Mishaps, and a Black Suit

Fireworks at Christmas


by Dr. Earl Trevathan

I spent a lot of time as a child with my grandparents in the summer. My grandmother did me favors, such as giving me a second slice of banana cake, my favorite. Afternoons were rather quiet; the men were at work.

One routine interested me. Aunt Retta, a neighbor from across the street, came over in mid-afternoon to sit with Grandma on the porch and talk, or, should I say, “mumble.” I had never heard of anyone named “Retta.” My guess is that it was short for Henrietta.

Anyway, Aunt Retta had a bad habit. She dipped snuff privately. You can’t talk plain with your lip stuffed with snuff. Near where Aunt Retta sat on the porch, the green azalea leaves were stained brown. A few days later, when I noted a few brown stained leaves on Grandma’s side of the porch, I had high suspicion she was snitching a tad of that horrible stuff from Aunt Retta. I observed that a good mouth rinse helped her solve the problem.

There is nothing in the Bible that should make Grandma or Aunt Retta feel guilty. A promotional verse like this comes to mind: 
Crow like a rooster,
cackle like a hen.
Rooster Snuff is just the stuff 
for women folk and men. 

Here’s a Christmas mishap. As a child, nothing was more exciting than shooting off fireworks at Christmas. We children ordered our interesting pieces from an outfit in Ohio–noise makers and colorful rockets. We put our money and order form in an envelope, dropped It in the post office box, and the next day, and every day, we’d go to the train station to see if our fireworks had arrived. Excitement ran high.

A few days before Christmas, after receiving our goodies, we pleaded with my mother to let us kids shoot off a couple of Roman candles. Just light the fuse at the tip and a small fireball blasted out about 50 feet. It seemed harmless enough. Not really, as we learned the hard way. Mother said OK, for three or four shots, but not near the house.

After firing a couple of colorful Roman candles, our young neighbor, about five years old, begged me to let him shoot one. He had observed my procedure carefully. I thought it safe to let him enjoy the thrill of shooting off a Roman candle. Well, AC wasn’t as smart as I judged him to be.

His first aim was directed at the box of fireworks sitting in the front yard. He made a perfect hit with the fire ball. The explosives shook our end of town–sky rockets whirling into the air, cherry bombs awakening the neighbors, fire cracker packets sounding like machine gun fire. Before we could disarm him, AC, thinking he was the laugh of the party, turned his fire toward our front porch. The adult observers leaped to the ground and scattered. A disaster was averted. AC left for his home smiling.

I was saddened that our Christmas fun had been cut short. From then on, we reserved fireworks for the Fourth of July. Makes more sense, especially when thinking through this story as an adult.

I recall another Christmas mishap. My family visited my grandparents Christmas day, opening gifts and anticipating a good dinner. At about blessing time, the front door popped open and in stepped Uncle Clyde.

Clyde was known to be a little friendly with alcohol, and the look on his face made us wonder what greeting was coming forth. Screwing up his face to belt out a greeting, we heard, “Pisssss-tel Packing Mama.” For a moment there was plenty of apprehension as to what was coming next. We all had a good laugh, even though Uncle Clyde didn’t have a clue as to what was funny. Every family has an Uncle Clyde.

Many years ago, my mother did me the favor of helping me clean out my closet of old clothes, misfits and out of style. When the job was completed, I noticed a black suit and plain dark tie hanging on a coat rack in the back of my closet. My thought was why don’t we pitch that antique? The answer came forth surprisingly, “Son, you save that black suit for your funeral.”

I didn’t want to hurt Mother’s feelings, but I did raise a question: “You mean with that suit and that necktie on, I am to lie in a casket with the top up and everyone staring?”

She looked surprised at my question and said, “Well, son, that is the custom.”

I don’t know where that old black suit and tie are today but they might as well be trashed. I don’t plan for Saint Peter to greet me wearing that outfit. 

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Published by Calvin Mercer in his September 13, 2023 constituent newsletter.