Tag Archives: family

Top 15 Comedies Ever! (IMO, anyway)

Yeah, I sorta fell off the earth there for a couple of weeks, but I think I’m kinda back now. Knock on wood. And how better to celebrate the return than with the long-delayed rollout of my personal Top 15 Comedies? So here we go….

* 15.  Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009. I had no real expectations going into this movie and was basically blown away. From  the stop-action animation to the perfection of the voice casting to the utter delight of the story itself… I don’t really see how you could ask for more in a non-live-action comedy. If you haven’t seen this, or skipped it as “a children’s movie,” do yourself a favor and watch it.

* 14. Beetlejuice, 1988. There’s just something about this movie that is absolutely delightfully funny. And kinda gross.  But really really funny. A recently deceased couple brings in a “specialist” (Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice) to run their awful relatives out of their now-abandoned house. Nuttiness ensues. And you’ll never hear “The Banana Boat Song” again without wanting to dance around a table…. or float!

* 13. Tropic Thunder, 2008. Apparently Tropic Thunder  is one of those movies that you love or hate. Some people near to me  really don’t like  it, finding it gross and offensive.  While  I’m usually among the first to take offense, this movie just kills me.  I laugh so hard every time I watch it that I nearly need an oxygen tent.  Everybody in it is hysterically funny, from the people you’d expect like Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Danny McBride, to the much less expected like Tom Cruise and especially Robert Downey Jr. RDJ plays the controversial role of an award-winning white Australian actor playing a black  American soldier in Vietnam, and he absolutely nails it. I could say more, but just go watch the movie.  You’ll  love it unless you hate it. LOL

* 12. Fargo, 1996. In which Frances McDormand became one of my acting heroes as massively pregnant Minnesota sheriff Marge Gunderson. And the always terrific William H. Macy is perfection as the put-upon husband who waffles  about a crime involving his wife. Steve Buscemi is his usual excellent nervous bad guy. It’s a Coen Brothers movie, what can I say?

* 11. Groundhog Day, 1993. One of those rare movies that gets better every time you see it. Bill Murray (in his best work, IMO) is a local weatherman doomed to relive Groundhog Day endlessly until he figures something out. It’s sweet and snarky and hysterically funny, and I love  it.

* 10. Toy Story. Here’s my one big cheat: I’m making Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 a single entry, because I don’t see how anyone could possibly rate one over the others. These movies are pure genius from start to finish, and if you don’t laugh until you cry… and then cry until you can’t see … you basically don’t have a heart. And should  maybe get that checked out.

* 9. Tootsie, 1982. Yeah, it’s aged a bit. And the idea of a man in drag maybe isn’t as funny as it once was. But this is still a terrific piece of comedy with an outstanding cast from top to bottom. I laughed so hard at it in 1982 that I nearly ruptured myself. 😀 Maybe it’s  not quite as funny now, but it’s still sweet and a wonderful piece of ensemble comedy acting.  “I’m just afraid you’re going to burn in hell for all this.” “You WERE A TOMATO! A tomato doesn’t have logic!” “… I was a better man with you, as a woman, … than I ever was with a woman, as a man.”  God bless you, Dustin Hoffman.

* 8. Some Like It Hot, 1959. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, on the run from the mob, dress in drag and join an all-female band going on the road. With Marilyn Monroe. Hilarity ensues, but some of the best involves Jack Lemmon’s female and male characters and eccentric millionaire Osgood Fielding III. Which leads to one of the best conversations ever…

Jerry: Oh no you don’t! Osgood, I’m gonna level with you. We can’t get married at all.
Osgood: Why not?
Jerry: Well, in the first place, I’m not a natural blonde.
Osgood: Doesn’t matter.
Jerry: I smoke! I smoke all the time!
Osgood: I don’t care.
Jerry: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I’ve been living with a saxophone player.
Osgood: I forgive you.
Jerry: [tragically] I can never have children!
Osgood: We can adopt some.
Jerry: But you don’t understand, Osgood! Ohh…  [Jerry finally gives up and pulls off his wig]
Jerry: [normal voice] I’m a man!
Osgood: [shrugs] Well, nobody’s perfect!

* 7. The Birdcage, 1996. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a gay nightclub owner and his diva partner who agree to pretend to be straight for a long weekend so that their adult son can bring home his fiancee and her uber-conservative parents for a visit. Hank Azaria steals large chunks of the show as the gay couple’s Guatemalan houseboy. Based roughly on the French “La Cage aux Folles.” Ultimately, it’s a movie about family and love, and I can watch it over and over. “I pierced the toast!!”

