Cheaper By The Dozen (and a Half)

We lost one of the great ones last week. My Uncle Clarence passed away earlier in the week. He was my mom’s brother and is pictured in the middle of the bottom row, above. They are part of a family of 18 kids, and yes, they all have the same parents. My grandparents passed away at the ages of 84. 2 of those children passed away in childhood, but 16 of them grew to adulthood. Now, my mom, #8, (pictured in the center above, with the curly hair) and her youngest brother David, #17, are the only two left.

It was hard when Mom last her last sister. There were originally nine, and only three of them were redheads like her. Losing her sisters was hard, but her goal was to live to be the oldest surviving sibling. My Aunt Blanche, the tallest girl pictured above, died on her 86th birthday, so Mom had said she had to live to be 87. I pointed out that she really only had to survive to the day after her birthday to win the “oldest surviving” crown. She will be 88 next month. She’s not necessarily happy about it, as she doesn’t see why she is still here, but it is what it is, and she’s independent and sassy as ever.

Uncle Clarence was something of a patriarch. He was the uncle who stepped in when their oldest sister died of breast cancer, and took in one of her kids. He also was a father figure to one of their oldest sister’s kids, whose parents got divorced due to their father’s alcoholism. He had a big heart and did a lot of things for a lot of people, and was funny as hell. He will truly be missed.

The picture above only shows 12 of the 18 kids. Will, the tallest, was killed in World War II. John, to my mother’s left, was killed when a car fell off the jack while he was working under it, and Edmund, one of the twins in the front, died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in his car, after a night of partying. Our family has, like others, seen its share of tragedy, probably more than usual because of how large it is. But as you can tell, we are a family of survivors, and we will plunge on, missing those we’ve lost along the way.

May you all find strength and peace as well.


Bring It On

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When my daughter was in grad school, she suggested that for Christmas, we draw names for gift giving because she was poor. She was living in Florida at the time, so we did a Skype Christmas with her. She had drawn her brother’s name, so she sent the gift home for him to open.

Come Christmas Day, he opens a box that contains at least twenty copies of the movie Bring It On, on VHS. Apparently, when Blockbuster was closing, daughter and her husband went in to see what VHS they could pick up. They ended up buying, among other things, a couple of dozen copies of Bring It On, then proceeded to use them for her brother’s presents. Each one was wrapped individually, and while some only contained the video, others had gift cards or small gifts in them. This meant that he had to open every single one of them, lest he miss a real gift. It was hilarious, and interesting to see what she could get to fit into an empty VHS case.

Those videos have shown up for every Christmas since. Sometimes it’s a bunch. Sometimes it’s one — like last year when my oldest once again nailed his brother with it, packing a single tape into a huge box that was nested with about a dozen other boxes, till he got to the video. No gift. Just the video. Sometimes it’s a bunch of them, again with some containing gifts, some not. At this point, everyone in the family has at least one copy of Bring It On in their home, just waiting for the next holiday season to hit. So I guess it’s not surprising that while my daughter was helping me organize for The Next Big Thing (more on that in a month or so), we came across eight copies. My mother even has one in her shelves of movies — and she doesn’t even know the joke. She’s also never seen the movie.

So if you have holiday traditions or not, just know that our Christmas involves a random cheerleading movie on VHS, proving that you can create new holiday traditions out of anything, and at any point in life.

I thought I had a cheerleading pattern to show you today, but it sold, so I’m going for ice skating realness instead. Have a great Monday.