FAMILY TIES THAT BIND
I was always happy to see my Uncle Arthur when he came to visit us in Oakley. His piercing blue eyes, pronounced nose, wavy black hair and high cheekbones could have competed with any male movie star in Hollywood. His masculine profile made me think of a Cherokee Indian chief on the TV show Broken Arrow. As he got older I felt like Abraham Lincoln was paying us a visit.
If Uncle Art was visiting on a weekend my parents let me stay up past midnight playing Monopoly with him. There was some kind of magic in the way his eyes gleamed as he rubbed the dice in his hands. He landed on every important piece of property, railroad, water and the electric company as he raked in the money from the center pot.
“We don’t have to play anymore Uncle Arthur because you’re already winning!” I said with a long yawn. My sleepy eyes drooped with boredom due to not much happening on my side of the board.
“You never know what can happen if we don’t play it out to the end,” he said as he counted his money again.
Uncle Art wouldn’t stop playing until he had won all the property, all the hotels, and all the money! He was dedicated to winning whatever he was playing or whatever he was doing. He was a born competitor and an endless jokester. If something was black he could actually prove it was white. If he wanted something of yours he would make you look away then grab it. He missed his calling as a lawyer my dad voiced many times. My dad never had a brother so he adopted Uncle Arthur.
Back in the fifties during the cool evening of summer my dad drove us over to Uncle Ed Lawson’s house in King’s Mills. (This was decades before Kings Island was built.) My cousins would walk my brother and me to the school playground to play on the equipment. We loved it because our city school in Oakley didn’t have swings, slides, or monkey bars. Peggy, Marcella, Linda and Bobbie were so sweet and polite to take us and they never complained as they watched us see-saw, slide & swing.
When we got back to their house we ate a bologna sandwich, potato chips and drank a RC cola. I was so hungry and it tasted so good! After we watched our parents play ROOK (a card game) for a while we settled in the living room where we watched the TV show, Lassie. When Lassie lifted her paw at the end of the credits they turned the TV off. We played a game called, “I see a color that you don’t see!” Another game we played was a number game on a chalk board. It was fun!
Usually in June Mom and Dad picked a week for us to go visit Grandma Fannie and our many relatives down in Stony Fork, Kentucky. This was back when there was no interstate highways or air conditioning. By the time we arrived there at dusk my sweaty legs were permanently stuck to the vinyl seat and my curly hair was matted to my head. After six hours I was tired of hearing my little brother ask , "Are we there yet?"
Grandma’s little three-room shanty was close enough to the back mountain we could reach out the window and pick out a tomato or a fine cabbage. The first night there we ate a big meal Grandma Fannie kept warm for us on the old stove. Later, she told us the latest, ghost story (I included these ghost stories in my book). Mom and I used a flashlight to find the privy on the other side of the dirt road. When we were inside the two-seater we banged around on the two holes with our fists to scare away any bugs that might want to bite our butt for a late, night snack.
Early the next morning the rooster woke me up. I smelled bacon, fried eggs and hot biscuits! I ran out to the privy barefooted to relieve myself and almost slipped on the wet grass. I was puzzled because it hadn’t rained. This city girl learned how dew settles over the ground during the night and makes the grass and everything wet.
After breakfast, I got dressed in my shorts and top. I grabbed the big dipper for a cold drink from the bucket. I heard my cousin calling my name, “Kaaaaathieeee!” He was waiting at the bottom of the hill for me to come play at the creek. I had a crush on him and I think he had a little crush on me, too. For hours, we used rocks as stepping stones as we lifted small rocks carefully to find colorful crawdads. He was amazed that a city girl wasn't afraid to pick one up.
Ronnie’s stair-step sisters, Bonnie Jean, Jewel Dean and Brenda Lawson looked like rare china dolls with big brown eyes, milky, white skin and perfect rosebud lips. I loved playing house and listening to them talk country to each other over the mud pies. I died laughing when they tried to mimic my city talk. Later, when I got home and talked to people they thought I was from the south. I took it as a compliment and thanked them.
As I look back I enjoyed the games, the swings, the ghost stories and the mud pies that brought us together. But, what I remember most was the love, the acceptance and the joy of being with family. I always felt welcomed and cherished. Thank you, aunts, uncles, cousins, and Grandma!
Because the Lawson family was more of a positive family is why I chose to write my novel about Grandma Fannie and Wilke Lawson. They learned to be civil to each other early and they would put the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s to shame! I wanted to go back in time and share the nice moments we had together. It wasn’t to brag or compare but I wanted to show how a big family with variety can be positive, and have pleasant times together remembering good times over simple things like games, creek rocks, mud pies, play ground equipment, or anything.
For ten years I drove my mother down to Kentucky to visit her brothers and sisters before they died. When they sat around and talked it was always a pleasant time. There was no bad talk about anybody, just lots of laughing and remembering the good old times. Now, Grandma, and all her children are gone except for my eighty-eight year old mother, Marie. We sure are glad we got together with family as often as we could because it's the... family ties that bind.