* 6. Zoolander, 2001. Another  guilty pleasure, but this movie and it’s dumb-bunny fashionistas just slays me. I laugh so hard at the “walk off” that it actually hurts. “I’m pretty sure there’s more to life than being really,  really ridiculously good-looking…” “So join now, ’cause at the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, we teach you that there’s more to life than just being really, really, really good looking. Right kids?” And who could forget, “BLUE STEEL!”

* 5. Galaxy Quest, 1999. Imdb decribes it as “The alumni cast of a cult TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.” But y’know, that just doesn’t begin to cover the awesome crazy nutty perfection of this movie. Anybody who’s ever been a fan, or been to a con, or loved something science-fictional with a love that defies explanation adores this movies. Most of us, anyway. From Tim Allen’s drunken captain to Sigourney Weaver as the (of course) communications officer in a mini-dress who can’t do anything else, to Tony Shalhoub’s slow but genius engineer to (especially) Alan Rickman as the generic facial prosthetic alien science officer, every single cast member is perfect. The adventures are funny and rollicking and just nutty enough… And there’s heart, big unexpected heart. “By Grabthar’s hammer… you shall be …. avenged!”

* 4. The Big Lebowski, 1998. I’m not sure it’s possible to give a pocket capsule of this masterpiece’s plot.  Suffice it to say that a case of mistaken identity results in the spoilage of a rug that really tied the room together. And it goes on from there. Jeff Bridges is masterful as The Dude, and his bowling buddies John Goodman and Steve Buscemi are  horrendously perfect. Add Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a flunky-like flunky and John Turturro in possibly the best  tiny part ever in a movie, as the rabid bowler Jesus (“Nobody fucks  with the Jesus.” and you’ve got a big old steaming pile of awesome. “Careful, man! There’s a beverage here!”

* 3. Ghostbusters,  1984. The one, the only, the original… often copied, never duplicated. Jeez, but I love this movie. The classic trio of Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold  Ramis take on the ghosts of New York, including one very irritated demi-god named Zuul, and the end of the world turns out to include a really really big Marshmallow Man. The classic lines are endless. “I’ve been slimed.” “There is no Dana,  there is only Zuul.” “That’s a big Twinkie.” “This chick is TOAST!” “Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!” “Sorry…  I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.” “We came, we saw,  we kicked its ass!” And of course, the ever-important, “Don’t cross the streams!”

* 2. Raising Arizona, 1987. Seems the higher up the list I go, the more I hit things that are either loved or hated.  This was my very favorite comedy for many years. Nicholas Cage (never one of my favorites) and Holly Hunter (always a favorite) are a sad-sack, down-on-their-luck couple who can’t have a baby. Then a local bazillionaire’s wife has quints and a wonderful, terrible plan is concocted. With five babies, they surely won’t miss one. And so begins the nutty, quasi-apocalyptic adventure of “Raising Arizona.” Another one from the Coen Brothers (I’m seeing a trend.) Another one with great lines: “Turn to the right…. turn to the left…” “You’re young and you got your health. What you want with a job?” “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.” “Son, you got a panty on your head.” “Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” “Now get up there and get me a toddler!”

* 1. Airplane, 1980. Everyone on the plane is sick except the one passenger who is afraid to fly. Mwahahahahahaha!

C’mon, do I really have to say anything? This is possibly the funniest 90 minutes in history, and it’s still funny 32 years later. If this movie doesn’t make you laugh, something is seriously wrong with your tickle box.  ;D

“Stewardess, I speak jive.”

“And Leon is getting laaaarrrrggggeeeeerrrrr!”

“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

“Joey, have you ever been in a … Turkish prison?”

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking. (smoking… sniffing glue… amphetamines)”

“I am serious…  and don’t call me Shirley.”

“This? Why I can make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl…”

And now I’ve had enough second-hand giggles to hold me for a day or two. Hope you’ve enjoyed this. And share some of your favorite comedies in comments! Agree, disagree, open up new things I haven’t considered. And thanks for hanging around here, at least for a while.

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Being Quiet

The days I remind myself to shut up

seem to expand.

A brave new world of vast global communication

and still I hear this message inside and out to be quiet,

Stop talking

You’re blathering

Nobody cares what you’re interested in.

