VICKI'S VIEW: Uncle Shorty


By Vicki Brown

Family reunions are fascinating. Relatives all get together, catch up on life, laugh about the same old stories from the past, eat a lot, maybe participate in a few activities and then go home.

My dad’s side of the family never had a reunion that I recall. We just drove around and visited each relative. My mother’s side had one once at Grant Park in Atlanta, but we had so many people show up that we weren’t sure who was a family member and who was just a park visitor crashing our dinner.

But my husband’s family had reunions, mainly because his mother demanded it. I confess, I didn’t want to go because I really didn’t know anyone except the immediate family, but I loved my mother-in-law, who I nicknamed “Ma”, so I went.

They always met at Poinsette State Park in Sumter, SC, under a picnic shelter in late summer when it was steaming hot, and dreadfully humid. I can still picture Ma bustling around the food tables and swatting flies.

One year, my sister-in-law, Jean, had a great surprise for Ma. She had worked hard on her computer and created a family tree that resembled a timeline. She printed out the pages and brought them to the reunion.

This was the early days of computers, and the pages were printed on the old time computer paper that was attached together in a continuous bundle with perforations between pages.

Anyway, Jean went to the side of the picnic shelter and taped up the long row of pages containing the family tree. Rather interested, I wandered over to see the results of her endeavors.

It went several generations back to my husband’s great grandfather and then to his grandfather. Everyone knew about the grandfather…the story of him picking up the cat and throwing it at his smart mouthed kid made its rounds at every reunion.

I continued to read until I came to Uncle Shorty. I remembered seeing pictures of him standing with his wife. He was short, wore denim overalls and a train conductor’s cap. He was grinning for the camera, and from the look on his chubby little wife, he had said something irritating because she looked like she wanted to smack him.

Everyone said that he was a joker. He loved to laugh, tell jokes, pull pranks, and have fun. I thought he looked like he had just stepped off the television set of “Petticoat Junction!” He died before I married into the family, but I would have enjoyed having him hang out at the reunion.

I smiled at seeing Uncle Shorty’s name on the family tree and then moved on down the row of paper. Suddenly, I saw Uncle Shorty’s name again. But there were different names associated with him. I shrugged, thinking that he must have remarried after his wife died, and I continued to read. Then…

Wait. What?

There was Uncle Shorty again. This time there were other names with his, and I recalled that I had seen one of those names before. I backed up and re-read. Yep…there it was. I called my husband over.

“Honey, something is up with Uncle Shorty. His name is on the tree over and over. What’s going on?”

My husband looked sheepishly at me and said that Uncle Shorty really “got around.”

“Really got around?” I said. “Are you saying he “really got around” with one of his nieces?!”

My husband just laughed and went off. About that time, my mother-in-law walked up and started reading the family tree. I thought about making a snarky comment about Uncle Shorty but decided to keep my mouth shut for once, and I hustled away as fast as I could.

A few minutes later, I was walking around the shelter, looked up, and saw that some of the family tree pages were missing. Puzzled, I began looking around to see if they blew away. But I couldn’t find any, and concerned, I read the names to see who was missing.

And that’s when I noticed it. All of the pages missing were those with Uncle Shorty. Evidently, my dear mother-in-law had decided that having Shorty appear more than once was more than she could bear. Keeping the black sheep of the family in the pasture and off the wall was the ticket for the day. Just then I glanced at my sister-in-law who saw the missing pages and started snickering.

Yep. Another great family reunion story. If it wasn’t for those weird family members, a reunion just wouldn’t be any fun at all. At least they give us something to talk about year after year.


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