"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thanksgiving & Uncle Hubert

My recollection of Thanksgivings past is decorated with many great memories. Tops among them were the Thanksgiving Days spent at my aunt Katie’s house. Aunt Katie and uncle Bill lived just north of Atlanta, Georgia, in a very nice, well-to-do neighborhood. Aunt Katie was an older sister to my dad, and herself the youngest girl among nine kids. Many of these siblings and their broods would gather each Thanksgiving at aunt Katie’s house for a double feature. First, there was always a feast to behold. Second, there was always a fight to be had.

The food was splendid and delicious year in and year out - southern cuisine at its finest. The menu always seemed to include the following: 1) Home grown vegetables such as garden corn, green beans, field peas, Crowder peas, bunch beans, green limas, fried squash, fried okra, rutabagas, potato salad, and sliced tomatoes; 2) Several varieties of meats including roast, fried chicken, venison, turkey, and sliced ham; 3) Sweet potato casserole served at least three different ways; 4) Desserts of various kinds – including lemon icebox pie, chocolate cake, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, homemade fried apple and peach pies, and more homemade peanut brittle than all the kids who came could possibly eat. Diabetes ran in our family, but you would have never known it by the size and quality of the “feed” that aunt Katie and my other female ancestors trotted out every year on that glorious Thursday in November. Blood sugar levels would ever more take a royal beating on Thanksgiving at aunt Katie’s house.

After the meal, the ladies would clean up, the kids would go outside to play, and the men would retire to the living room or den for football and conversation. The annual Georgia and Georgia Tech freshmen Scottish Rite Hospital Benefit football game, played for many years on Thanksgiving Day, provided ample entertainment while the food settled. No one seemed to really care, though, about the football game. There was a far greater contest awaiting.

Uncle Hubert was by far the most boisterous of all my father’s eight siblings. He talked so much, and so loudly, that his nickname as a young man was, “radio.” It was said that when uncle Hubert was born the doctor vaccinated him a Victrola needle, and he never was able to shut up after that. Uncle Hubert was also a die hard, yellow dog, Democrat. He believed in God, the Bible, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Roosevelt saved the world!,” was uncle Hubert’s stock answer to any negative comment about the holy Democratic party.

Without fail, on those Thanksgiving family gatherings, uncle Hubert would always get into a red-faced, vein-popping, verbal brawl with somebody over politics. Most of the time that somebody was cousin Tom - who himself, at the ripe old age of twenty one, thought that he knew everything there was to know about everything. Cousin Tom was not necessarily a Republican, he was just against anything that was, “establishment.” If it had to do in any way with uncle Hubert’s generation of politics, cousin Tom was against it. He didn’t like Social Security, the fact that the United States had used nuclear weapons to end World War II, nor anything else that the federal government had done since the end of Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Tom was the perfect foe for uncle Hubert in these annual Thanksgiving Day Battle Royals.

Consistently, uncle Hubert defended his ideologies like the true Archie Bunker prototype that he was. Through the sheer energy of his anger, the booming volume of his baritone voice, and the unrelenting hard-headedness of his personality, uncle Hubert shouted down every opposing view.

Though no official victory was ever declared, uncle Hubert always seemed to prevail in these verbal bloodlettings. The fight would usually end with one of the women coming in and announcing that the coffee was ready to be poured. The cooler heads and softer voices of the women were very powerful, and were exactly what was needed to calm the storm that was uncle Hubert. Only once did any of these elegant ladies deviate from the Biblical pattern of, “soft words turning away wrath…”

It was during the torrid climax of one of these mêlées. Aunt Hester, uncle Hubert’s meek, quiet, and incredibly petite spouse came rushing into the middle of the fracas, shoved uncle Hubert down into a recliner, and bent over him like his own mother probably did in his youth – wilding shaking her bony little finger in his face. As loudly as her tiny diaphragm would allow she shouted, “Hubert, you big, mule-headed jack-ass, the way you are acting only proves that there is more than one great big turkey in this house today.”

Aunt Hester, if you can hear me…You go!

©David Decker, 2006