The voices come mostly from inside, I suspect.

Echoes of my father’s “I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

Echoes of my mother’s “You don’t have to tell me about every single thing.”

But then how and where does this lonely country only child share?

Not in school. “Stop talking.”

Not with friends. “Nobody’s interested in that stuff.”

Not a church. “You ask too many questions.”

 

Ultimately it come to this: a pen, a notebook,

a keyboard, a file,

a blog spiraling its way into the vast emptinesses of hope

to friends I’ve never met

people I’ll never know

other voices needing to be heard.

All of us crying into the darkness in a desperate attempt

not to shut up.

 

– By Judy Wall Crump, 2012

Please don’t reproduce without credit. Thanks.

 

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Piecemeal

I have turquoise paint on my fingertips and that makes me strangely happy.

Random bits and pieces today. Tomorrow I’ll return with the rest of the horror movie list.

* A year ago, I joined Curves. I was doing really well at exercising three times a week until around Thanksgiving. I tend to lose focus at the holidays. Maybe it’s SAD or something. Whatever. Was just getting out of it when January and February hit with one vacation trip, three cases of random “itis,” a month of deafness from ear infection, followed by the death of my father-in-law and one of my husband’s aunts, the near-fatal choking of a brother-in-law, and to cap it all off, my daughter’s special white cat, which she’s had for 14 years or so, had to be put down. Sheesh.

So, back to Curves. One bit of good news among all this stress was that I did my one-year check with Curves, and even with missing three months at the end of the year, I lost 18 pounds and 18 inches over the year. So go me, right? Yeah, I think so. And I’ll try to do better this year.

* My husband’s been playing David Bowie music for the past several days, as part of a thing he’s doing for an online group. And I’m reminded of how much I really liked Bowie. I liked that he never got in a rut. I liked that he was always willing to re-invent himself rather that be bored or boring.

I admire that. Wish I had the guts to re-invent myself now and then.

Also, I have a shameless love for “A Space Oddity.” I managed to get into into the uber-Christian house somehow, as a 45, and played it over and over in my room. It was like watching a movie. For many years, that was the only David Bowie performance I ever heard, and I’ll always love it. Ground Control to Major Tom…

* Thanks for the scary movie recommendations. One I’ve wanted to see for quite a while is “Cape Fear.”  Glad it sounds as good and creepy as I thought.

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Hey Hey, We’re the Fundies!

I spent the formative years of my life being forced to attend, a minimum of three times every week, a church that was so far right it believed that Southern Baptists were evil, liberal heathens. Yeah, you read that right.

Ever heard of Bob Jones University? We believed that fine institution was too liberal.

No kidding. It was an evangelical, premillenial, independent Baptist church. Theologically and socially, it was somewhere to the right of Rick Santorum. This week, when I was thinking about the lessons I learned from The Monkees, I also pondered the lessons I learned in church. It wasn’t all bad. There were some truly sweet people and at least three people that I actually considered to be Christians. But the lessons I learned from all those years in the fundamentalist tent have haunted me ever since.

* Obey authority without question. All authority. Always.

* Do what you’re told.

* Don’t ask questions. (This was a big one.)

* Accept your fate.

* Do what you’re told.

* Any personal dreams or hopes you might have don’t  matter.

* Movies and TV are godless and Satanic, but it’s perfectly okay for preachers to deliver sermons that cause nightmares for weeks. Yes, this happened, more than once. The one I *still* have nightmares about now and then is the one where communists arrest my mom and make me watch while they stick needles in her eyes and nails in her ears. Yes, this was a sermon. I was maybe 10 or 11 years old.

* Do what you’re told.

* The best sermons/testimonials are the ones where the person spends 9/10s of the time talking about their lives of sin, in detail, and then wrap it up with a little bit of praise God I got saved. Those were almost as good as TV/movies.

* It’s possible for a preacher to break my Daddy’s heart.

* “Mean Girls” have nothing on Christian girls.

* Do what you’re told.

* Two-faced is normal.

* Sly hypocrisy and underhanded meanness are apparently Christian acts.

* Do what you’re told.

I was about 25 years old before I finally managed to break free of that quicksand horseshit, and it’s the reason I’m as liberal as I am today. I’m not anti-Christian: I just don’t see many of them around. I just see way too many hypocritical Pharisees.

