Don’t Panic! — Double Birthdays Bring Out A Swarm of Crazy Cousins

Dear Folks,

Aunt Fay, the birthday girl, and her niece Cindy

It was with a feeling of excitement that Tammy and I watched Cindy’s big white SUV sweep up the hill and into my yard. It was our Aunt Fay’s birthday and our Aunt Artria had just celebrated hers a couple of days before. We piled the cakes, cokes, chips, and Tammy’s Famous Homemade Dip into the back, climbed in, and zoomed down the hill to sister Katie’s house for another pick-up passenger. On the way, we swapped woes and memories and made it in record time. 

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Aunt Fay and her granddaughter, Summer

As we got out, Cindy and I discovered that neither one of us had given Fay a heads up that we were coming. But we didn’t care. A surprise birthday celebration is a good thing. So we swooped in on her like storm troopers. I was the second body in the door, so I opened my arms for a big hug. Imagine my surprise when I was shoved aside as Fay loudly exclaimed – “KATIE!!” Okay. Katie is the baby girl of our McDaniel branch of the Duncan clan. Katie is a hard-working shipping clerk and rarely gets to visit with extended family. It had been several years since our remaining two aunties had seen her. But I did express my indignation with a little rudeness of my own. — Don’t worry, Folks; this is how we express our love. We pummel each other, insult each other, and hug, laugh, tell tall tales, and generally make a nuisance of ourselves. When we get together, it’s like we didn’t get past age twelve.

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Don’t panic! The candles are successfully blown out. Happy birthday to YOU!

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This is Boo, sometimes known as Mark Earl, Fay’s great-grandson, and Mark’s grandson. He’s a real smart kid. And looks like he likes cake, too.

DON’T PANIC!” yelled Aunt Fay. — This is a family joke between Fay, Katie, and me. A few years ago it was just Katie and me descending upon her with a bucket of piping hot chicken. It smelled tantalizing and I was starving. So I got a little overly zealous in getting to the good stuff. Katie stopped me in my tracks by standing in front of me, holding up her hands, and yelling, “DON’T PANIC!!“, which sent us into such gales of laughter the chicken nearly got cold. Okay. So you had to be there. But it WAS funny.

As our group trooped back out to the car to retrieve the birthday goodies, Fay came with us. I made sure to hand her the sack with my special birthday treat in it just for her — a clear plastic container of little white powdered doughnuts from Wal-Mart. Her favorite snack. Fay yelled in gleeful surprise, then shoved them hastily back down in the sack. “I’m hiding these,” she said. At our age we feel no guilt about private stashes.

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“Want cake. Not picture.” — This is Ladybug, Fay’s great-granddaughter, and her son Mark’s granddaughter.

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Katie Bug, busy with her cake and eyeing the rest of it. Her sister Ladybug must have already had hers after trying to hide from my camera.

Aunt Fay had a houseful of her kids, grandkids, and great-grands, which made another big batch of Duncan cousins.  Man! . . . there was a swarm of us that day. We got the cakes opened — they were those delicious coconut cakes with buttercream icing from Publix. You know the one? Cindy and I had bought three — two for Fay’s houseful and one to take for a little party for Aunt Artria later. We took the plastic top from the cake container, flipped it upside down and used it for a chip bowl. Before long, all anyone could talk about was the cake and the dip. When Tammy left hers on the table for a few minutes to go out and smoke, the plate was wiped clean when she got back. You can’t leave food sitting unguarded around this bunch. Reminds me of the scene from the old spaghetti western comedy, “My Name is Nobody”, where the Trinity brothers fight over the last piece of chicken.

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Aunt Artria – celebrating 87 years of birthdays with daughter Joan beside her.

Finally, Fay, Tammy, Katie, and I went to Aunt Artria’s, while Cindy stayed with Mark, Fay’s son. Mark was in an accident over 20 years ago and has been quadriplegic ever since.

So we took the birthday party to our aunt with 87 birthdays now under her hat. Cousin Joan — Artria’s daughter — was there. Katie — again — got an extra warm welcome. To celebrate Artria’s 87th birthday, Tammy and I lit the candles. Tammy played photographer while I took the bright cake in to the “birthday girl”. Her eyes lit up as bright as the candles. After we ate more cake and chips with the Tammy Dip, we looked at pictures, and I presented Artria and Joan with a picture each of “Wasp” Duncan (Henry Duncan), Artria’s great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War. I also gave them a copy of the newspaper article about this tall mountain man who fought in hand-to-hand combat with a mounted cavalry officer at the Battle of Baker’s Creek (also called Champion’s Hill).

