My people


THE HOLIDAY season turns a fellow’s mind to his family, his people.

For most of my life, I had people, and now I don’t. Mostly, they have died. I now have lots of Mexican people, but I don’t feel close to them. The cultural divide is vast. We do not connect.

Except my wife, of course.

My people were rural Georgia crackers. I will name them for you. There were my parents, of course, whom I called Dee and Charlie, never Mom and Dad. I don’t know why. Charlie had one sibling, Marthalyn, whom we sometimes called Marty. Dee was an only child. There weren’t many people in that generation.

I have one sister, Diane. She is a hot-tempered feminist fanatic, and I had to cease communication with her a couple of years ago to maintain my sanity. The situation severely saddens me. I also have one daughter, Celeste, who lives with her husband, Mitch, in Athens, Georgia. Her mother and I parted company when Celeste was 5, which often bodes badly for future relationships. That too grieves me.

Moving back up the people chain, there were two sets of grandparents, obviously. I called Dee’s parents Mama Powell and Papa Powell. They were great people. Papa Powell died when I was 12. Mama Powell died when I was 22. I have a photo of them hanging in the Hacienda living room, sitting in their yard on a bent-cane swing.

The Powells lived on a 500-acre farm in southwest Georgia, about a four-hour drive from Jacksonville, Florida, where I spent most of my youth. Before moving to Jacksonville at age 7, we lived with those grandparents for six years. My father raised chickens while trying to make a name for himself as a writer.

Turned out he was better at raising chickens.

The other grandparents, my father’s folks, lived north of Atlanta, in a small town called Marietta. We visited them less often because of the greater distance. There were other unspoken reasons. Being an only child, my mother was inordinately attached to her parents. And my father didn’t much care for his folks.

My father’s parents we called Mama D and Papa D. They were devoutly religious. Papa D was a Baptist deacon, and Mama D was a Methodist. Yes, they headed off to separate churches on Sunday mornings.

I sometimes would spend summer vacations with Mama D and Papa D. They would send me to Vacation Bible School, and I recall every morning at breakfast the kitchen radio would be playing gospel music. White gospel music with banjos, not the far more enthusiastic black variety.

However, both Mama D and Papa D were hard-core liberals. They voted for McGovern in 1972.

Those were my main people, mostly dead now. There were peripheral people too. Papa D’s sister, Aunt Ned, an almost life-long spinster. She may have been a lesbian because lesbianism runs rampant in my family, but back in those days, nobody much admitted it. But Aunt Ned did something unusual. In her 60s, she got married … to Mama D’s brother, Clarence. I think it was more for companionship than anything.

Unfortunately for Aunt Ned, Clarence died about two years later.

The four grandparents and Aunt Ned likely never set foot outside of Georgia except for the occasional visit to our home in Jacksonville, not far over the Georgia-Florida line. Clarence, however, served in World War I, and I remember a photo of him in his doughboy uniform. Aunt Ned worked for years in a millinery store in Marietta, and I now have an antique clock of hers on the wall at the Hacienda.

Those were my people, 99 percent dead now. And since neither my daughter nor my sister had children, there are no grandchildren, no nephews, no nieces, and never will be. I regret that a lot.

I would love to have people.

30 thoughts on “My people

  1. Felipe — Consider me “your people.” We have a lot in common and I feel a kind of kin connection to you as we have both lived through similar circumstances and both have beautiful Mexican wives. (And you helped me out quite a bit when I moved to Mexico, so I kind of look at you as a father or uncle-type figure.)


    Mike 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mike: Funny you should mention this. Yesterday, when pondering this issue, I was thinking of people with whom I feel a connection, and you were one of them, even though we have never laid eyes on each other in person. So I surely consider you one of my people.

      Felíz Navidad to you too.


  2. You’ve got a vast number of people compared to me. One set of grandparents, a mother who was an only child, a stepfather, and two half-sibs. Only the latter three people are among the living. The stepfather has focused his entire life upon his much-younger wife, right down to telling his natural children that she will always take precedence over them. The half-brother, an endodontist whom we refer to as “The Bird,” has turned his life over to Jesus but not in a particularly charitable way, working in “I am a Christian” whenever he can, is no longer the brother I once knew. That leaves my half-sister as my sole living relative.

    I’m fine with that. Large families may provide people in your life, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be the kind of people you can depend upon, the kind you’d probably call “my people.”

    We who don’t have people they’re related to, by blood or marriage or court order, create our own tribes of friends we call “our people.” We’ll put up with shit from our friends, we’ll be there for them, we’ll fight with them, and even occasionally expel them from our circle.


  3. Family can be a mixed blessing, as I am reminded in this yuletide season. Mostly good, but certainly not a tension-free group.


    Kim G
    San Francisco, CA
    Where, due to the paucity of interior heat, we are colder than in Boston.


  4. Interesting topic I was pondering just a day or two ago. My brother, who quit talking to me decades ago, has three daughters, so the family name will not continue, I do have a humongous quantity of family on my wife’s side, but only have a small connection with that vast brood.

    Funny, in a twisted kind of way…

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all those other nonsensical politically correct terms you may want to spout!


    1. Tancho: You, like me, have a Latina spouse, and that seems to always bring a large quantity of relatives, a mixed blessing. Interesting that you’ve been on the outs with your brother for decades. I only cut my sibling loose about two years ago. I wonder if it’s permanent. Probably because we’re certainly not getting any younger. She’s older than I am.


