McKeithan Column

Published 8:38 pm Friday, May 2, 2008

By Staff
Has yet to be paid for photography work
My wife’s family gathered recently for a big reunion that included grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, their spouses … and me.
The Edwards clan is a fun-loving, quick-to-laugh brood descended from the union of Willie and Margaret in 1929. Their family tree is in constant bloom with numerous branches of assorted surnames, personalities and family traits. This tree stands tall, anchored solidly to the ground with roots that run deep as the memories they all share.
Then there’s me. I’m like Dutch-Elm disease. Ever wonder why every town in America has an “Elm Street” with no Elm trees? I am the familial equivalent of the fungus that has ruined streetscapes everywhere … “timber!”
All of the families gathered at the local Fowle estate for fun and merriment on a recent Saturday afternoon. I arrived later than most because I was busy mowing the grass at home (two hours of mowing, four hours of napping). I have nothing against the Edwards crowd. I love them like an in-law should — but even more significantly — I like them, too. However, I have to wonder if the feeling is mutual.
When I arrived at the festivities, I witnessed many relatives being mobbed at their cars by family members running for hugs. (Didn’t they see ME pull up at the same time?) There must have been 30 folks huddled — shouting, laughing and generally causing a ruckus. After the last sigh of laughter faded, they would all sit together and start-up anew.
I got out of the car and began a slow, lonely, 40-yard walk to where they were all seated. The uplifting sound of merriment died quickly as my arrival became generally known. I think I heard a muffled whisper of, “He’s here.”
I reluctantly approached the group hoping someone would say something. After standing there for five minutes, I made contact with a pair of eyes that weren’t averted quite enough. Cousin “T-Bone” had no choice then but to reluctantly acknowledge my presence.
I thought for a while, then offered my snappy retort. “Your MAMA!” I shouted.
That seemed funny until I realized she was sitting next to him. “Oh, I’m sorry, Aunt Moo-Moo — or whatever they call you — I didn’t see you there. It’s just a figure of speech.” She was incensed. “Well, I’ve got a figure of speech for you, interloper … “ (I can’t repeat the two-word sentence here.)
Finally, my wife spoke up (she’d been there the whole time), “Well, dag, Auntie Maw-Mee-Mo-Maw; he didn’t mean nuttin’ by it. He’s just my ol’ stupid husband who’s got no learnin’ and what can’t talk purdy like us, that’s all. And as fer you, T-Bone: It’s that Members Only jacket — tighter’n shrink wrap — makin’ Ray look like a pig goin’ to church!”
They all enjoyed that one. Half of them fell to the ground they were laughing so hard. Humiliated, I marched straight to the only place I knew I could be alone. I emerged from the bathroom an hour later and went to the back yard and sat in a chair by a tree.
After everyone had eaten, I heard something that warmed my heart. “Where’s Ray?” I heard one of the older ladies shouting. I felt silly for thinking that no one liked me. Obviously, I had been missed, by at least one person. Maybe I could even eat something now.
I pushed through the crowd and found a spot beside the others of my height as we were instructed. Sadly, I was in a row of 10-year-old girls, but I had finally found a place — in the picture and in the family it seemed.
She continued, “I have the camera set on ‘idiot-proof’ so even YOU can’t screw THIS up … make sure we’re all in that little window and push the button. Do you know what a ‘button’ is, Ray?”
More laughter.
After I intentionally blurred the focus on the camera, I took the picture, dropped the camera, and made the long, lonely trip back to my car … resplendent in my Members Only jacket.
Ray McKeithan is associate publisher of the Washington Daily News. He welcomes your comments about his “silly little column.” 252-940-4205.