This blog entry goes out to my Aunt Vonnie over in Circle with my sincerest apologies for not blogging in the recent past. For those of you interested in the identities besides Vonnie and me, her children are on my grandmother's knee and directly in front of her right knee while Aunt Judy's children are situated upon my grandfather's right knee and directly in front of it. The cute little blond guy on Grandpa's left knee is the author composing this piece. I am not sure why my gaze seems to be drifting somewhere out into space but I'm either developing my now current fear of crowds or more than likely I just committed a "doodle" in my snappy polyester leisure pants that my mother had so much fondness for. Dear God I was always dressed like Bobo the circus monkey as a child but mother always reminds me that it was "stylish" in those days. Combine my pants with that bowl haircut and I make the perfect poster boy for a tour guide of the upper Appalachians and its numerous banjo festivals. Do take note of the cowboy boots because THAT would make grandpa proud. He was as western and bronc tough as it gets so I think the boots gave me the pass to crawl aboard his knee. He would have preferred we wear western snap shirts though.
Check out my grandmother's menacing stare directed towards Melissa Marie in her infant state. Grandma had little patience for screaming grandchildren until they reached their teenage years. There is a photo of her holding each of her grand kids with this look and thank God for her that child protective services was in its infancy stages during those years. I think she commonly locked several of us under the age of 8 away in a basement at times because quite frankly it simply drove her nuts. It still shocks me that little Melissa is a grown up mother herself with two great kids of her own. It is a little sad that Melissa's kids are well-behaved because Melissa and brother Ross certainly weren't. In high school Ross was the smartest guy I knew and always the guy in control at parties and other gatherings of miscreant behavior. Ross never lost control or poise; he simply watched and laughed as others did. Their sister LeeAnn was always sweet and just enough older than me that I don't remember many of her mischievous deeds as a youngster.
Next to me on Grandpa's right knee is my cousin Jeff. He too appears to be intellectually enthralled with the moment and cannot wait to scamper away from the picture. Annette is the auburn-haired girl in front of Grandpa's right knee. She is the oldest of the grand kids and as I remember the best behaved and certainly the most poised and quiet. This photo must have been snapped only a month or two before the birth of Jeff and Annette's sister Jody. Jody and Melissa are in the same class and we must have just missed her for this picture. My sister Tara was a year from coming into the picture as well. It seemed like a kid producing competition for a couple of years. Can you imagine Grandma's mood if she had to hold two infants on her lap? I believe that's a photo that may have never happened. Ross would have to sit near me and a physical altercation surely would have commenced. We are in the same graduating class as well but take note of my far superior level of class and sophistication. Ross is wearing a diaper with no pants on! How embarrassing! Even more sad for Vonnie is the fact that Ross still moves through public like that to this day. If you ever gaze upon a lean cowboy astride a dusty sorrel in the Deer Lodge valley and note that the rider is well outfitted except for a pair of Wranglers gone amiss, that's my cousin Ross. Don't bother telling him he's not wearing pants because we think he likes it that way.
Later (in the 80's) Uncle Tom and LeRoy's kids came along. Tom had three boys and LeRoy a girl and boy respectively. If Grandma had to manage this bunch at one time I'll guarantee you you'd see a bevy of Keystone Light cans littering the floor as the edge was taken off. My Mom and Dad added a little chimp (Brittany) in 1983 and Aunt Judy added Trevor around 1989.
Grandpa passed in 1984 and Grandma in March 2007. It's interesting to look at this old photograph with nostalgia and even more interesting to look at the lives and history of those in the picture complete with each individuals progression through the years. We are a close family and I would dare to say closer than a lot of families I've observed over the years. As I grow older it becomes more important to me and I'm grateful for all of them. I just wish we could get Ross to put some pants on in public!