Mama Earlene’s Christmas Letter from Shady Creek, Tennessee (2012)
Merry Christmas, y’all! Well, I have not got to put out a letter in a few years now, but it’s not for lack of things to tell you about. I have just been busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger, what with trying to raise my daughter Haley June’s younguns and take care of my 95-year-old mama at the same time. So much has happened that I don’t rightly know where to start, so it is probably best I just jump right in anywhere.
I will start with Cody and Denver, my two adorable grandsons who are now living with me. Cody is 8 years old now and he is already a looker, all blue eyes and blond curls. I am trying to figure out how to put his picture on FaceSpace or whatever that thing is, but I am computer illiterate, ha ha. We would not have one in the house if it wasn’t for Cody’s teacher saying he needed some extra help. He is only on his third time around with the first grade, so I don’t know why she has her panties in such a wad. None of my younguns got through first grade in one year. Cody’s mama, Haley June, had to repeat kindergarten if I remember right. They are not much for book-learning but I like to think they’ve got common sense, which is more important in life than how to confiscate a verb.
Denver is 7 years old and in the same class as Cody, so he can help him out with his homework. He is smart as a whip. We don’t know where he got that from, surely not from anybody on our side of the family, ha ha. Anyway, he is real good with the computer and electronics kind of stuff. You should see how he has our TV rigged up. We get channels on it now with people speaking languages that I have never heard of. Denver says it is the BBC and that they are speaking English but it is surely not any English I recognize.
Now, I know that if you don’t live around here, you might be wondering how I came to be raising my two grandsons. Everybody in town knows about what happened a couple of years ago with their mama, my youngest daughter, Haley June, but for the benefit of those who don’t know, I will just hit the highlights here. I do not want to get into the whole sordid story. The long and short of it is that Haley June’s last boyfriend got in trouble with the law by trying to shoplift a steer at the stock market and claimed it was her idea. We all know that is not so, because as dumb as that idea was, Haley June is not smart enough to come up with it. Anyway, Social Services was going to put my sweet grandbabies in a foster home with Dr. and Mrs. Mukherjee, so I said I would take them myself. Nothing personal against the Mukherjees but I did not think my grandbabies would get the full benefit of their family heritage if they went and lived with a doctor who ain’t lived around here but a year. I just cannot see Dr. M. taking them to Bristol to see the Nascar races or encouraging them to participate in the Civil War re-enactments, which is an important part of our southern culture. His wife does not even know how to make cornbread or gravy, and neither one of them has ever heard of the Galax Fiddler’s Convention.
I hate to say this but it has just been all downhill for Haley June ever since she lost her job at that massage parlor. I have just about give up on her but I do wish y’all would say a prayer for her that she will straighten herself out soon. Miracles do happen, I reckon, although I have not seen any around here lately.
As for Haley June’s sisters, Tina is still married to that Harris man but after five years they still have not had any kids together. She says he cannot have any, and got real peeved when I said that he was probably still under warranty and she ought to take him back for a refund. He has adopted her four younguns that she already had so I guess we are stuck with him now for better or worse, ha ha.
Now as for Haley June’s other sister, Sue Ellen and her husband Larry took a trip to Hawaii this summer. Dollywood was always good enough for everybody else, but y’all know how Sue Ellen tends to get above her raising, so off they went. They said it was a “second honeymoon” and did not take the kids with them this year. Their daughter Starla is in her second year at that college up north and does not ever come home, bless her heart, she studies so hard. Cody said he saw a picture of her on FaceSpace and that she had blue hair and an earring in her nose and was playing in a music band of some sort but I am sure it was not Starla. She is too busy studying and would not have time for that sort of thing, and I know she would not color her hair blue, as she is such a pretty girl. As for the rest of the kids, Sue Ellen and Larry’s boy Luke got out of juvenile detention when he turned 18 last year but he was barely home a month when he went and set fire to that old drive-in movie theater out on County Road 141. He is in jail, and they do not like to talk about it, of course. Their other four boys are doing well in school, and Sue Ellen is not shy about showing off their report cards and bragging on them like that is supposed to make us all forget that she has raised a firebug.
