Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 16

imageAs Miss Laura Mae continued with her story of Myrtle and Little Jackie, he was about my age. Maybe he’d come to visit sometime and we could play.

“Myrtle like to threw a fit when she got back in the car, but I told her I didn’t want to hear no more about it. That boy told her he didn’ want no company. She could just hush up about it to me. She might be forty-five years old but I was still her mama and didn’ mean to listen to no fit throwin’.

She sulled up like a possum, but we went on to her sister-in-law, Judy’s. She sweetened right up when we got there, tellin’ ‘em what a fine place Little Jackie had. To hear her talk, you’d a’thought we got the royal tour. I had a real good time at Judy’s. She had a big ol’ pool. I didn’ wanna git in, but she fixed me up a cushion and I dangled my feet while the kids swam. I don’t think Myrtle liked it much when I stripped my shoes and stockin’s off in front of ‘em, but that cool water was just the thing on a hot day. Judy kept bringin’ me them icy lemon drinks. She tol’ me they was spiked a little but they sure was good. After a while, her husband got me in one a’them floatin’ chairs out in the pool with the rest of ‘em. Myrtle didn’ git in. She was just a’settin in the shade a’drinkin’ them lemon drinks. That floatin’ chair was a fine thing. I wouldn’ mind havin’ one to put in my pond, but I ain’t sure I could git in it by myself. Yes Siree. I had me a fine time at Judy’s. When I got out, Judy loaned me a nightgown and put my clothes in the clothes dryer while I took a nap. That clothes dryer was a handy thing, but I don’t know that I’d want one. Stuff just didn’ smell as nice as line-dried. We ended up spending the night since Myrtle wasn’ up to drive home. It wouldn’ a’hurt my feelings to stayed a week at Judy’s. That’s the best time I had.

Anyways, we headed home Tuesday mornin’. Me an’ Myrtle both kind’a had a headache, so we didn’ talk a lot on the way. When Jack got in Tuesday night, Myrtle started in, “Little Jackie wouldn’t even invite us in after me and his grandma made a special trip by to see him. I don’t know what is wrong with that boy. He thinks he’s too good for us since your daddy set him up in that furniture store.”

“Now, Myrtle, you knew when you went by there he wasn’t looking for company. You’ve tried to control that boy his whole life. Now leave him in peace. That’s the last I want to hear of it. When Jackie wants you to come see him, he knows how to invite you.”

After Jack left out, Myrtle continued. “I bet he had a woman in there and didn’t want me to know. No wonder he didn’t invite us in. Oh, I do hope he is getting serious. He’s such a good-lookin’ boy, I know he could get a girl. He’s a snappy dresser, too. Maybe he’s planning to get married. I do hope so. He worked so hard in college he didn’t have time to date, but maybe now since he’s working, he’s got a girlfriend. That was silly of me to go by there like that. Of course, he didn’t need no drop in company on the weekend.”

I didn’ think that was it, but I kept my mouth shut.

Thursday night, Little Jackie come over. “Hey, Mama. Hey Grandma. You’re looking good. How in the world are you?”

“Just fine as frog’s hair. You’re sure a sight for sore eyes. Tell me what you’re up to. I’m real proud your grandpa set you up with that nice store.” We talked all through supper.

Finally, Jackie faced his mama. “Mama, I hated I couldn’t invite you in last Sunday. You came at a bad time. I’ve been working a lot and I’d slept late. It wouldn’t have been a good time at all. You couldn’t have gotten through the place. I’m doing some work on it. I was going to tell y’all a little later, but now I’ll go ahead. That big old house is way too big for just me. It’s got six bedrooms……”

Myrtle burst in, “I knew it! I knew it! You’re getting married! I should’ve known there was some reason we hadn’t heard much out of you since you got that place.”

Jackie looked pained. “No Mama. Where’d you get such a wild idea? I am remodeling the house so I can take in boarders. I can rent those rooms out to single men and make a lot of money. I’ll still have my apartment downstairs and rent out the rest. Won’t that be a great idea! One fellow has already moved in and is doing a lot of the work. ”

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Who in the Hell is Michael Jackson?

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Sometimes life serves up some incredibly sweet moments.  About twenty-five years ago, I mortally embarrassed both my high school children with no effort or planning on my part whatsoever. I was a dialysis nurse at the time and had worked all night the night before.  I had gone to bed about four that afternoon, knowing I was going to be called back.  At eight-thirty in the evening. The phone at my bedside rang, jolting me from sleep. I was sure it was my call back from the hospital, I was disoriented to hear a radio D J introduce himself. “This is ———- I am calling the Bethea Home in Greenwood, Louisiana, live.  We are on the air.  Is this Ms. Bethea?”

“Duh”. This was not the call I was expecting.  I was brilliant!

“You have the chance to be entered in the Win a House Contest if you can answer one simple question.  Are you ready?”

Remember, I’d just come off a sixteen hour shift and had had four hours sleep.

