Friday, June 25, 2010

Family Reunions

Illustration by Christopher Canyon

While planning family reunions,
I found myself in a favorite memory.

"Sing The Teddy Bear Song!" we coaxed Dad and Uncle Mel. It was a late August night, and the moon was out. I was about nine, lazing on one of my grama's quilts with all my little cousins around me, looking up at the stars, while Aunt Ree strummed her ukulele, and the moths buzzed around the porch light. Family picnics always ended this way.

Grampa's fresh peaches had been cranked into ice-cream. In the cellar under the back porch, the freezer with the rock salt and ice were covered with newspapers and left to finish the process. The corn-on-the-cob dripped with butter, the cucumbers brined in vinegar, and the onions scented the air. Raspberries were eaten right off the bushes, and very sour, green apples begged for salt.

There was a big brick stove at the back of the yard where the hamburgers sizzled, waiting to be dressed with homegrown tomatoes. Watermelon rind pickles, and chili sauce were on the table along with an empty dish of olives. We kids scampered around the yard, with a black olive stuck on every finger. We almost fell into the goldfish pond, hid behind the hollyhock bushes, and rolled down the sloping lawn, while our moms hustled the food outside and in, and our dads re-hashed the ballgame. It wasn't West Virginia, but it was almost heaven.

The best part was after it started to get dark. Grama and Grampa harmonized as they sang Shine on Harvest Moon, and we all joined in on Are You From Dixie (for some reason I thought I was from Dixie when we sang that song!) Our sing-a-long was a crazy variety, including Little Grass Shack, Edelweiss, When the Saints Go Marching In, and Bill Groggan's Goat. The favorites, however, were totally ours. My dad and his brother used to combine lines from lots of songs and create medleys. The Teddy-Bear Song started out with "Honey won't you look into your baby's eyes..." rolled into "Sweet Adeline was singing down in Dixieland..." and somewhere in the middle ran into this ditty:

Well, I had a little teddy bear that had no tail,
Just a little patch of hair.
The sun came out and burnt the hair away,
And left the little teddy bare.

The song eventually ended with "Mister Mo-on, bright and shiny moon, please shine down on, talk about your shinin', please shine down on me."

Babies and toddlers fell asleep as we crooned to that moon. As the oldest grandchild I prided myself on staying awake 'til the very last song. I even knew all the words.

This is one of the memories I love to visit. In my heaven, we get to check out the DVD of our life, and do some kind of virtual reality time-travel to relive our most cherished moments. You'll find me almost dreaming on grama's quilt, listening to my dad sing.

This is what we looked like back in the day.
(I'm the cute one in the hair net.)


~Write about a time in your life that you would visit if you could.


Heidi said...

what a cute cousins club.

Grandma Shelley said...

I would visit my grandmas front yard where we would go every Saturday evening. We would sing "over the river and through the dump to grandma's house we go" on our drive over. The towering Eucolyptos (spelling?) tress that filled her yard have a very distinct smell. Our conversation would have to stop frequently to wait for the roar of a jets engine to quiet as they were landing and taking off from the nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. We would pick up the best fish and chips at a nearby stand using the same greasy box every week and grandma would always make ice cold Kool-aid. We would drink from metal cups. It seems like they were cut down cans but maybe my memory is wrong.

It is amazing how I can still hear the sound of the opening and closing of her front gate, the smell of the trees, the taste of the fish and chips, the icy cold drink and despite the conditions with air traffic noise it is a place I would very much ove to be!

Kay Dennison said...

I would go back to rides in the country with my grandpa to see the horses.

Deborah said...

When I was little and we all lived closer together we'd get together and pack in the truck with a back camper and drive down to the spaghetti house. My mom, dad, aunt, uncle, great grandmother, and parents. The back camper had a speaker intercom where we could talk to those in the front cab. Today we wouldn't dare such a thing with no seat belts. But we'd have so much fun. And then the spaghetti when we finally got there. I was very young , maybe 8/9 years old. I'd like to go back and revisit so I could really remember for a long time. Back then life was simple, we saw each other all the time and we took care of each other. Now we are spread out over the U.S. and I never hear from anyone. Plus my great grandmother and grandparents are gone.

kenju said...

I would scurry back to my great-grandparent's farm. It was always one of my favorite places to visit, and I only got to go there once a year.

Grandma Lizzie's House said...

Without question the memories I would like to go back have to do with family. I'm looking forward to a reunion next month where I know lots of memories will be shared.

Abby said...

What great memories and cute picture. Reminds me of when we use to get together when we were younger. Fun to hear about you growing up.