunty - her ever present Salem cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth, and Uncle Make
smoking his pipe (with the pack of Prince Albert in his shirt pocket).
fun really began when they sat down and began to go through the stockings and
open the wrapped gifts inside. Those prizes ranged from wind up toys (which
would immediately be put to a test on
the living room floor) to outrageous over sized boxer shorts (that would be
donned, over the street clothes, for an impromptu fashion show for the camera). The stockings were full
of an assortment of gag gifts, fruit, candy, toys, games, playing cards, cheap cologne, bathroom tissue, and other toiletries.
And always tied to the toe was some large wrapped package. The ceremony of
going through the stockings, opening the gifts, and commenting on each took a
while. Needless to say, a grand time was had by all.
my brother and I came along, we too had our own stockings and there was much
competition among the older adults to draw our names. We enjoyed the ritual and
found it great fun. But looking back on it, there is little doubt we never
could have enjoyed it as much as they did. I am so thankful for Daddy's home
movies of those special times. Especially the ones before I was born.
gathered at my Mother's for our family Christmas. My Mother, bless her heart,
took the entire week to stress over the meal. (She added Monday through Friday
because just stressing out on Saturday seemed marginal.) Now mind you, I only
have one sibling, and there are only four grandchildren with 1 significant other.
It hasn't been long since we have advanced to actually having a second
table to create the hierarchy of a "Big" table.
To hear Mama,
one would think she was serving the Queen of England and her court. Saturday
night I was on the way back from Charleston when I received a call from my DH.
"Please call your mother. She is not doing well." So I called her and
she was no worse than I expected. I reminded her that I had offered to help.
All she had to do was call me. "Well, it has just been one of those weeks.
So much has happened." "Anything specific?" "No, not
really. I just told Norma I had too much going on to play bridge this week. And, everything else would just have to wait. " I reminded her that I was bringing desert and would try to
be there a little early.
By the time I arrived on Sunday, my brother was already there and my Mother was all "a
twitter". I just looked at my brother. His response,"I offered to
help but she said she had it all under control." I went in the kitchen. My
Mother (who is 4 foot 8) was moving about at a brisk pace between the stove, the
pantry, and the 'fridge. There was an assortment of dishes already on the
counter. I could see macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, green beans, dressing, cranberry
salad, broccoli salad, and a whole turkey. "What can I do?" (Thinking most of the meal was ready and on the counter.) "Well, you can heat
the BBQ?" "BBQ?" "Yes, I haven't heated the BBQ, rice, or hash."
Ohh-Kay, I thought as I went to the refrigerator and
pulled out 3 pounds of meat and a quart of hash. By the time I got to the
stove, I had to move the pot of collards to make room for the hash and rice.
Then Mama said, "Oh, let me take the oyster pie out of the oven so you can
heat up the BBQ." "Good God, Mama. How many people are you planning
to feed? Last count there were only 9 of us." I want to make
sure everyone gets enough." "Well, I think you can consider that done. If anyone leaves this table hungry today, it's their own fault."
If someone walked
into my den this morning they would come to one of two conclusions, either we
are running a dog rescue or we are trying very hard to get our own reality
television program - neither of which are the case. However, we are greatly
outnumbered, even when all the humans are home, and I'm not going as far as to
say we are maintaining control.
daughter's Cocker, who spent last Christmas crouched in fear under the coffee
table has come out of his shell and this year has joined the fray. And, Ellie
has decided, as the only male, Sullivan needs to be her best friend. Her tactic is to
stay in his face with her little bobbed tail whirling in a fast blur. Sally,
our daughter's Golden, loves being here, like being at the grandparents, she
knows the rules are not as strict and the treats are generous. This being Abby's first
Christmas with house guests, she thinks it's one grand party. Thatcher, as the
elder of the bunch, just takes it all in stride.
Of course just
like having four year old children, they all want to play with the same toy. Everyone wants to sleep in the everyone
else's beds. And, that's fine until it's
bed time and Sullivan and Sally want to snuggle in their own place. They are
very thankful that Ellie and Abby have their crates, so there is peace at night.
And then there are the culinary issues - we have five pups on four different
diets so meal time is always fun. "Why does she have more than I do?"
