Aunt Beulah and Uncle Ralph just got back from their annual Southland tour.
Every August, they rev up their forty-year-old simulated wood paneled motor home and go down South for what Aunt Beulah calls a “second honeymoon”. They have been taking this so-called “second honeymoon” for close to a quarter century and every year the process is the same. She calls everybody together for a bring-a-dish supper and shows off all her snapshots while he complains, drinks Old Milwaukee beer and smokes Marlboros.
So last Saturday we all got together at their house for the annual event.
Stepping from the August heat and humidity into their house is like walking into an ice box. Aunt Beulah likes it cold. The four window unit air conditioners produce plenty of chilly air.
“I feel like a doggone Eskimo Pie in here,” Uncle Ralph complained. “That woman oughta retire to a glacier.”
Uncle Ralph has never liked the “pretend air” that the window units produce. He says it makes his bad knees ache.
“It ain’t bad in here,” Aunt Beulah insisted as she passed out afghans and quilts to those in attendance.
We all stuffed our faces with good country cooking and just about the time we wanted to take naps, Aunt Beulah brought out close to 15 packages of photographs. We spread out on the living room furniture at close arm’s length so we could carefully take each photograph from the relative beside us, view it, and then pass it along without damaging the memory.
“Now this one here is Ralph and me at Graceland,” Aunt Beulah began. “My favorite thing was seein’ all of Elvis’ gold records.”
“My favorite thing was seein’ the back door,” Uncle Ralph said. “I’ve never seen so many weirdoes in all my life. Beulah was right at home.”
“Here’s Ralph and me in front of a fruit stand in Arkansas. Watermelons were as big as a calf.”
“Beulah just had to have one,” Uncle Ralph moaned. “While I was carryin’ that calf-sized melon up the steps into the motor home, it slipped out of my hands and landed square on my big toe. I’m sure it’s broken. The pain still keeps me up at night.”
“And I just love this one here,” Aunt Beulah continued. “It’s me standing on the gracious front porch of Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Shrine in Biloxi. We toured the house, the library, the Confederate Veteran’s Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the C.S. A. I have never felt closer to my Southern roots.”
“My toe was hurtin’ really bad right about then,” Ralph painfully reminisced.
“Here I am in front of Ann Rice’s house in New Orleans,” Aunt Beulah went on. “She’s that author who writes those vampire novels. I don’t read her stuff, but it was interesting all the same.”
“Hotter than hell it was,” Ralph complained as he took a long drag off his cigarette. “Had to change my shirt three times that day.”
“And here’s a snapshot of me stepping onto the streetcar named Desire. You know, like that Tennessee Williams’ play with Blanche Dubois and Stanley and Stella. Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando were in the movie version. It was so excitin’.”
"It was hot. Real hot,” Ralph complained. “As for that Tennessee Williams’ fella—never understood his stuff. Just a bunch of rantin’ and raidin’. ‘Nough of that in real life without payin’ for a ticket to see it.”
“And here’s my favorite photo of all,” Beulah glowed. “Here I am standin’ in front of Mercer House in Savannah. That’s where that famous murder happened. That’s what that movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was based on. Mercer House is for sale you know. Quite a few million, I heard.”
“Yeah,” Ralph added. “I’m gonna turn in all them aluminum cans I’ve been collecting in the barn. Oughta be enough to pay for it.”
Aunt Beulah went on and on and on. We smiled and yawned as we listened to her excellent adventures while Uncle Ralph followed each of her wondrous descriptions with his less than wondrous commentary and a sip of Old Milwaukee.
After an eternity of looking at photos of her smiling and him frowning in front of Southern landmarks, our eyelids were getting heavy and our lips were turning blue form all the frigid “pretend air”.
“And here’s the last one,” Aunt Beulah announced to a relieved crowd. “Here I am standing in front of Dismal Swamp. It was so peaceful there.”
“It sure was,” Uncle Ralph smirked. “There wasn’t anybody there except idiots like you and me. The mosquitoes were terrible—as big as crows and biting like Dobermans.”
“As you can tell, Ralph and I had a marvelous time. It was our best trip yet.”
“And our last one,” Ralph added. “Wild horses couldn’t drag me out of here next year.”
But we all knew we would be repeating the snapshot viewing again next year.
We all left about the same time with empty Pyrex dishes and Tupperware. Hugs and kisses were distributed. As I started the car, I couldn’t help but think about how my uncle and aunt have been bantering and bickering back and forth since Eisenhower was in office. One wonders how they’ve stayed together for so long. But it seems love comes in all shapes and sizes and moods and we don’t always have to understand the bond that holds some couples together.
As I pulled from the driveway, I couldn’t help but smile as my uncle took my aunt’s hand and escorted her up the front steps into the “pretend air” almost as if they were actually having a “second honeymoon”. It’s not up to us to figure it all out, but in a world of constant change, it’s comforting that some things still remain strong and steadfast.