In some ways, I miss church. It’s nice having that church family around. But I won’t go there again. Until I find a church that preaches love, compassion and acceptance, I won’t be darkening any church doors. I doubt that God minds. If He does, She’s never mentioned it to me and we talk all the time.

Hey Hey, I’m Free!

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Hey Hey We’re the Monkees!

The out-of-the blue death of Davy Jones this week got me thinking about The Monkees and how much I loved them. I did. Still do. Had a major crush on Peter, but I thought they were all terrific. Davy, in fact, was my least favorite Monkee, at least until I found out he’d been a jockey.

More love.

The Monkees were a formative part of my youth. Such “radical” music as Dylan, Marley or The Beatles would never have been allowed in our house, but The Monkees came across as silly and harmless, except for their long hair and music, and I was able to sneak them under the parental radar. I just about wore out my Monkees albums and had every song memorized. I still remember an amazing number of them, all these years later.

But in retrospect, I realized that I learned some pretty important things from the Monkees. Herewith, my list.

* You can always choose to laugh.

* Puns are an acceptable form of humor; the more groan-y the better.

* If you say rebellious things with a smile, you’re more likely to get away with it.

* Take the chances that come to you. If they’re not perfect, so what? Make changes. If you can’t make changes, watch for the next chance and move on.

* Stand up for your own integrity.

* War is a losing – and a loser’s – game.

* Ask questions.

* Defy authority.

* Don’t take any of it too seriously.

* Follow your own path.

Maybe these don’t seem like much to you, but to me they were absolutely radical ideas. And I loved them. Love them. Hey hey…

 

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Be Quiet!

I  was five years old when I started school. There was no such thing as kindergarten in rural Mississippi back then, so thanks to my December birthday I started first grade at age five. To be honest, I don’t remember much about first grade, but I do remember two things.

One, at some point I was given a printed-out copy of a drawing of a Scottie dog to color. With due diligence, I colored said Scottie perfectly, completely black … with a red collar. I recall someone – new teacher? mom? – saying something along the lines of “That’s not very cheerful.” To which I replied, more or less, “It’s a Scottie dog. They’re black.” This continued for a bit with comments about bright colors and comments about yes, but it’s a Scottie dog and they’re black.

I would not be moved.

So that’s the first thing I remember from first grade. I had a tendency to be stubborn and could be argumentative. And I knew, dang it, that Scottie dogs were black.

The second thing I remember from first grade is that I got in trouble a fair amount, and always for the same thing – talking.

Don’t talk.

Be quiet.

Stop talking.

Sit in the hall until I say you can come back in.

Give me your hand (for the ruler swat).

Always about talking. I made perfect grades, did whatever I was told, was a class leader, read all the time, but still played sports on the playground at recess. But I liked to talk, and it kept me in trouble through my whole first year’s encounter with formal education.

At some point in that first-grade year, I decided that talking just wasn’t worth the trouble, so I shut up. I didn’t really speak in school much for the next 12 years. I wrote. I talked to my cat, and to my short-term dog. I talked to myself, while wandering the fields and woods around my home. But I didn’t talk in school.

Talking has always been my Achilles’ heel. I like to talk with people. It made me a pretty decent reporter, and a more than okay teacher, but it just keeps me in trouble with people who don’t talk much.

I talk too much. I blab on. I babble.

So I’m told, even now. Guess it’s time to shut up again, and start writing it all down. And talking to the dog. Heck, I can get a fake ear-phone-thingie and talk to myself even in public, and nobody will think I’m some kind of lunatic.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Be quiet.

Thanks.

 

P.S. Scottie dogs ARE black, dang it. And I’ve colored outside the lines ever since. So there. 😀

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Laying Low

One thing I really hate is when I hit those pockets of life in which nothing I do is right. I’m sure you know what I mean.

It’s those days, weeks, months when everything you do is just slightly off, seems just slightly irritating to those around you. If you’re quiet, you’re too quiet. If you talk, you talk too much. If you try to remain calm, you’re apparently sad. If you give in to exuberance, you’re embarrassing. And worst of all, it’s all in your own head. Not like anybody’s actually saying any of these things.

But it makes existence … odd. I suspect others back away to give me space, and then I feel isolated.

Y’know what? I’m just a mess, and need to stop thinking about this stuff. Here’s some actual factual things:

* I got myself apparently banned from our governor-elect’s Facebook page, and I didn’t even use any bad language. I just kept asking when he’s going to apologize for basically calling me a minion of Satan. Guess he doesn’t like the question. Guess I’d better keep asking it at every juncture.

