Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Big Family

Mom and her sisters were best friends. They spent their 'social' time mostly with each other. Because of that, the husbands, too, were friends and we were a close family. We 8 cousins were all raised together and spent lots of fun times together.

I've told you of our Sunday nights at one house or another, where we'd all gather to share a meal. The men would grill the meats, the women would prepare and bring potato salad, tossed salad, cole slaw, corn on the cob, baked beans, three bean salad, and desserts. My favorite of the desserts was strawberry shortcake. Usually I would get to slice the berries that had been hand-picked on Saturday by Mom and probably one of her sisters. If I was cutting up the berries, it meant I could 'taste test' them!

We used to meet at the bay beach on the weekends, and we'd spend the afternoon together. The adults would swim, soak up the sun, and talk together while we kids would take splash, swim, try to avoid getting nipped by crabs and play in the sand. The boy cousins, especially Buddy, would torment me by chasing me with sand crabs. Why that bothered me, I don't know, since I would dig and when I found one, I'd pick it up and put it into a paper cup. Sometimes he was friendly enough to share his fishing towel with me, and together we would work to catch minnows. Most of the time, I tried to steer clear of him as he was not usually nice to me.

The other children were my two younger brothers, Bud's two younger brothers, and my youngest boy cousin and his older sister. She was six years younger than I was, but still, my only girl cousin on Mom's side and I were as close as sisters.

Sometimes I long for those days of closeness with all of the relatives on Mom's side. Life has a way of bringing changes, even if you wish you could keep things the same. Mom, who was born third of the four sisters, is the only surviving one. Daddy passed away twenty-five years ago. My oldest brother died in 2006. My uncles, too, are gone now. That leaves the cousins and our spouses and all of our children and grandchildren. Only of them two remain in our old home town, the rest of us have scattered. Our closeness has faded, and that gives me some heartache.

I try to keep in touch, but everyone is not as responsive as I'd wish. Miles and time stands between us, and we know little about one another at this point in our lives.
All we really seem to have now is memories... blood that runs through our veins. That blood means we are still family members, but sadly, not the same type of family as we once were.

I often think that if we hadn't moved away, we'd be better connected, but there are some things that cannot be changed.

A Hairdresser's Mistake

My dolls had, for many years, endured the many creative hairstyles I'd given them. Now it was on to real people. I was approximately 8 or 9 years old, and Gramma and I were enjoying the day from the front porch of the house where our family lived with my mother's mother . I was issued a verbal invitation to comb Gramma's hair, and I never turned that down. It was my first step toward my chosen future-career.

As Gramma sat with her hands in her lap, I gently removed the large,gray hairpins from her bun, allowing the soft, silky hair she had never cut to fall down her back. First I brushed the hair back, with long, even strokes. After a time of this, she requested that I use the comb and give it some pressure across her scalp. I did as I was asked, and then, after a while, decided that it was time to 'curl' Gramma's hair. It wasn't long before I realized that twisting the comb upward on locks which fell well below her shoulders was not a good idea. She could not tell as she sat what was happening, but I could see that I'd made a bad decision, and I worked to release the tangled comb. No amount of effort on my part was producing good results. Before long, Gramma sensed that something was not quite right. She felt behind her head, and realized that there was an implement wound up in her hair, and it was feeling to her hands like quite a mess.

We called in the aide of my mother and my aunt. Oh dear! I felt as if I was going to hear a good tongue lashing over this one. I don't know if I felt worse by then about what I thought would be my fate or over what I'd caused in the first place. One at a time they tried to remove the comb, and though they had some success in moving the item further from Gramma's scalp, they could not release it fully from the length of hair. Nothing was to be done, but to clip off the strand at the lowest point possible. I knew I was in trouble then! I felt awful as Gramma was close to tears and fretting as I'd never seen her do before.

After the deed was done, Gramma sat with the comb in her hands, pulling the wads of her hair out of it, she gently instructed me to never do that again. My mother gave me a scolding too, letting me know that I was to use the tools to only brush and comb, not to try curling. I thought that I'd never need to worry about it, as I feared I'd never again have the invitation to 'play' with Gramma's long hair.

However, I was wrong. With a soft reminder to not try to curl the hair, I was soon back in business. I learned to make a braid on Gram's head, and often at night I would brush it many times before I braided it for bed. When I was a little bit older, I was asked to wash her hair and put the bluing in it for her, so that the color would be more silvery than the dingy, yellowy-gray that she thought it was. From then on, it was my job to do, and I knew I'd been forgiven for my past mistake.