Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Christmas Hospitality

They say that every family has "colorful" people, and ours is no exception.  From cooky old men to washed up women of the night, our family has had them all. Don't get me wrong, most of our relatives are just regular people; they have their ups and downs but lead average lives with no big deviations from the norm. Life would be boring, however, if we didn't have some family members who live outside the box, and no matter how outside the box they were, Mawmaw still fed them, served them coffee on a silver tray (or had me do it) and made them feel welcome.  She raised my mother to be the same way.  They both taught me to treat everyone who came into our home with respect, no matter how crazy, drunk, annoying, or just plain nasty they happened to be.  Don't get me wrong, they couldn't wait until certain visitors got into their cars and drove away, but until they did, they treated them like they treated everyone else, with good old fashioned Southern manners and fantastic cooking.   Though I'm not nearly the perfect hostess like my mother and grandmother, their unconditional hospitality taught me to be less judgemental and more empathetic of others. Even though I don't judge them, it will still be a hoot to write about some of the hilarious things that they have done.

Though I doubt any of them will be reading my blog, especially the dead ones, I will still use initials to protect their identities.  Today I'll tell you about Cousin J, my mother's female cousin who showed up on our doorstep one Christmas Eve with a "present" Moma would never forget.

Moma was close to all of her cousins, including Cousin J.  Their families got together regularly, and Cousin J was, and still is, a kind, funny person.  Even though she and Moma were always friends as well as relatives, they lived in different towns, so they had different experiences, friends and influences.  As a result, they went in completely different directions both physically and morally.  My Mawmaw raised my mother to be a lady.  Not only was she prim and proper, she was genuinely flabbergasted by lewd behavior.  Cousin J had good parents as well, but she grew up to be a bar hopping, truck driving, love the one you are with kind of gal.  There is nothing wrong with that, but the things that she did and said sometimes shocked my rather sheltered mother beyond belief.

One Christmas Eve, Cousin J showed up on our doorstep with her daughter in tow. Her daughter was the same age as me; I think we were both nine or ten at the time.  She didn't have any gifts for her daughter, so my parents went out and bought a few things to put under the tree for her to open on Christmas morning. Moma and Daddy were by no means wealthy, but they worked hard and had big, generous hearts.

After sleeping in our immaculate guest room that night, Cousin J casually walked up to my mother, who was (surprise, surprise) cleaning before dawn, and asked her if she had anything for itching.  My mother, still in her suburban state of oblivion, innocently asked her if she "had a rash or something."  Her jaw then dropped to the you could eat off of the floor clean kitchen when Cousin J replied, "Noooooo, I have cooties!"  I don't know how my mother got through the rest of the day, but much to her credit, she never said a negative thing to Cousin J.  To this day, she still treats her the same way that she did before that Christmas.  All day long my mother cooked, cleaned and played the perfect host.  Meanwhile,  little blood vessels were breaking in her head as her anxiety and desire to disinfect grew intolerable.  Late that afternoon, Cousin J wasn't even half way out of the driveway before Moma snapped on her little yellow Playtex gloves and began to quickly yet thoroughly bleach anything and everything her cousin had touched, sat on or drank from.  Luckily, Cousin J had only used one bathroom (mine of course) while she was visiting because Moma didn't allow me to use that bathroom for weeks!

Cousin J was far from being our most most off color relative.  In the next few posts, I'll share stories about some others whose either lived on the wild side or who were not the brightest crayon in the box.  It takes a lot of colors to make a full box of Crayons, and our extended family about as colorful as a sixty-four pack.

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