The Holidays Are Coming


Bountiful Living

Blessed, that’s the word for my family.  Were we perfect?  Of course not.  Collectively we had more warts than a Texas horny toad.  However, in this day and time, when it’s almost fashionable to air your dirty laundry, I have nothing to share.

My parents were only married to each other – ever.  There were no affairs.  There was no abuse.  There were no arrests.  There were no skeletons in the closet.  The bills were always paid.  There was always a comfortable roof over my head with heat and a/c.  I always had school supplies, new clothes and money to spend.  There was always food on the table. 

In fact, at the holidays, there was always more food on the table than there needed to be.  With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I can’t help but think about the feasts my mom used to prepare.  She worked long hours in the retail business, so she could have been given a pass for making things convenient, but she wouldn’t have taken it.  She planned out her menu some time in October and would have the meal, all but cooked, days in advance.

Ideas Over Recipes

As marvelous as Mom’s epicurean delights were, that’s not what I remember best from our family get-togethers.  I belonged to a family of philosophers, historians and politicians.  Most of them never crossed the threshold of an institute of higher education, but they were better informed and more intelligent than most of today’s American population.  They would have had no trouble naming any of the top officials in governments around the world and they could find any country on a map, whether it was ancient or modern.  They cast votes rather than solicited them, but they knew our country’s founding principles and documents.  What a wonderful heritage!

The internet can’t decide whether it was Socrates or Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people, ” but by that measure, my family had strong minds.  They also had strong opinions.

Poor Old Marty Robbins

A recurring subject in our household was music.  Our range of preferred musical genres was all over the map, but with a very few exceptions, we were able to appreciate each others’ favorite genres, even when we didn’t particularly like them.  To this day, I will listen with pleasure to everything from opera to blue grass.

Dad’s primary interest was lyrics and in particular the stories behind the lyrics.  He loved sharing these stories with us.  I wish I could remember them all, but back then I didn’t realize how fondly I would remember this catalog of lyrical history.

Into this atmosphere, was dropped the question, “Why do they call it country and western music?  Isn’t country music and western music the same thing?”  The resulting holiday discussion resulted in the closest thing to a family feud we ever had.

The conversation started out pretty well.  Dad reached into his encyclopedic knowledge of country/western music and talked about its roots in folk music and blue grass, as well as its influence on rock and roll.  To better understand the theories my dad was offering, one of my aunts asked, “So, for instance, is Marty Robbins country or western?”

That’s when things went left.  My Aunt Edie took one position and my dad took the other.  I can’t even remember who took country and who took western, but the fireworks began.  They argued about every aspect of Marty Robbins’ recordings from the instrumentation to the lyrics.  My dad’s Marty Robbins albums were taken from the shelf to be used as exhibits.  Dad and Aunt Edie were so passionate in their arguments, you would have thought it actually mattered whether the artist was country or western.

Mom called a truce when the meal was ready, but the atmosphere was thicker than her giblet gravy.  We made small talk in order to please my mother, but it was merely nervous chatter.  What seemed so ridiculous was that my dad and my aunt were both the nicest of people – kind, generous, and forgiving – almost to a fault.  They were usually the peace makers when others got into a disagreement.  None of us knew what to think about this musical standoff.

When the meal was over, the dishes were all dried and the silver had all been counted, my Aunt Tommie tried to lighten the atmosphere with some quip about Marty Robbins, but it fell on dead air.  Dad tuned in to one game on the TV and another on his radio.  Aunt Edie disappeared into the back of the house and closed the door to whichever room she was staying in on this particular visit.  The rest of us moved to the living room and tried to have a conversation, but soon Aunt Tommie found a reason to leave.  The holiday was over.

That was as heated as any conversation ever got in that house, but before too long, if you wanted to create gales of laughter at any family gathering, all you had to say was, “Is that country or western?”  Dad and Aunt Edie might look a little sheepish, but the rest of us had a good laugh at their expense.  In the Cave family, laughter was an elixir that cured many ills.

None of us live at 10935 Carissa anymore and the decor has been transformed from Mid-70’s Traditional to Mid-Century Modern, but I like to think the laughter is still there.  I think it has seeped into the brick of the wood-burning fireplace and saturated the picture frame paneling.  Now we want to pass that laughter on to you and your family.  Wouldn’t you like to live in a home like this?