Friday, November 28, 2008

Never grew up 

John Christie writes about that uncle who makes Thanksgiving (and other holidays) fun.

There are ways, though, to be graduated to the adults' table ahead of schedule. One of them is to lead your younger cousins at the kids' table in a show of bad manners, including roll-tossing, ginger ale snorting and a burping contest (judged by loudness and length).�

The following Thanksgiving will find you at the big table, the cousins cowed back into good behavior.

At the adults' table, you'll find out what sparkling cider tastes like out of a crystal goblet, that the silverware is actual silver and that you'll get your hand slapped if you hold your knife in your fist.

But, if you are lucky, you will have a bachelor uncle at the table, the colorful sheep in the family of whom his older sisters say, "He's never grown up."

You know the type. He shows up late, smoking a cigar, perhaps with an overdressed date on his arm one year and another year with two buddies from the Elks Club who had no place else to go.

He is to the adults' table as you were to the kids' table. He doesn't mush up dinner rolls and try to "make two" with a hook shot into Aunt Mary's water glass, but he cracks ribald jokes, rags on his brother-in-law's comb-over and challenges you to an eating contest.

"I'm on my third helping, kid, and I ain't even started yet," he declares as you try to force down one more forkful of mashed potatoes.
You have an image of Uncke Buck, but John is actually speaking of Uncle Licky, whose gift of old comics I've written about here before. John and Gary were my two older cousins to whom I looked up. I always thought Gary threw the rolls, but John did inspire some great Thanksgiving burping contests.

And Uncle Licky? Never married, never left home, and only grew up later. When he was given a short prognosis for Lou Gehrig's he decided if he walked five miles a day it wouldn't catch him. And it didn't for several years. A joy of life and a will to live, in equal measure. I remember the overdressed date (referred to simply as "the Queen" by one and all, with Licky rolling his eyes), the stories of taking the bus to the dog tracks (Seabrook, Wonderland, Hinsdale, he hit 'em all), and some guys with Greek-sounding names he saw at the Elk or some greasy spoon on Central Ave. We kids loved the drive to Dover for Nana's food and Uncle Licky's entertainment.

We've finished two days of visiting friends and family this Thanksgiving, and I hope you had a fine holiday too, and that you got to see your favorite bachelor uncle. I'll be on the Patriot tomorrow without Michael; we'll do some different things than our usual fare unless some major stupidity in the recount happens. See you then.

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