  5. I have people, though mostly I have no idea what to do with them. One beautiful daughter, (a minister of Godly stuff), a son who is a super executive and a high flyer (just returned from a vacation in Bali). We don’t have much in common, another son who is a carpenter by trade (we’re cool) and about 8 other kids that aren’t my kids, but have laid claim as they didn’t have a father of their own.

    Grandkids, well, 10 at last count, including the claimers. I have cousins, but see them rarely. They call me Grumpy, but they still come around. Why? I have no idea. The grandkids love my motorcycles. I show them stuff. I have no woman in my life. There’s good and bad in that. I have an ex who wanders in and out. We’re friends. There’s a benefit in that.

    Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a New Year that brings promise. All the best. Bob


  6. The best shrinks couldn’t figure out how families work. They can be very complex, even in small close-knit ones. You have entertained me this year in many ways. Keep it up next year.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mike: How right you are. My family is tiny, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more conflicted one, especially now.

      Glad to hear that I’ve entertained you this past year. That is what it’s all about. Next month, I hit the 10-year mark doing this, and I have a post already written.

      Felíz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo to you too.


  7. Well, as they say, you can pick your nose and your friends, but you can’t pick your family! I am indeed fortunate. my Mexican family has taken me in as one of their own, especially my mother-in-law who happens to be four years younger than me! I have no remaining family that I am aware of NOB, and I count that as a blessing at this point in my life, especially this time of year. Wishing you and your child bride all the best in the New Year.


  8. I would have guessed you were a southern Methodist, though you claim you are not a religious man. Your upbringing is revealed in your worldview.

    Powell is a common family name in Georgia and the Carolinas. Lots of them. You probably have more “people” than you imagine. (If you ever decide to find them, don’t tell them where I am). I lived in Georgia for a while, south of Brunswick, and took some history classes at a Savannah college – some of the best history classes I have ever attended.

    Our culture has changed so profoundly, the kind of family relationships you write about are rare, even among those with large families. The generation that cared about staying close to family – the ones who held reunions and thought cleaning the family graveyard every year was important – are long gone. Now children marry and move away, either for jobs or to accommodate a spouse. Siblings who were once close become estranged when one embraces a different way of living. No one ever says, ‘well, I can’t leave the area because I need to be close to my family.’ (BTW, it was not so uncommon in the south to have brothers and sisters from one family marry brothers and sisters in another and all their children were then double cousins. My grandmother and her two sisters married three German immigrant brothers. Harlon Block, on the Marine Flag Raising statue in DC, is my dad’s double cousin).

    And, along with that old generation, the old culture died. Now a nativity scene is counter-balanced with a Satanist display on courthouse lawns, a Christmas parade features a contingent of prancing men in fur-lined loin cloths, and clerks are warned not to offer a Merry Christmas greeting in case they might offend the CHRISTMAS SHOPPERS.

    Better to be here in Mexico, where the day begins with the ringing of church bells, where nativity scenes are in store windows, where there is less commercialism and more emphasis on faith, tradition, special food and family. Redshoesarebetterthanbacon is right, family includes those you have chosen to be your friends.

    I will take the role as your straight sister, hiding from the Powell family in Mexico. Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bonnie: a Southern Methodist? Goodness no. My father was a socialist, and my mother simply did not care, so my sister and I were never taken to church except when the paternal grandparents were within earshot. I have never been baptized nor joined a church. I’ve never had any connection with organized religion. And I am glad about that. Oddly, however, I am a big fan of the Judeo-Christian world view. Though I do not believe in it, I think it’s a great thing.

      As for its being better here in Mexico, boy, you got that right. And I gladly accept your offer to being my straight sister.


  9. Unless your family is geographically close, it’s almost like not having family. Joe’s maternal side of his family has an annual reunion close to the old homestead. They come from near and far and they amount to a sizable group altogether. However, each different family group sits together and chats amongst themselves because they have things in common with each other. We stopped going years ago for that reason. It’s too big a crowd to have a conversation with anyone, anyway. Facebook has done more to bring far-flung family together than any reunion 🙂
    {{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}} if you’re feeling yourself in a vacuum.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My sister, my only sib, did herself and, by extension, me (the only surviving family-of-origin member) the favor of dying in 2010. One of those very smart but bipolar individuals who had a miserable existence because she could not “fit in” properly, at least in her opinion, which made her reclusive. Lived alone, died alone.


  10. I have always thought our family was rather small. The photograph I published a few days ago shows the cousins like in our family — minus one who had not yet been born. There are seven of us. And one will be here tomorrow with his Colombian wife. They are driving their pickup down from Florida. What was billed as the Central America marathon has morphed into a southern Mexico journey. It is great to have a family that supplies such good travel partners.

    As far as people go, I can think of no more interesting people than our fellow bloggers.


    1. Señor Cotton: If you have seven people, you have far more people than I have.

      As for fellow bloggers, I submit they are just like the rest of the population. Some interesting, some not.


  11. Home is where your heart is. We are blessed to have made it to another year in our country of choice. Feliz Navidad.


    1. Andrés: When I moved to Mexico just shy of 15 years ago, my son-in-law told my daughter than I would not last a year. Boy, was he ever mistaken.

      Yep, we done good. ¡Prospero Año Nuevo!


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