Carrots weren’t the only veggie to cause me trouble. Rhubarb did a pretty good job, too.
Uncle Edward, ten years older than Dad, was a bachelor and ran Grandpa’s farm. Dad’s name is Frederick, Grandpa was Edward, and Uncle Edward later had a son named Edward–making Ed, Ed, Ed, and Fred.
Uncle Edward was the only person my brother and I knew who smoked a pipe. They were mysterious instruments we weren’t allowed to touch, so we made sure no one was around when we put one in our mouth and pretended to be Uncle Edward. He used a long stick-match to light the fragrant tobacco packed in his pipe-bowl, and let us take turns blowing out the flame. This treat came to a sudden end when David leaned over to blow, lost his balance, and burnt his ear.
A covering of wide white bandages was wrapped around his poor little ear and half his head for a couple weeks; so pathetic looking. I’d lie beside him, put my arm around his shoulder, and tell stories or sing. Today my singing is not considered soothing, but at the time he didn’t complain.
I loved the warm milk from Uncle Edward’s cows. I’d get a mason jar from Grandma and run to the milk house. Uncle Edward filled my jar with fresh milk from his bulk tank. I’d carry it back to the house where Grandma poured me a juice glass full of the rich creamy liquid. One time, I waited by the bulk tank for hours, or maybe ten minutes. No one came. I turned the spigot and overflowed my jar. It took a few tries, but I found the off-position and scurried back to the house. Dad and Uncle Edward stormed in. Apparently, the spigot wasn’t as off as I thought.
Uncle Edward’s room was upstairs on the left, strictly off limits. I never did go all the way inside, just part way. His nightstand near the doorway almost always held a box of Smith Brothers cherry cough drops on it. They tasted best when the edges got soft and mushy. Sometimes, an opened pack of Black Jack, Clove, or Teaberry gum showed up.
I liked Clove best.
The backyard had an alcove under the kitchen window where a trellis held Grandma’s sweet peas. The multi-colored blossoms smelled as beautiful as they looked, with persistent little honeybees dressed like flying tigers buzzing around.
Uncle Edward’s long row of rhubarb ran down the length of the backyard. David and I played tag by jumping over the giant leafy clusters. One afternoon, a bad inspiration struck me. Scrambling on our hands and knees, slithering like snakes, we played hide-and-seek tag under the leafy canopy. Our game was fun until we stood up and saw the mounds of rhubarb squashed flat.
“Look what you did,” I shouted.
“You did it, too,” he countered.
“Uh-uh, I was careful when I crawled.”
Dad came out the back-shed door and our arguing abruptly stopped.
“Mary Barbara. David Edward. Get over here right now!”
He used his deep mad voice, making the walk up to him comparable to walking off a gangplank. He scolded us and made us survey our damage. He convinced us Grandpa, Grandma, and Uncle Edward would starve over the winter without their rhubarb crop. And the repercussions got worse.
“You get your behinds over to Uncle Edward and apologize immediately!”
David and I slowly walked up to the tool shed where Uncle Edward sat working on a tractor. We stood silently watching until he looked up.
“We’re sorry,” I said.
David echoed the apology. Mission accomplished. We turned to hurry off.
Uncle Edward called us back and asked the dreaded question.
“What are you kids sorry about?”
The devil is in the details.
Now it’s your turn: As a kid, did you have to make an awkward apology to an aunt or uncle?
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