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My cousin, Aly, is the result of a socioeconomically mixed marriage. Her father was my mother’s baby brother, and my grandfather was a laborer for the city of Bryan Texas. My uncle was able to put himself through Texas A&M back when it was an affordable college that allowed the sons of working class farmers and the like to get a college degree and raise themselves up in society. Her mother is a member of the P--- family, an influential South Texas family that is as close to nobility as we get here in Texas. Her parents met when my aunt's father hired my uncle. The boss’ lovely daughter, Miss P--- was a striking beauty who stood at almost 6 feet tall. When she met my uncle, who had movie-star good looks and stood at 6’4”, he caught her eye. I suspect that the first thing that attracted my aunt to my uncle was the idea of being able to go out with a man that she could stand next to while wearing high heels and not making him look like a munchkin next to her. The tall, good looking pair fell in love and decided to marry, despite the objections of the bride’s family.

In sophisticated circles, we are called debris blanc )
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I forgot my mother’s birthday this year. Again. Since she’s been dead for most of my life, there were no repercussions for this. I only remembered it on my own birthday, 3 days later. Being 9 months pregnant on her 37th birthday in the middle of a hot Texas July could not have been any fun for her. By her next one, I would have been a cute little just-starting-to-walk toddler, so that one was no doubt more enjoyable for her. The one after that, she would have been 39 and 6 months pregnant with my kid brother. From what I hear, she was angry at the doctor who told her she didn’t need to worry about birth control until I was a bit older (she never did forgive him) and fumed through the whole pregnancy; I doubt she took a day off to stop fuming on her birthday. In fact, I’m pretty sure turning 39 with a 6 month baby-belly only rubbed her nose in the fact that she believed she was “too damn old this.” Turning 40 with two small children and the security of a tubal ligation would have been a day to celebrate. While she loved us, she never stopped be delighted that we were the last children she would ever have. She never worried about having an empty nest.

“I can’t wait until you kids grow up and move away,” she told us. “It will mean my job is done and I can do what I want. Maybe I’ll write a book. Or your father and I will travel.”

To Be Loved Is To Be Wanted, But Not The Other Way Around )
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My Aunt Jo, who goes by her first name Leslie with everyone but her family, is recovering from a heart attack. She is the mother of my late cousin Carol, who went by her first name Leslie with everyone but her family. Since I considered myself to be a friend as well as family to her, I always called my Cousin Carol “Leslie.” I would love to hear my cousin Leslie’s take on her mother having a heart attack and not telling anyone in the family that it happened. She’d be fuming, but when she fumed she was catty and sharp-tongued and it was always entertaining to hear. Of all the things I miss about Leslie Carol, I think I miss her fury the most – she expressed it so much better than anyone else.

Deep Dark Depression, and Excessive Misery. )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about the way people play favorites toward their children and grandchildren. It's not fair, but it happens. It happened in my house growing up with my father, and my mother's father was notorious for it. The universe has a way of balancing things out, so being a favorite child or grandchild is not without its drawbacks. Favored ones pay for their status by earning the scorn of those who are not favored.

My grandfather's children and grandchildren are sharply divided into two camps: those who remember him fondly despite his many flaws, and those who can't say his name with sneering. Those of on his A list got praise and affection from the old man, because he was kind toward those he loved. But he didn't love all of us equally. In fact, I don't think he loved some of us at all.

To the chagrin of some of my older cousins on our grandfather's B list, the princess of the A list was my cousin Leslie. That this adopted outsider should be the favorite was unforgivable. Even as they sat stoically at her memorial service this last January, even wiping a tear or two away, I don't think they forgave her.

A Glass Half Full of Blood and Water )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about how an object's value increases from a small dollar amount to priceless when it has a good story to go with it. I came into the possession of several such objects this weekend.

Take, for example, the pair of earrings that my Aunt Jo gave me. They are small pearl stud earrings, circa 1950. They are a tiny luxury, but a luxury even I could afford to buy for myself if I wanted to. At least, they were until she told me where they came from. Now there is no way I could ever afford such earrings. They are a treasure handed from one hard working woman to another, and finally passed along to me wrapped in a priceless story.

A fallen woman – in more ways than one. )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about the day I first learned the Leslie's son had an aneurysm. It was spring of 1993, and I was a few weeks away from graduating from college at the age of 23, because I couldn't think of any way to put it off any more. I put a whole 6 years into getting that 4 year degree, because my father was willing to pay for it and because I still didn't know what I wanted to be or where I wanted to go in my life. To tell the truth, I still don't. Stalling, by taking a minimum class load and changing majors ever so often, in order to keep my diploma at bay was the best tactic I could come up with, but my scheme had just about run it's course.

I was born with brains and just enough charm to get me by, but these things could not make up for an appalling lack of ambition. I am one of those quaint, useless people born to follow where ever the wind blows me, like a small autumn leaf. When there is no wind, I lie on the ground and molder with all the other useless leaves.

I was alone in my college apartment sitting at the dining room table, when the phone rang. It was my kid sister-in-law, Pat, and she was almost hysterical.

A Proxy Pillar of Strength )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about my cousin Leslie. I got a call from her 82-year-old mother the other day, inviting me to come visit her. She wants to personally give away her things to insure that they don't wind up in the hands of Leslie's first husband. Her nursing-home-bound grandson, Cameron, is her next surviving kin, and his father is his next of kin. My aunt shudders at the thought of her ex son-in-law getting his hands on her wedding china or her prized doll collection. While I am not sure how much interest this man would have in such things, it means a lot to my aunt that he not get them.