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Tammy and Fay — thick as thieves. Surely they aren’t talking about me.

During our visit, Tammy and Fay retired to the porch chairs for a smoking break and a gab session. I kept trying to get a good picture of them with their heads together, thick as thieves, and managed one or two before Fay told me in no uncertain terms to stop that @$% clicking. Before we left, I was asked to also take a picture of Artria’s little dog, Charlie Brown, her faithful companion. Joan, who is a painter, is going to paint his portrait for her mother. As Artria and Katie were saying their goodbyes, Artria told Katie this would be the last time they would meet. “Why?” asked Katie. “Because I won’t last another 30 years,” Artria quipped. Katie promised it wouldn’t be “another 30 years” before she got back for a visit, and Artria said she was holding her to it.

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Aunt Artria pulls out the pictures as Charlie Brown, her faithful companion, sits on her knee.

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Memory lane via pictures

 Roll Call of Our Crazy Cousins and Their Crazy Stories – You Can’t Miss This.

Here’s Cousin David and his story:

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First cousins – David and Katie – David is Fay’s son; Katie is my “baby” sister

The only time Cousin David ever flew, he was at death’s door — literally. When he collapsed in the yard one day, the EMT’s knew there was little time. His blood pressure was off the charts. He had suffered a heart aneurysm. The call went out to Medevac him to Huntsville. But as he lay there, his life’s blood all but gone, did David’s life flash before his eyes? Not hardly. When the helicopter touched down, David refused to go until he had talked to the pilot. So what was more important than those precious fleeting moments that could spell the difference between life and death? David had never been in the air any higher than jumping distance. The pilot had to reassure him that he had checked the oil and “the tires”, and the gas was topped off, with the chopper in A-1 mechanical condition. No sense getting killed while he was busy dying. Right? Good grief. But all jokes aside, David almost didn’t make it. Even after surgery and his release from the hospital, his blood pressure took a ton of meds to stabilize and he lost 60 lbs. But, he credits the fact that he is alive today because he didn’t fall out of the sky in a ball of flame because someone didn’t top off the oil in the chopper — at wherever chopper service stations are located.:)

Here’s Cousin Summer and her fairy tale story:

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Summer, the Princess Bride, and her Prince Charming, Dalton. Their wedding ensemble was . . . uh . . . different.

Every young girl is a Princess Bride and deserves a Prince Charming. But when Cousin Summer and Dalton decided to get married at the courthouse in front of the Justice of the Peace, they brought some close family members, but had no money for fancy wedding duds.So they bought t-shirts. That’s right. I said t-shirts.The duds for the main dudes each spelled out one individual word. One said “Dress”. The other said “TUX”. The t-shirt for the mother of the bride read “Mama”; the sister of the bride, Mandy, wore one that said, “Awesome”, and Mandy’s new boyfriend that nobody really knew at the time wore one that simply recognized him as “THAT GUY”. Mandy’s young son Tyler was decked out in one that read “I’m Hungry”. Because, I guess, all little boys always are. And, by the way, Dalton really is a Prince Charming – outgoing, kind, considerate, and always willing to help. He says he’s lucky to get Summer and Summer says she’s lucky to get him. Keep it that way, guys. I love it.

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Cousin Mandy — one “PRETTY”, bad dude. She was an MP in Korea, Folks.

Cousin Mandy – One bad dude, dude.

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Mandy’s son Tyler and fiance, Gary, watching the Atlanta Falcons lose.

Where does a pretty, A-honor-role student and young lady go after graduation? Into the U.S. Army, of course. Of course. But she doesn’t elect to go into secretarial or clerical duties. She goes in as an MP. She gets her training in St. Louis and is sent to the DML (Demilitarized Zone) in Korea. She has seen North Korean guards from too short a distance. After her stint in the army, and a marriage which produced her son Tyler, she went to work in the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in Seattle as a security guard. She was there the day of the DEA protests when she and a fellow security guard had to take down an unruly man. Mandy is the one kneeling on top of the guy on the ground. She is pointing her finger and saying, “Get off the property”, and “Get that camera outta my face.” But, of course, the photographer paid her no mind and the video went viral. Here is the video:

More to come, Folks, but I’m done for now. Catch ya later. I’ll leave you with Cousin Cindy’s favorite Facebook cousin thingy. Here it is.

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