A Fishy Reunion

Amy and I packed up the car and traveled to Algood, a hundred miles away. Her family was renewing the yearly reunion. After more than ten years, Amy and her cousins realized the need to have a get together.

John Allen and Joy Short became ramrods for the event. Joy is a doer. She makes things happen. John is an amazing, multi-talented man who can cook, clean, and organize better than most folks on the planet. Melinda Bilbrey secured the place for the reunion. It was a family life center owned by her church. All of their efforts led to a day of fun for the group of fifty or more.

As we gathered, the changes that had occurred surprised me. At the last reunion, our children were the young ones. We were the parents and were easily recognizable: sleep deprived, raw nerved, and physically exhausted. Amy’s adult relatives were the seniors. Now, our children have that same look that we wore as they herd their own young ones. We are the gray-haired ones. The aunts and uncles are still present, but their numbers have decreased, and they sit back as the “wise ones” who offer up good advice on any topic from cooking to raising children to investing money.

A plus about reunions is the food. Families brought cakes and pies. One cousin lugged in a bowl of shrimp; he must have known my weakness. Aunts arrived with plates of deviled eggs and other good stuff. John set up two machines that churned containers of vanilla and peach ice cream. The main course was to be fish. Amy had contacted Charles, who’d cooked for earlier reunions. Back then, he set up a grill and cooked for a couple of hours as guests downed pounds of fish, French fries, and cold slaw. My own two children, Dallas and Lacey, were most excited about the fish; it was the thing they best remembered about past reunions. I’d even bragged to son-in-law Nick that it was the best tasting fish he’d ever have.

People began to gather at 10:00 a.m., and lunch was to be served around 1:00. The noise swelled as folks arrived. Plenty of hugs and kisses were shared, and John provided snacks for people to munch until the fish was ready.

The morning wore on, but Charles hadn’t appeared. Amy called his house earlier in the morning but only got a busy signal and later no one answered. Worried looks spread across faces, and at one point, Nellie West and her grandson Brian drove to Cookeville to Charles’ house. He wasn’t there.

Facing a meal with no main course, the decision was made. Michael West and I hopped into his car and drove to the other side of Cookeville. We arrived at KFC and bought a trunk load of chicken mashed potatoes, gravy, and slaw.

Back at the reunion, folks loaded their plates. No one complained. All had too much fun sharing a meal with extended family. One person commented,
“Man, this is good “fish.” It takes just like chicken!”

The day was good. Charles never appeared or called. He’s gotten older too, and maybe the man simply forgot. That kind of thing happens in life. The main thing is the reunion was a success and next year’s has already been planned. Maybe we’ll call Charles every week starting now. We all still want some fish.

Pass the Preparation H

The itch is so bad that I can’t stand it. After a few minutes spent watering some plants in the yard, I’m dotted in insect bites. Welts cover my legs from the knees down, and I’ve scratched the areas until they’re raw and bleeding. I should be able to take this better. My entire childhood was spent dealing with itching.

As a small boy, I learned to identify poison ivy. The three-leafed plant crawled along the ground in the wooded areas of the neighborhood, and it was thick along the path where people walked to an old swimming hole that we frequented on vacations in the Smoky Mountains. No matter how careful I tried to be, at least a couple of times each year my skin would be covered with blister that itched beyond description. Sometimes the stuff got into my eyes so that they swelled shut. One January my brother and I cleared a bank at our house, and I was covered from my waist to my knees with poison ivy spots. For an entire week I was unable to wear clothes. A sea of calamine lotion offered no relief. Hot bath water with plenty of Clorox added helped some, but shots from the doctor proved to be the only sure cure. Not scratching the affected areas prevented possible infection, but it took all my willpower to refrain.

In the summer, Mother took us boys to different places to pick blackberries. We covered up with long-sleeved shirts and jeans, but chiggers seemed to find openings. They’d bury themselves under the skin, and the itch was impossible to scratch. Hard, red lumps rose on our skin, and sleepless nights followed. The remedy Mother used was fingernail polish. She’d paint each blotch with a daub of polish to smother the little critters. We not only itched but were also covered with pink or red dots. I used to wonder whether the jelly and cobblers that Mother made from the berries we picked were worth the agony that the chiggers inflicted. Now that she’s gone and there are no more such foods, I’d put up with a case of chiggers for a pie.

Until recently bug bites never bother me. My wife Amy would go outside briefly and re-enter the house covered with bites on every place that wasn’t covered by clothing. Now, I’m at the mercy of flying nuisances. The wet spring weather has offered ideal conditions for mosquitoes and other bugs. They’re too small to see, but the welts caused by their bites are visible immediately.

The pests have driven us from our front porch, and we’re held prisoners in our own home. Medical creams don’t offer much help with the bumps on our arms and legs. However, Amy discovered that Preparation H does the trick. It reduces swelling and stops the itch and pain brought on by numerous insect bites. Who’d have ever thought that a product like Preparation H could come in so handy in taking care of another kind of itch?