* Finally reading “Guns, Germs and Steel,” thanks to the Amazon lending library, and finding it fascinating. Right now pondering the issue of disease from the point of view of the disease microbe. Very very interesting.

* Recently read “The Blacksmith’s Daughter,” a first novel by a very dear friend, and enjoyed it greatly. You can find it at Amazon. Also read “The Whip” by Karen Kondazian, on the recommendation of Jim Beaver, and really liked it. It’s a novel written by a screenplay writer, so it reads like a movie, but it’s based on the real life of Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst, who lived as a man and a stagecoach driver in Goldrush-era California. Nobody knew she was a woman until after she died.

* Been making lots of hats and suchlike lately, which means I’ve been watching lots of movies/TV. Saw “Rio Bravo,” with John Wayne and Dean Martin. Reminded me of why I had such a huge crush on Dean Martin back in the day. Watched “Dark Knight” again, and renewed my admiration for the spectacular creepiness of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Watched (thanks, streaming Netflix!) “The Trouble with Angels,” which I hadn’t seen in at least 30 years. It holds up amazingly well, all things considered, and reminded me why I basically idolized Hayley Mills as a youngster.

All these things are quiet, and quiet is a good thing for me to be right now. Quiet and non-bothersome. And keep many of my opinions to myself. It all works out better that way.

 

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Review: The Blacksmith’s Daughter

First, I enjoyed this book, which is available as an ebook through MUSA/Euterpe and also through Amazon.

Second, I’ve known the author literally since she was born, and count her as a dear friend. Just to get that out there in the front of anything else.

That said, “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” is as good a fantasy first novel as any I’ve read in a while. Fantasy novels have certain things going for them, or against them, depending on personal preference. They have a fair amount of backstory/world-building to do before they can get deep into the story. Anybody who’s ever read Tolkien knows that this has been a challenge all the way since the Big Daddy First Fantasy to Rule Them All, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. If you’re the kind of person who loves to dive head-first into a new world, with unusual names and unheard-of places and Important People you need to learn and remember early on, then you’re already comfortable with reading fantasy and won’t have any problem with all these things.

If you’re not accustomed to it, you’ll find that the Prologue is a strenuous chew. But hang in there, all will come clear and you’ll find that you needed to know all that prologue.

About midway through chapter one, “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” really hits its stride and from there on out, there’s plenty of plot to pull the reader though the occasional bit of necessary fill-in.

“The Blacksmith’s Daughter” hovers on an edge between standard fantasy, mild romance, and the Young Adult category the publishers have chosen to put it in. While many of the tropes in the story are fairly standard fantasy, none of them comes across as cookie-cutter. The pint-sized heroine is great fun, unexpected and full of twisty quirks, unusual strengths and a quiet competence not often seen in fantasy females. I love that not only is she a blacksmith’s daughter, she’s a blacksmith herself.

Oddly, the main hero character engaged me the least. He was certainly fine, but nothing really sets him apart. The main hero’s long-time best friend is far more interesting a character. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him if and when the promised sequel comes along!

All-told, “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” provides everything a reader could want from a fantasy novel: Engaging main characters, entertaining secondary characters, wizardly wizards, icky bad guys, sword play and magic. And about that magic: I’m really hard on magical systems in books and movies, because so often it’s misused as an abrupt deus ex machina. Wave your arms and make everything sparkly and fixed: That kind of magic. So I’m pleased to report that the magic in “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” has clearly been well thought out and has sane uses and limitations. Thanks, Arley, for that gift.

In conclusion, I only have one more thing to say: Where are the maps? You can’t have fantasy lands without maps. LOL It sprains the reader’s tiny mind!

My recommendation: Read “The Blacksmith’s Daughter.” And when you’re done, let me know what you think about Enith.

Because I think she’s fab. Just like the chick who brought her to life: Well done, young wizard. Well done indeed.

 

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Personhood: Just say No to Sex

I appreciate the beliefs of the anti-choice movement, truly I do. Truth is, in 55 years of life I’ve never met a single person who was pro-abortion. Nobody likes it. It’s a terrible option. But sometimes it’s the only option, and just making the decision to go forward with it is hard enough without all the self-righteous brow-beating that’s become associated with it.

