Kindred Connection

“I dread the holidays.” The woman seated beside me on the bus today said. She flipped through pages of a sales flyer that reminded her to buy early and save.

“The shopping?” I asked.

“No, the family!” she responded. “I’ll have to spend time around all of my father’s siblings and I’ve never felt connected to them. Did you spend much time around your aunts or uncles while growing up?”

“Oh yeah…”, I began as the memories started flowing.

She interrupted me. “His siblings lived nearby but didn’t interact with me very much. How about yours?”

“Oh yeah…” I said as I stared upwards about to relate a funny family story.

Again she cut me short. “I just didn’t enjoy being around them.” she added.

Instead of being cut off, I only nodded my head in understanding.

However, I didn’t really understand at all. I was lucky to come into this world literally surrounded by a large extended family. My father’s siblings were also my neighbors because my grandparents had a small farm and had given each of their five children an adjoining piece of property on which to build homes and raise families. Because they lived beside me, across the field, or just past the walnut tree, my aunts and uncles were as much a part of everyday life as my parents.

There are countless recollections I associate with my father’s sisters and brothers, but some specific memories come to mind whenever I think of each individual.

My aunt Noody encouraged me in whatever I had set my mind to. When I was a kid she spoke to me as though I were an adult and she made me feel relevant. We often took neighborhood walks together and talked about anything that crossed our minds. I trimmed her crepe myrtles and in return she made for me the best potato soup I ever had.  When our extended family gathered at the bay, Noody not only laughed at us kids playing in the water, she joined in. In swimming cap festooned with pink plastic flowers she patiently taught me to float on my back. She went roller skating with us kids too. One particular night I rested on the sidelines and she said “Don’t sit there like an old man. Come skate!”

My aunt Jenny once brushed a spider off of me once. When the giant hairy thing crawled up my pants leg she instantly brushed it away with her bare hand. She was my hero for doing that. Jenny laughed loudly and liked to hear others do the same. Once, while several of us kids were in a swimming pool, Jenny suddenly came down the sliding board wearing a huge floppy hat and holding an open umbrella above her head. She laughed as hard as we did when she plunged into the pool. Every Halloween for several years she drove my sister and me around town to visit people. Too old for trick-or-treating, we still dressed up as old women and no one laughed at us any harder than Jenny.

Interrupting my thoughts, the woman on the bus said, “And when I was a kid they never did anything fun with me. Did yours?”

“Oh yeah…” I began again, smiling at the funny anecdote I was about to tell.

She cut me off again. “My family is just not fun.” she said.

Assuming she was finished, I started thinking again.

My uncle Tuck, for decades now, has made sure that our extended family has been able to use the cottage on the bay. Tuck insists we use the cottage whenever we can and is kind enough to update us on where in the shed the fishing poles are located, not to forget to use the crab pots if we want, and to please try to go down more than we did last year. With each trip down he reminds us to help ourselves to anything we find in the refrigerator and to just have fun. There were also many times when Tuck’s calm and logical advice helped me figure out solutions to quite a few problems.

My uncle Jiggs was at our house on my first birthday. Mama said he came in, squatted down, and called me. The first steps I ever took were from Mama to Jiggs there in the kitchen. Jiggs lived across the field but also had a farm where I spent many summer weekends. When up against what to me were impossible mechanical issues with maybe a tractor or truck, Jiggs would  calmly suggest we just “think about this thing for a minute”. By the end of a cup of coffee Jiggs had thought it through and miraculously, to me anyway, solved the problem. During that process Jiggs never got upset. He would make a joke out of it, think about it, then fix it.

Fortunately, as a kid, I had an almost daily connection with my father’s siblings and their spouses who influenced me just as much. I can’t imagine growing up without their presence, guidance, and comedy! I was thinking about them all when the woman on the bus elbowed me to get my attention.

“And they’ll ask me questions over and over but when I begin to answer they’ll just cut me off. Ever known anyone like that? she asked.

“Oh yeah.” I said.

Stuart M. Perkins

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46 Comments

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46 responses to “Kindred Connection

  1. Oh Yeah! Wonderful story!

  2. Your little stories are always like a treat in the middle of my work day. I’m so glad I follow you.

  3. Your stories are lovely. Coming from a small family, with one set of grandparents half a continent away, and the other on a different continent, my life was shaped so differently. I do have my paternal grandmother’s Bible (since I am the only person in the extended family who would bother with it, it happily ended up in my possession) but I have no idea whether my Midwestern grandmother from Iowa put any stock in her Presbyterian upbringing or not. Nor do I know whether the Methodism of my grandfather from Illinois meant anything to him, or possibly only to his childless Aunt Grace, whose book collection we all appreciate. Aunt Grace had a husband named Uncle Taylor. Inspired by your stories, I should do my best to write down the story about his driving habits and incidents, when there were very few cars in Illinois. My father recently passed away, but he was our story teller, and those he told were much in the vein of your stories: Tales of small-town, rural American life. None was written down, however. No one else will do it, so I should begin to preserve that bit of Americana before it is forever lost.
    Thank you for entertainment and inspiration, both.
    Your dialogue is quite amusing…and there wasn’t much to work with in this story 🙂

  4. Hi Stuart, I love the stories about your childhood. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’m sorry to hear that any child grew up feeling unconnected to their own extended family, but I wish that woman would give them another chance now by reaching out while she still has the opportunity.
    My husband related the story a woman shared with him about her first several months at a church she’d begun attending. She climbed in her car after service complaining to God that no one had talked to her AGAIN even though she sat in the same place and saw the same group of mature adults each Sunday at the 7:45 am service. “They must not be very friendly or loving”, she told God as she backed out of the parking spot.
    Just then the Holy Spirit enquired, “Did you talk to any of them?” “Have you introduced yourself and asked if anyone wanted to go for breakfast or coffee after the service?” She knew God was correcting her and the next Sunday she followed through.
    She’d been at that church for about 15 years when we began pastoring the Seniors group she was quite happily a part of.

