Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bagley Family Reunions

Illustration by Christopher Canyon

"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.

What's a moment from your life you would choose to relive if you could?


Polly said...

I can feel and smell the nights we spent at grama and grampa B. Loved the singing and the eating. I loved picking raspberries in grampa's garden. They were the best. And, Jamey. 2 at the time, did fall into the fishpond in his off white Easter suit.

marta said...

this recollection is beautifully written! i can just see the olives on chubby child fingers. i am so happy you're writing this all down.

Jake said...

I feel lucky enough to remember the "next generation's" version of the singalong. I even remember them at the Melodie Ann Way I go waaaaaaay back. I love that song too and Aunt Ree on the ukelele. It WAS heavenly!

Christie said...

I feel jipped. I only got one singalong. Thanksgiving right before Josh and I got engaged. June and Jiggs were there, Aunt Marie (sans ukelele), and all the little kids (teeny Marta, not even 12 yet!). It was awesome. It was the reason I wanted to marry your son.

And I haven't been privvy to one since. You should reinstitute it with the little Heroes. My kids would love to sit around a circle and sing. My husband would hate it, but I would be thrilled!

mama jo said...

i, too, love those memories...when the cousins would come and we would sing the hukilau and dance and sing...picking all of grandmas good fruits and veggies..that was the life...then sleeping in her scary basement...singing those songs have always been a big part of our lives..hopefully the next generation will carry it on

Granny Annie said...

You've got me on a stroll roll. I cannot stop strolling down memory lane. So many places to stop and relive precious times in my life. It is good to reflect on how blessed my life is.

Anonymous said...

My great-grandfather (grand-dad) used to recite poetry to me. I can't remember any other time in my life feeling quite so loved.