"Now the china, it's a rose pattern, and I've got most of the pieces," my aunt told me. What she meant is that there is full service for 8, provided half the people leave early and won't want coffee afterward. "I'd like you to look at it, and see if you want it. It's nice, but if it doesn't suit your tastes, it won't hurt my feelings at all if you don't take it."

Keepsakes )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about my conversation with my cousin in Tennessee, Leslie, last night. All of my conversations with Leslie give me something to think about for days afterward, and this one was no exception. Leslie – family rebel, aging flower child, ex biker chick, and a formerly certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor who has rediscovered the pleasures of drinking and smoking even as a mailing center in Colorado prepares to send out her AARP membership card – has a way of putting a different perspective on things than I ever would have come up with on my own. Last night she passed on some tips on raising a toddler.

Raising a DIY Kid )
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Sometimes I find myself doing a good deed without even trying. The other week I was speaking to a cousin of mine and I delivered an opinion about his mother, my aunt Rhea, that my mother uttered 25 years ago. When I did this, I gave him the validation he had apparently been seeking for more than 30 years. It really made his day.

"My mom always said your mom was mean," I told him.

He had been complaining about his mother and how everyone always thought he exaggerated about her. When I passed on this clinical assessment of his mom from the only member of the family who was certifiably sane, he was elated.

"Thank you!" he shouted. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

M's because she is monster, O's for how offensive she can be, T is for my terror when I see her, H for her horrendous company... )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about the box that arrived on my doorstep this past Saturday, completely unexpected. The return address was that of my Aunt Florence, the wife of my father's oldest brother, Wayne. Since my father is not that close to this brother, I don't know Florence all that well. Certainly not well enough for her to send me a presents.

It turned out not to be a present so much as a box of mementos. I learned from the 6-page letter in the box that she had recently cleaned out an old trunk, in which she found a framed photograph of my parents on their wedding day and the graduation program from my father's college graduation. She thought I would like to have them, and so she sent them to me.

My features before they were mine )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about an email I received this weekend from the craziest of all my crazy aunts. In it, Aunt Sue* asked me (and everyone else on her distribution list) to not tell anyone she had sent it and a previous email she send back in November, since the people whose personal business she broadcasted across the Internet were displeased. Mind you, she asked this after she updated us all on the personal business she had previously disclosed.

Of the six siblings in my mother's family, my mother was the only one I would categorize as sane. The rest cross the entire spectrum of crazy, from Sweet and Endearing Crazy (her younger brother) to Spiteful Crazy (her second oldest sister) to Stark Raving and Not Ashamed to Admit it Crazy (her baby sister, Sue).

One of the problems with Aunt Sue is that she has no concept of nobody else's business. She will tell her problems to the world and if she finds out about your problems, she will tell them to the world as well. Fortunately for me, she does not know any of my problems.

Airing Dirty Laundry over the Internet )

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the clueless and the victims of the clueless.
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about one of my favorite conversations with Leslie from a few years back, one that did not leave me feeling like my heart would break. This conversation, while twisted in more than a few ways, still always makes me smile when it replays itself in mind.

If you can't shoot family, who can you shoot? )
ninanevermore: (Ferris Wheel)
The week of a family funeral always seems extra surreal to me (as opposed to my everyday surreality that is my norm).

At the funeral, I saw people who I have not seen in years, and I wondered when they got so old. One aunt, who always seemed so substantial and solid in my childhood, reminded me of a tree that has lost almost all of it's foliage, leaving nothing but gray bark and a few wispy leaves. When I was a child, she frightened me, because she always yelled and she had a big scary mole on her face with a hair growing out of it. She would not cut or pluck that hair for fear that it would cause the mole to turn cancerous and kill her.

I remembered looking at her wedding pictures once and being shocked that she was ever pretty. The ravages of time dismayed me as a child, and I found it very alarming that all of the ugly adults that I saw were once fresh-faced children and beautiful young brides. It struck me as a cruel joke.

She seems smaller now, and no longer yells. Even the mole is no longer scary. It made me sad that she no longer frightened me. When did I become this grown up?

I spent most of the funeral in the lobby of the funeral home, keeping an eye on my year-old son who was too squirmy to sit still through the service. Three other women with three other toddlers were also out there. It struck me that funeral homes ought to provide nurseries, since their stock and trade is burying grandparents.

Children are my favorite part of funerals. They laugh, they dance, they squirm; they remind everyone that the most important thing about a death is the life that preceded it.

Driving by the Ferris wheel this morning, the Carney gave a slight smile and a short wave at me, knowing full well that he didn't see me the previous day because of his work. I smiled politely and waved back. You can't fault a guy for doing his job.
ninanevermore: (Ferris Wheel)
Today at the stop light, I was watching the Carney and the Ferris Wheel again. I see it slowing, but I'm not sure who's getting off anytime soon. I don't like this. It makes me afraid.

Death I can deal with, provided it's under the right circumstances. If a person has lived a long life and is ready to go, than it's all well and good. But death has never been picky, and not everyone gets their money's worth on this ride. The Carney is temperamental. Some people he lets stay on the ride it seems like forever, and they make the circle over and over again. Some people get only a rotation or two. Some don't even get that much.

The Carney has a scythe tattooed on his right arm, and a skull tattooed on the other. Above the tat of the scythe, his cigarettes are rolled up in the sleeve of his t-shirt. I think he smokes Dorals, but I can't be sure. Across the knuckles on his right hand. it says L I F E, on his left it says D E A TH. Sometimes, when he catches me looking at his tats (he has a lot of them), he winks at me, and I just wish he wouldn't.

A large number of people are about to get off the ride, before they have gotten their money's worth. I hate premonitions. I hope I don't know any of riders who disembark. I'm weary enough as it is theses days.

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