by Vance Gutzman
Worried that, for the first time in 21 years I wouldn’t be able to file a Christmas column for this paper, I decided to take a nap this afternoon in an attempt to clear my head.
But just as I was about to doze off I was awakened by the combination of an itchy leg and the nagging thought in my head that I should, really should, know the name of Archie Bunker’s grandson.
You know, Mike and Gloria’s kid? from “All in the Family”?
Now I’m not sure what prompted my mind to start asking me questions about the cast and characters of an old TV sitcom from a long, long time ago.
Nor do I know why my leg was itching. Could’ve had something to do, I suppose, with this dry winter air, coupled with the fact I’ve been wearing my long underwears since, like, October.
Fine, you don’t want to picture me in my underwear. I get that, but don’t go blaming me the next time you flub a speech.
So I’ll make this brief, and write to you, this Christmas, not about Edith and Archie but Rodney and Teresa instead.
Stars of an old picture, who were joined in the cast by my Uncle Jimmy on the right and a lady in a blue dress, blue dress on the left who has me scratching my head.
Not because I’ve been wearing long underwears (clean ones) on my scalp since, like, the end of September, but because her name, like that of Archie Bunker’s grandson, escapes me.
The old picture I’m referring to never made it into syndication like “All in the Family”, but it is a family picture nonetheless.
Rodney and Teresa’s wedding picture.
And just like Archie and Edith those weren’t their real names, of course.
Their real names were Mom and Dad.
They just didn’t know that yet, for this is their wedding picture. Sent to me out of the clear blue sky that is the Internet just the other day by one of my cousins.
Understand, won’t you, that there were something like 14 kids in my dad’s family and 12 in my mom’s.
So it stands to reason I’ve got a lot of cousins living ‘round these parts.
So many cousins, in fact, that prior to getting married I insisted on getting blood tests before going out on dates.
I went out with some of those girls anyway, mind you, even if the lab results showed we were related.
Sometimes there’s not a lot to choose from in a small town, and I just made sure we both wore long underwears over our heads when we went to the theatre for to see a picture show.
Didn’t make for a great viewing experience, I’ll grant you, but at least we got to hold hands and remark at how similar they were.
The man on the right is my Uncle Jimmy. Mom’s big brother, Dad’s good friend and best man.
And I mean big brother in every sense of that word, for Uncle Jimmy used to shadow mom on her dates and scared off most of her suitors as a result.
My dad, on the other hand, wasn’t scared of much, except for my mom sometimes.
You wouldn’t know that from the shy little Indian girl, though, looking all demure in the picture taken May 2 on the Wylie-Bronson Road a long, long time ago.
The blackflies must have been horrendous at that place, at that time of year.
I remember dad telling me that Uncle Jimmy rolled his car on the Wylie Hill that same evening and I wonder now whether swarms of blackflies caused the accident or Uncle Jimmy was simply driving around with long underwears on over his head, which was a common safety feature back in the day before seatbelts became mandatory.
The lady on the left, wearing a blue dress, my mother’s maid of honour, her name escapes me.
I don’t know who you are, lady with the blue dress, blue dress on, lady with the blue dress on.
I’ve been scratching my head so much over who you are that holes are starting to appear in my long underwears.
I’m no longer incognito but it is a good thing I’m not picking up dates at family reunions anymore like what used to happen back in the day before seatbelts became mandatory.
I’ve written a lot of shitty things about my mom and dad in recent years.
Don’t mistake those words I wrote for anger at the way they raised me, but rather malicious self-pity at the fact that they died, and sometimes there are times like time when I ask them who is the lady with the blue dress, blue dress on, lady with the blue dress on, but my question goes unanswered.
My questions go unanswered.
Truth be told I never wanted for anything when I was growing up, especially at Christmas, for my parents treated me like gold, frankincense and myrrh every silent night.
And I inherited not just their love but also the best of both worlds in terms of their German and Indian genetics – save for the one failing that sometimes I get the urge to invade small countries but lack all ambition to carry through with my plans for world domination.
My questions go unanswered and at times like that I’ll rise from a nap, hold my wife’s hand tightly and she’ll hug me close, wipe the tears from my eyes and give me a warm, gentle hug while softly, so softly whispering in my ear.
“Take off those damn fool long underwears, you damn fool. You’re missing the wedding picture!!”
Taking off the blinders now, I realize I’ve been missing out on the bigger picture that was Rodney and Teresa back in that day, before seatbelts became mandatory.
They married poor, went on to form a very successful local business, which at one time employed more than 50 people, made a lot of money at it, spent a lot of that money on me, lost all their money and died poor, but prideful, and rightly so.
You won’t see them in syndication on Saturday night, but mom and dad’s show did have two spin-offs in terms of my brother and I.
Now my big brother and I haven’t been on speaking terms for the past few months, on account of differences that sometimes come between brothers after their parents pass away.
If mom and dad could see us now, they’d make my brother and I sport long underwears on our heads the whole year ‘round.
Mom and Dad can see me now, I know, from their wedding picture that was taken May 2 on the Wylie-Bronson Road a long, long time ago, back before seatbelts became mandatory.
Maybe my cousin sent my brother the same Internet. That would be nice for Christmas.
That and the name of the lady with the blue dress, blue dress on. Lady with the blue dress on.
If you could throw some new long underwears into the mix too, Santa, that would be great.
Seatbelts on your sleigh, remember, are now mandatory safety features.