(Because the people at Blue Buffalo said so.) "I don't get to eat in the
kitchen, why does he get to?" (Because he is your guest and you need to be
nice.) "I'm through eating and ready to go out now - right now." (We
need to wait until everyone is finished before we go out.)
Life is good as long as the natives are not too restless. However, I don't know if we have the forces to stay off a coup.
Hail, hail the
gangs all here and all Hell has ensued! Is anyone surprised? Uh, no. My oldest
daughter and her beau arrived this morning at 4:30 am after a twenty hour drive
east from Texas with their two pups, Sally and Sullivan. And, although I had
done my best to prepare Ellie for company. You know the talks: "Ellie,
your cousins from Texas are coming for the holidays and you need to play
nice." All that went in one ear and out the other when the back door
dogs running mad in our den - and a Christmas tree decorated with delicate
glass ornaments sitting by the back door. The four of us (humans) just tried to
manage the chaos. And, we were out numbered. The frightening thought was that
not only was the "fun" just starting, we still one to add to the
fracas - our youngest daughter had yet to show up with her pup Kennedy. With
six you get egg roll.
As I was putting
on my makeup this morning there was a whiff in the air that reminded me of my
Aunt Kat. However, it was not that of her Prince Matchabelli Emeraude powder or
her QT tanning lotion. Unfortunately it was that of fish oil or, in her case, cod
liver oil. She was a firm believer that a dose of cod liver oil on top of her
cats' canned food (as if the smell of the cat food was not disgusting enough)
would make their coat shiny and help prevent
So, as a child,
I can clearly remember a teaspoon and medicine bottle of cod liver oil stashed
with the stockpile of cans of cat food.
Her cats were definitely well cared for. If one of them showed any sign of "peakedness" (her word) into the
carrier it would go for a trip to her vet in Maxton, the next gown over. There
is no doubt that she was on the vet's Christmas card list. I'm sure the vet
loved to see Aunt Kat driving up.
Over the years
there were many Persian cats - they were always Persians. I can remember Blue and Minky to name two. And,
they were a odd bunch. There was one that never came out from under the couch.
And one, who stayed permanently perched on the back of the sofa like the
Cheshire Cat out of Alice in Wonderland. And, if my memory is correct, none of
them were particularly friendly to us when we came to visit. Generally they
just waited us out, knowing we would
my brother and I assumed that her name "Aunt Kat" referred to her
love of felines. We were a little disappointed to learn that Kat was short for
Katherine. All of her life, especially as she aged, the first thing she
inquired about when I visited with her at the assisted living facility was the welfare of the current pet cat
we had. When one of our cats met an early unfortunate demise, we just continued
to tell Aunt Kat that Smoke (the deceased cat) was doing well.
That was until she was scheduled to
visit us for Christmas and panic ensued. Even though she was legally blind and
deaf as a door knob, Aunt Kat's mind was sharp as a tack and her focus on the well being
of the cats as good as ever. She was going to expect to have a (live) purring cat in her lap the entire length of her visit. She was none too
pleased with us when we fessed up.
But as always Santa came through. My Dad would never disappoint his sister and had arranged for us to have a new kitten at the house for Christmas. (He had "borrowed" it from a neighbor for the day.) It was a wonderful life until Aunt Kat told him that she was so happy that now she could "watch" this one grow up.
But I digress. Back to the present. Upon further examination, I find that a fish oil capsule had apparently melted on my dressing table and my makeup was sitting in a pool of disgusting smelly oil.
daughter called last night - late last night. And woke me up. "Mom, I just had the
strangest thing happen. You know how I never talk about my family to anyone.
Well tonight I was talking to some friends and I told them about Dad's
tortoises. And they were amazed." "So?" "No, you don't
understand. They were impressed and had all these questions about them and
found it hard to believe that we have four Galapagos tortoises in our
backyard." "Honey, in case you haven't figured that out yet, not
everyone grows up in a pseudo zoo environment. " "But they thought it
was kind of neat."
great, I guess." "Yeah, but I still think it is weird."
"That they thought is was neat?" "No, that Dad has never grown
up and still collects tortoises." "Just accept that and move along. It could be worse. He could collect snakes. But then I wouldn't be around for that one. Even I have my limits."