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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: Blessed Be the Family Ties
By Martha Davis


Between my parents, there were 15 siblings. But the only similarity between the two families was the large size. Perhaps because their mother died at an early age, my father’s siblings seemed disconnected. I never recall an intimate exchange among them—no hugs or “I love you’s”. My mother, on the other hand, came from a close-knit, demonstratively affectionate family.

My family lived closest to my grandparents, and many of the 30 plus cousins felt that my sister and I were the “favored ones” since we saw Grandma and Granddaddy more often. My grandfather worked a garden on our property, so we saw him Monday through Friday during planting and harvesting season. We also attended the same church, affording another opportunity to spend time with my grandparents.

Sundays were a real treat in my mother’s family. Everyone living within contiguous zip codes went to their respective churches, and those inclined to drive the 30 minutes or less to Grandma’s came for dinner (the noon meal in the South). It was a huge affair with at least four or five of Mama’s siblings and a dozen or more cousins in attendance.

Those Sunday’s were the highlight of my week, and my family rarely missed a Sunday. And while the time spent with my grandparents evokes fond memories, what I looked forward to most was seeing my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

My family was very dysfunctional, and Daddy thought nothing of doling out severe beatings for the most minor offense. Despite obvious signs of abuse, I don’t think Mama shared her problems with her siblings, and she swore all her children to secrecy, creating elaborate excuses for the frequent bruises.

While no family is perfect, in my eyes my aunts and uncles were pretty close. Uncle Herb and Aunt Velma were a handsome couple and so in love. Since their daughters were close in age to my sister and me, we spent a lot of time with them. I fondly remember seeing Uncle Herb take Aunt Velma in his arms while she prepared supper (the evening meal in the South), and twirl her around in a playful dance followed by a quick kiss.

My Aunt Jean, the youngest daughter, and her husband Uncle Steve were frequent visitors at Grandma’s. Aunt Jean’s dark hair and eyes were captivating, and her warmness made her all the more beautiful. Uncle Steve was the polar opposite of my father. While the aunts helped clear the table and do the dishes, Uncle Steve and his two daughters enjoyed the front porch swing, sharing funny stories or singing songs. Watching this display stirred such raw emotion in me from the sheer want of a Daddy like him. For years, my bedtime prayers included a request to somehow make it so.

My Aunt Jo was so sophisticated, with a professional job and the prettiest clothes. I didn’t know it then, but her marriage had its problems. Nonetheless, she represented what I wanted to be when I grew up. Since my parents had barely more than an elementary education, Aunt Jo was my example of what I could achieve in life.

Then, there was my Aunt Mary and Uncle Gerald. Because my mother was in poor health, there were frequent hospital stays. Aunt Mary was always the first to volunteer to have me and my sister as house guests. With four children of her own, she certainly had enough on her hands without adding two more.

Aunt Mary started supper and tried to wind down the kids before Uncle Gerald came home. He may have ended his work day, but he came home to start a different kind of work, taking Aunt Mary off duty (at least partially). Uncle Gerald finished supper and served everyone else before taking any food for himself. After supper, the two of them bathed and readied the children for bed. This mutual partnership was quite contrary to how things were done at home where Daddy took the largest portions and never helped Mama with the children.

My aunts and uncles helped me develop a vision of family and created in me a desire to rise above the circumstances in which I was raised. Most of what is good in my life can be attributed to their examples. And since I lost my mother almost thirty years ago, I have come to rely more and more on their guidance and Christian counsel to make me the person God created me to be.

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This article has been read 443 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 04/25/08
Your "contiguous zip codes" phrase is great. :) If this is true… it's so sad that your were beaten. Your childhood desire for a loving dad is so well described. The role models of your aunts and uncles are wonderful. If this is fictional… you did a great job of writing. I still call the evening meal "supper." :)
Joanne Sher 04/26/08
I enjoyed these little character sketches - gave me a little glimpse of each of your aunts and uncles.

Since you asked for a critique, I have a few suggestions for you. It is very important to have a creative "beginning" - a good "hook" at the start of your story to keep people reading. Think about maybe some dialog, or a bit of odd characterization to grab the reader from the start.

Also, this almost read, at least toward the second half, like a "laundry list" of relatives. Perhaps focusing on one or two, with more detail, might make this stronger.

This was a very enjoyable read.