My brothers Cephus and Orly are both back in jail too, so maybe they can have a family reunion with Luke, ha ha. Cephus got caught selling stolen bibles (I ask you, who in his right mind would think that was a good idea?) and then it turned out the bibles were just a front for them to sell their homemade handguns. They were just so disappointed that they could not get a permit to open their little gun & ammo shop they had their hearts set on, that they started making their own guns out of used car parts. As it turns out, that is apparently against the law. I do not know how the government expects anyone to make a living these days, persecuting hard-working people the way they do. It is not easy to make a handgun out of used car parts, I’ll bet. It is a shame that ingenuity like that is not rewarded these days.
Grampaw Bobby and Grammaw Ida are both still in pretty good health and good spirits. They are still living in their separate houses, and Grampaw Bobby has so many Nascar collectibles now, you can hardly walk through the front room. For Christmas he has decorated a lifesize cardboard cutout of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., with tinsel and lights, and you can see it in the picture window as you pass by. Grammaw Ida is tickled to death that she does not have to eat her morning oatmeal out of Jeff Gordon bowls anymore, and Grampaw Bobby is pretty happy he does not have to share the bed with Grammaw’s little Pekingese.
Mama has had walking pneumonia twice, bless her heart. She celebrated her 95th birthday with a cake and party at the pool hall because that is the only place in town where you can still smoke indoors. She sends her love to all. I asked her if she had anything she wanted to add to our Christmas letter, and she said to tell y’all, “Chicken livers go to the bad if you leave ’em out more’n a day or two,” and, “Don’t trust a man who tries to hug you when you shake hands, he is prob’ly a politician of some sort.” I don’t ask her what it means, I just write it down like she says it.
Anyways, that is how we are all doing here down in our little corner of the pea patch. Hope you and your’n have a real Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and as that little ol’ Tiny Tim said, “God help us ever one.”
© Copyright 2012 Patrick Redding
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The Story of Mama Earlene’s Annual Christmas Letters
Seven years ago, Patrick Redding wrote what he referred to as an “Appalachian Christmas letter” – a parody of the “brag letters” some people send out with Christmas cards. No disrespect was intended; Patrick grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, left the area, traveled around with a band, and eventually his self-consciousness developed into a warped sense of humor about “growing up hick.” When he wrote this piece, it was a bit of fun for us here at the Journal, not really intended for publication. But it was over-the-top and funny, and I ran it on our blog that year. With lines such as, “Starla is in the marching band this year. We always thought she wasn’t right in the head, bless her heart, but now we know she is just a musician,” it got more responses than anything we’d run all year, so we archived it online in our humor section.
The next year, Patrick presented us with an update from “Mama Earlene” – a brand-new letter catching us up on what had happened in the fictional community of Shady Creek, Tennessee. Senior Editor Rob Colfax and I talked about making it a regular feature – a sort of “Lake Wobegon” with more southerly sensibilities. We ran it on the blog and archived it on the website as well, but a number of things went awry and not only did it not become a regular feature, we haven’t had another letter from “Mama Earlene” since then. It’s possible we may get one this year. We don’t know. While we wait to see if another shows up, here are links to the first two. We hope you enjoy them.
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Just noticed this weekend that if you’ve bookmarked our site previously, that won’t work since our update. Simple to fix, though; just go to the new home page & bookmark it again. (Don’t bookmark this post, as that’ll only bring you back to this post.) Here’s the new link: http://www.gatewoodjournal.org and we’ll continue to update links throughout the site over the coming weeks.
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Making Some Changes
Gatewood Journal is making some changes. As you visit our site over the coming weeks, you may notice some updating and “remodeling” in progress. Please be patient; we’re working to make the site more engaging and accessible to new technologies such as tablets and mobile phones. We’re also happy to announce that our News & Updates blog page has made a comeback – and it’s moved right onto the front page!
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