Lebanon Reporter

August 7, 2012

They don’t call me Cousin Grace

By Ginger Truitt
Reporter columnist

— Back in 1989, I met my future mother-in-law’s family for the first time. She is one of seven children born to a Quaker minister. My mother-in-law and her sisters are well-bred, soft-spoken ladies who often have the appearance of gliding through a room rather than walking. Hubby’s female cousins display the same genteel characteristics. Many of the women in the family still wear long skirts and keep their hair in a tidy bun. 

When I came on the scene, at the age of 19, my bleached blonde hair was as brassy as my Baptist girl gone bad attitude. I fumbled through my first family reunion, convinced I would be dubbed with the nickname Faux Pas. But remarkably, I was welcomed with open arms. No one judged me for wearing Crimson Harlot lipstick, and I heard not a single sigh of disdain when my clodhopper tendencies overtook my pathetic attempt to gracefully glide across the room. 

Nearly 25 years later, I have a deep affection for each of hubby’s family members, and consider them my own. So last week, when we were on a business trip to Kentucky, I enthusiastically made plans to meet Uncle Paul and his family for dinner.  

Paul is the baby of the family, and the only boy. I never had the privilege of meeting their mama, but I know she took the same joy and pride in her son that I take in mine. Years ago, we were watching old family movies, and on the wall above their mother’s couch hung the school pictures. They were arranged with three girls on either side, the plain wooden frames gradually angling upwards. At the apex was Paul’s picture framed in ornate golden gilt. It was a silent movie, but you could practically hear the angels singing, “PAUL-lelujah!” 

There are no two ways about it, everybody loves Uncle Paul.

So, we eagerly headed to Lexington for dinner. We were having a wonderful time catching up with the family, chatting with Aunt Charlene and the cousins, when a long, slimy fried onion slid down my throat. I knew it had taken a wrong turn, so I tried discreetly coughing it up into a napkin.

When that attempt failed, I leaned my head into hubby’s lap and began a full-fledged choking spree. Everything else I had eaten during the meal landed squarely on his pant leg, but the onion remained intact. 

I attempted to wrap my finger around the end and pull it out, but the slime on my hands prohibited a solid grip.

In my lightheaded state, I became vaguely aware of Uncle Paul’s presence behind my chair. The thought ran through my head, “He’s a minister. Perhaps he is going to pray over me.” 

Then I rationalized, “He’s had medical training. He’s going to perform the Heimlich Maneuver and save my life!” 

Then it occurred to me, “Oh my gosh! He’s a mortician! He’s waiting for me to finish choking to death so he can start the embalming process while I’m still fresh!” 

Finally, hubby reached his hand down my throat, grabbed hold of the onion, and pulled it out. Through watery eyes, I looked up and met the astonished gaze of Paul’s four beautiful grandchildren who are being raised in the manner of gentility and gliding. A whole new Quaker generation will not soon forget that one Baptist relative who heaved at the dinner table. I just hope they love me in spite of the Crimson Harlot lipstick smeared into the cloth napkin.   

Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.