That said, I find this Amendment 26 in Mississippi, the so-called “Personhood Amendment,” overly worrisome. My daughter takes birth control for a medical condition. Is this going to become illegal? Will she just have to live with a condition that’s easily treatable, just in case she might have sex someday? It’s insane.

Anything that makes doctors nervous gives me pause, I have to admit. Plus, it’s just going to be a huge lawyerly clusterbomb from the word go: The only people who will benefit from this amendment, born or unborn, will be lawyers billing by the hour to deal with all the lawsuits. In a state that’s already so strapped for budget that it has persistent childhood poverty and is cutting education and human services, what we really, really need is an influx of state, local and federal law suits to gum up the judicial works and churn out money for the lawyers.

If the personhood people want to go after abortion, let them go after it straight-forward. I know how I’d vote on abortion, but I also know that I’m not going to vote yes on an amendment that might see my daughter have a miscarriage someday and be charged with homicide. With all due respect, I think a lot of well-meaning people need to really, honestly read this amendment, and try to see past the “save the unborn” to all it could potentially do to our daughters.

Upon pondering, it occurs to me… If the anti-birth control amendment passes next week, women will still have one line of defense. NO. Just say no. Ever hear of Lysistrata? Get ready, ladies, for one heckuva battle. But just remember… if he hits you, it’s assault. Just say NO to sex.

My New Motto: Say Yes to 26 and Say NO to Sex. With men. Ever.

Let’s see how that freak flag flies.

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Early Encounters with Death

My maternal grandfather died when I was five years old. He was buried on my sixth birthday.

That was my first brush with death, other than the death of my first kitten, Smokey, who was hit by a car and killed about a year before that. I never saw Smokey’s body: My mom or dad took care of getting it out of sight before telling me what had happened. But with Pa, it was different.

I was never a huggy, kissy child, and my Pa was a very huggy, lovey grandpa, or so I was told. I never liked to sit on laps and be cuddled, so even as a small child, Pa and I had reached some sort of standoff, apparently. I’d agree to sit on his lap for a few minutes and suffer through a hug, and that’d be that. Don’t get me wrong: I loved my grandpa. I just didn’t like being held. Never did, not from the start.

So it was all good with us. Everybody enjoyed a laugh about prickly Judy, who didn’t like anybody hugging her, and that was my oddity in a large extended family that seemed to treasure oddity.

When Pa died, of heart failure on an icy December day, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Mostly, I have two memories from that time.

First, Pa was lying down in the living room. I’d never seen Pa lying down before. He was a rugged, rangy Southern dirt farmer, accustomed to hard work and hard play. He always seemed to be moving, even when sitting down. But he just laying there in the living room, inside the oddest bed. Of course now I know it was a coffin, but I didn’t really have any words or experience to account for that. The living room was full, as it almost always was, but everybody was being very quiet. And I remember it was colder than usual, that the living room fire was barely lit, and it was so very cold outside. My adult self reckons that was to hold the body off from decay for a little while, but to my child self it was just another oddity.

The second thing I remember is my mother’s sweater. I spent a lot of that time on her lap (Mama was the only person I’d voluntarily allow to hold me). She was wearing an open sweater (a cardigan) I’d never seen before, soft and solid black. It had small, domed buttons that were pearly gray-white. I sat on her lap for hours, playing with those buttons and keeping an eye on all the comings and goings between the living room and the kitchen, and in and out the front door.

My Pa had a large family – 13 children, probably half of them married and parents by then – and he was known and liked in the small rural community, so there was a lot of foot traffic.

But when push comes to shove, those are the only real memories I have of my first encounter with death: the pearly buttons on my mama’s sweater and the oddity that Pa was lying down in the living room.

Sometimes I think it was a good thing that I had that experience. I’m glad I had the chance to experience death as a natural, organic part of life, not as something that happens shut away in a special building with machinery and mysterious goings-ons. Pa was alive and then he died, and his body lay in rest in his living room, where he had so often sat and laughed and fussed and talked, and it was perfectly right that it should be so.

That was the first and last in-home “lying-in” I ever saw. But I think it might have been healthier than how we do things now.

ETA: Pa died on Dec. 13. He had 13 children at the time, and 13 grandchildren. Family legend says that he had gone out to bring in the family’s 13 head of cattle, and that the temperature had gotten down to 13 degrees the night before. I can neither confirm nor deny any of the legend, but I’ve decided to believe it. It’s a little bit of cool, no?

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