“Uh. Ok”

“All Right!  Here’s your question.  It’s so simple you couldn’t miss it.  What was Michael Jackson’s first million seller?”  By this time my kids, who were both listening to the radio had burst into the room to try to get the phone away from me, knowing what was bound to happen.

They were too late.  I answered loud and clear, disgracing them in front of all their listening friends.  “Who in the Hell is Michael Jackson?”

Fortunately, I already had a house.

Mixed Nuts Part 2

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When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale. You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference. This one works pretty well for us.

1.Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.

2.Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future

3.People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”

4.Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never has been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.

5.Regular guy. Holds down a job. Mostly takes care of business. Probably not a serial marry-er. Attends church when he has to.

6.Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.

7.High achiever. Business is in order. Serves on city council.

8.Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?

9.Over-achiever. Affairs are in order. Solid citizen. Dull, dull, dull. Could end up as a 1

My family is as much a mixed bag of nuts as any. As a kid, I was most fascinated by the ones on the fringes. My favorite was Uncle Chester, not because he was friendly, funny, or even seemed to notice me, but because he was the first solid #3 of my acquaintance. (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future.) As a young man in the depression, he started out as a moonshiner and petty criminal, lounging a bit in local jails. He never really hit the big time and made the Federal Penitentiary till he got caught counterfeiting quarters. His technique was sloppy and his product unpolished. He was fortunate in getting caught red-handed passing his ugly quarters. In 1941 he was sent up to Fort Leavenworth for some higher education where he made good use of his time by apprenticing himself to a cellmate who was doing time for making twenty-dollar bills.

Aunt Jenny #5 (Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.) was short-sighted about Uncle Chester’s situation and ditched him while he was imprisoned, but realized she still loved him when he came home with his enhanced earning capacity. They let bygones be bygones, got back together, and had three lovely children. Their eldest son Lynn and daughter Sue were solid #7s from the start. (Good fellows. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.) Uncle Chester was perfectly willing to give Lynn a good start in business, but Lynn was ungrateful, distanced himself from his father’s dealings, joined the military, and avoided the family business altogether, even seeming to resent his father. One Sunday dinner, when Uncle Chester was dropping names of the interesting people he had been in jail with at various times, Lynn rudely interrupted, “Daddy, you’ve been in jail with everybody at one time or another.” Uncle Chester did step up and keep Cousin Lynn from making a mistake. Lynn came home on leave from the military and met a girl he wanted to marry; love at first sight. She was a pretty as a spotted puppy and even she noticed how much she looked like Ross. Uncle Chester got her off to the side and asked a few questions about her mama and daddy and where she was raised. He was waiting up for Lynn to get home. “Son, I sure hope things ain’t gone too far. I hate it, but you can’t marry that li’l old gal. She looks just like her Mama did when we was running around together. There’s a real good reason she looks just like yore brother Ross – a real good reason.”

By the fifties, Uncle Chester had branched out a little. He did a little research and decided lawsuits paid well and weren’t too much work. He captured some bees, applied them to his leg. When his leg was good and swollen, he got his buddy to drop him off downtown at a trolley stop. As the trolley approached, Uncle Chester carefully stumbled into the path of the trolley, suffering a knee injury in front of numerous witnesses. He collapsed to the ground, moaning and groaning. Suffering terribly, he was transported and treated at the hospital. Now Uncle Chester was set with a fifty-thousand dollar settlement, a tidy sum for that time.

Their daughter Susie turned out real well, became a teacher, and married a Baptist Preacher, lending Uncle Chester a much appreciated touch of respectability. Uncle Chester and Aunt Jenny were very generous toward her church, and the legitimacy of their donations was never questioned. Sadly, many years later Susie’s daughter a bona fide #3, embarrassed them all by stealing from her employer.

Ross, Uncle Chester’s youngest son, a gifted #3 (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future) followed in Uncle Chester’s footsteps. He dabbled in moonshine, petty crime, and scams but just never rose to Uncle Chester’s level. He initiated a few crooked lawsuits but lacked the brain power and organization to pull bigger things off. All went well till he got too big for his britches and tried setting up business in Texas. When he got caught moon shining in someone else’s territory, he called the old man for help and Uncle Chester had to admit, “I’m sorry son, but I can’t do a thing for you. I don’t have any influence with the law out there.” Uncle Chester felt bad about one of his boys getting in trouble till the day he died,” but sometimes you just have to let kids make their own mistakes.”

Aunt Jenny was stingy. You would think she got her money in the usual way. Or maybe she just got tired of hearing Uncle Chester complain how hard it was to make money, but she would even make her own mother pay for a ride to the grocery store. When Maw Maw won some groceries in a weekly contest she had to share with Aunt Jenny since she rode with Aunt Jenny to the grocery store every week. Aunt Jenny sold eggs and tomatoes and charged Maw Maw the same as everyone else.

When Aunt Jenny got older, she got dentures. She liked them so well she saved them for special occasions. She wore them when she had ladies over for coffee, church, and Sunday dinner. Being toothless didn’t hold her back a bit. She could take a bite off an apple as well as anyone and could have won a fried chicken eating contest hands down.