    Like all relationships, Family is a two-way street.
    Even though I’m a car addicted Californian, you make me want to take the bus Stuart:)

  6. LOL, that was a good story, I enjoyed reading it, thank you for the post.

    ted

  7. Ruth Nulph

    I really enjoyed reading your story! I always admired your family closeness how fortunate you and your cousins were to live so close together. I enjoyed reading and remembering Noody, Jennie, Jiggs and Tuck. They all were special and I loved them. Thanks for the memories.
    Ruth

  8. Lovely story, much enjoyed reading.

  9. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd

    A great story! I’ll be buying the eventually book…

  10. Your stories make my day. Thank you.

  11. I am so jealous (not really). My family was so small. We were all women except for my father, the only male. 🙂
    Mind you, we knew little of our parent’s history. ;-(

  12. Great ending. That last question gave me a chuckle. 😀

  13. Thank you for another beautiful story about family, Stuart! I started life with extended family and I cherish the precious moments we shared. Those days were among the happiest. I try to make beautiful memories with my dear grand; memories that will carry the dear in the years to come. This evening we were dining out and an old song began to play. I told the grand that my father used to sing that song; grand broke into dance mode. I had to giggle, soon I was dancing too. Foolish, I know. We didn’t care; no one knew us in the restaurant. Loving your stories!

  14. Like everyone else, I thank you for sharing this story. Since my family is small, I enjoy reading about larger ones.

  15. Another wonderful tale, Stuart! It made me think of my Uncle Francis, who was like a second father to me. Thank you for sharing your memories and your gift for writing.

  16. Your tale of family life is heartwarming. That woman also had a tale, more heartbreaking, but perhaps worth knowing, if for nothing else to shine light on just how lucky you are.

  17. I love this story. I feel blessed to have the same type of relationship with my family. 🙂

  18. You use nice picture words. I can see your extended family. Looks and sounds homey and fun. WORD!

  19. What a great vehicle for talking about family! love it!

  20. I nominated you for the Most Influential Blogger Award. Please accept 🙂

  21. Lovely story, Stuart. Than you for sharing it ~ Amelia 🙂

  22. I aspire to be as cool an Aunt as the ones you grew up with. Thanks for this!

  23. You mentioned not imagining what it would be like to grow up without their presence. You might appreciate this poem about families and absence, “While He’s Away: A Poem About Being Gone.” http://wp.me/p3BzWN-lB

  24. I like the warm fuzzes your tales give me! Oh yeah, it’s good to have a close family!

  25. Lol…can’t stop laughing. no wonder she never felt connected with them- she obviously did all the talking! Nice one Stuart. Bless your darling heart and thanks for your plenty “likes”. Really appreciate.xo

  26. Great story, thanks for sharing your life in such an interesting way.

  27. Kerin

    I just thought about Grandma’s soup the other day. I was making potato soup and kicking myself (again) for not getting that recipe. I loved it and she would freeze tons for me to take back to college or DC. We need to try to re-create it one day!!!

  28. Beautiful story! I come from a huge family and can definitely relate! 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  29. Argus

    This made my mind drift to the Sandra Bullock movie “While You Were Sleeping” — Spouse and I watch it every Christmas, just once a year (along with quite a few much loved others). Both seem to capture the family atmosphere—good writing.

    Hah! We also watch Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” … I identify with that one too!

  30. Great read. I’m reminded of the day we buried my mother. I was asked to say a few words. I looked down at the packed church and somehow found my aunts… all six my mother’s sisters. I believe I simply pointed to each and said something along the lines of how lucky I was to still have six mothers.

    • That’s it exactly, I think. All of us cousins grew up with not only our own parents to watch out for us, but in any direction across the field was another set of parents – aunts and uncles – who watched out for us too.

  31. I really enjoyed reading that. I’m from a close family too and have lots of good memories of funny, mad and daft aunts and uncles. Great way to end it, too!

  32. DianeAP

    What great memories. Bubba and I enjoyed reading about Noody, Jennie, Tuck and Jiggs. Bubba has similar memories. Thank you for writing such a warm story.

    • Thanks for the comments Diane! Dessie and Jiggs were often like another Mama and Daddy for me and weekends at the farm were some of the best times I had as a kid. When I’m at Mama’s and we talk about the farm, the stories of you taking us swimming in the creek come up every time!

  33. Nice. I love being an aunty to my niblings and hope they tell super stories about me in years to come!

  34. Nice story, Stuart; makes me think of my own caring aunts and uncles.

  35. Lynnie

    Stuie, I feel blessed to be part of this family. ( Even though I’m an ex!). Lets get together this summer! Come up and kayak with me!

  36. Hahaha…someone…like her I guess!

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