Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Miller Family

Photo from Wiki Commons (public domain)
by Jamieka R. Holmes
       Well, dang! Uncle Joe has done it again. Every time we have a family dinner, it’s the same thing, the same way. You would think that he would be tired of walking through life in a drunken stagger with beer goggles on. Oh, my God. He ended up on the ground again, but it was funny how it all happened.
       We were all gathered around Granny’s house. She has a huge, bright white, two-story with a huge front porch and stoop that is perfect for relaxing on those hot, humid summer days. We were there for dinner, like we do every Sunday after church. The men, all tall, righteously handsome, loud and lively, were on the front stoop drinking spirits mixed with soda…a lethal concoction, especially for those unsuspecting family friends and neighbors who always dropped by for a serving of food and a plate of laughs. A glass of it will put you on your back and put hair on your chest-not a good quality if you are a woman. Then came Uncle Joe, who’s a lovable, lost soul, with a plate in one hand and a red cup filled to the brim with that knock-you-on-your-butt juice. Uncle Joe made his way to the lone chair in the corner of the porch; he sat down and went down hard, it was like the titanic reenacted. The chair collapsed and the legs bent up toward heaven as if to say,“Please Lord, get me out from under this man.” The funny thing was that Uncle Joe never dropped his plate or lost a single drop from his cup. How in the world did he manage that? He must have been a former acrobat or something. Meanwhile, the whole house was in an uproar. Laughter bounded wall to wall, cold fluid ran out of noses, tears drained down faces, and food flew out of mouths faster than the speed of light.
     It was hilarious! Uncle Joe was mad, but that didn’t stop him from taking a sip from his cup or having a bite from his plate.

       Uncle Joe could have been seriously injured, but he has fallen down so many times over the years without hurting himself that our first reaction is to laugh. Uncle Joe must have a protective coating made of crown and coke, or either he’s superman. Everyone was so paralyzed with laughter that no one could look at or even make a move to help him up off of the ground. All I could hear is Uncle Joe yelling incoherently. He sounded like Chewbacca! While all the laughter was still going on, I snuck off to the dinner table to get a front row seat. I was ready to indulge in this delectable feast. There was a lovely spread put before us. The table not unlike that of royalty - kings and queens. Our table was filled with them.
        We had a table filled with goodies as far as the eye could see. Something for every appetite was served. Among the list was golden, buttery corn on the Cobb, collard greens with neck bones, sweet, golden brown corn bread that melted in your mouth, and roast beef cooking in the oven right alongside the baked lemon pepper chicken wings. As far as I was concerned, I was in heaven. That’s not all though. We also had string beans, lima beans, baked macaroni and cheese that had to have been touched by the finger of God, and crispy fried chicken that danced its way down your throat and said a great big hallelujah to your tummy. We had white rice, red rice, yellow rice, brown rice, chicken and rice, potato salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, seven-layer salad, my salad and yours!
       However, the food was not my favorite part, but it was a close second to my niece Madison who was soon to be a one-year-old. I couldn’t believe it; it seems like only yesterday she was suckling at her mother’s breast and unable to lift her head. Madison, whose eyes are as bright as the sun with a smile as big as the sky, sat in her wooden, bright white and pink Eddie Bauer high chair engorging herself on mashed potatoes and gravy and chicken. Most of it found its way into Madison’s hair, on her face, and up her nostrils. I laughed as I watch the mashed potatoes flap in and out of her nose with every breath she took. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. She threw her chicken bone on the floor and reached for another piece, which I was sure she would get because they’d placed her dangerously close to the dinner table.
       Oh, gosh! Here they went again. Uncle Ob and Aunt Myra didn’t ever shut up! Poor Madison was stuck in between the two of them, and they were arguing and gossiping about everyone that walks past them. The fight was intense, but I overheard what they were saying about Aunt Sharon, and it was true! My cousins and I just sat back and had a hearty laugh. Aunt Sharon, who is a tall, beautiful, beer-bellied, ex-stripper is wearing this extremely tight, short skirt that makes her walk reminiscent of C-3PO!
       Then right on time, my Aunt Louise, who’s the funniest blonde-haired, black woman alive, walked through the door. Everyone’s attention was on her. We were staring Aunt Louise up and down in anticipation because her hands are empty, and we didn’t see any of her famous seafood salad. Not only can my aunt Louise make you laugh so hard that your head aches, she can cook Emeril or any other chef under the table and off a cliff. Aunt Louise’s seafood salad is creamy, decadent, delicious and stuffed with crabmeat and huge shrimp. That was one time that the entire Miller family would rush to get to the table. Imagine that, 25 to 35 people trying to get a seat at a table that only seats eight. It was like musical chairs…so comical!
       Auntie’s brought some seafood salad for us after all; I managed to escape all the chaos with my life and a bowl of seafood salad. I grabbed my niece, and we went off into the living room to grab a moment’s peace and enjoy our plunder. Just as we sat down, there was a knock at the front door. It was our neighbor Mr. Buttercup, who’s nice and very nosey, but only has one good eye, a mean wife and a haircut like Johnny Bravo. Mr. Buttercup came over to spend some time with the Miller clan because he and his wife, the mean, old Sara Buttercup, were going to move away to live with their daughter Brenda, a successful lawyer that happens to be a chain smoking, hypochondriac. Mr. Buttercup took a seat in the huge, brown suede Lazy-Boy recliner that sits in front of the big picture window in the living room.
       Seeing how distraught Mr. Buttercup was, we all dropped what we were doing and gathered around the living room to hear what he had to say to us all. To the amazement of my family, Mr. Buttercup and his wife’s home was in foreclosure. He informed us that it has been in foreclosure for a year, but no one knew about it. Otherwise, we would be raising money to keep them here in this neighborhood. As Mr. Buttercup told us, our eyes were full of tears because there is absolutely nothing we could do to stop it. The room was so quiet that you could hear the sound of our hearts breaking, then falling to pieces. No one wanted anyone else living next door. I cannot hold it together. Mr. Buttercup and I shared a love of art. He knew that I love to draw, paint and write poetry and every time he saw me he gave me praise and encouraged me to stick with it.
       Mr. Buttercup and his family have been living next door to us since before I was born. No one believed the news from him. Such a great day turns into a horrible scene. Mr. Buttercup has been the neighborhood grandfather. He always spoke kind words, looked after our home when we go out of town, helped my grandmother with the yard work, watched over us and provided large amounts of Coca-Cola. We were always hopped up on that dark, sugary, sweet, acidic beverage because he has been working at the Coca-Cola plant for years, and he kept us well-stocked.
       Suggestions flew from left to right about ways we could possibly save Mr. Buttercup’s home, but alas it was too late. We walked Mr. Buttercup outside to say our final good-byes. The moving van pulled up and the movers and Mr. Buttercup’s family loaded up their belongings. The black rocking chair that Mr. Buttercup always sat in on his front porch to wave “hello” to the passers-by went by. His big, green ceramic frogs that filled his front yard, which scared the heck out of my cousins and I when we were young got packed up. That huge neon Coca-Cola sign that lit up the porch to a bright red hue went into the moving van. I realized that I would never lay my eyes upon them ever again or feel the security I felt knowing that Mr. Buttercup was always right next door. Mr. Buttercup always looked out for us and kept us out of trouble. Now he’s driving away in that long, shiny, bright orange moving van.
       I am trying to hold on to the way things were when I was just a girl, and Uncle Joe falling was the biggest event of the day. I recall the memories, so warm and sweet that they tuck me into bed at night. At this very moment, I feel those memories begin to slip away and for the life of me I just can’t hold on to them.



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