Entries in Back in the Day (82)


The Cool Uncle

Uncle Hugh and Mrs. G's grandfather 

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the death Mrs. G's Uncle Hugh. She always thinks of him as the holidays approach because Uncle Hugh loved a celebration and because no matter where he went, this man was always the life of the party. 

Mrs. G's first memory of Uncle Hugh was on an Easter Sunday at her grandparents' house. Mrs. G's mother had forced her to wear a tan Sears' corduroy jumper two sizes too big and a pair of Stride Rite saddle shoes. Mrs. G's mother was no nonsense when it came to children's fashion. If it was brightly colored or not constructed of a sturdy asbestos industrial type fabric, there was no chance she was going to buy it. And a proper fit was out of the question, because there needed to be room to grow. Money wasn't growing on trees and we weren't the Rockefellers for Christ's sake. Mrs. G. remembers begging her mother to buy her those days-of-the-week underwear that were so popular with all the girls at school, the ones with Monday through Saturday daintily embroidered into the cotton fabric. Mrs. G's mother told her only sluts needed to keep track of the days-of-the-week through the writing on their panties...the rest of the world depended on a little God given invention called the calendar. This might be a good time to mention that Mrs. G. grew up Catholic.

So Mrs. G. was sitting on the outside steps of her grandparents' porch, sulking, when her Uncle Hugh drove up in his silver Cadillac El Dorado convertible. He was so handsome getting out of his fancy car, his black hair shining and his grey cashmere overcoat flapping in the wind. He always smelled like coffee and bay rum. "What's up, buttercup?" Uncle Hugh asked handing Mrs. G. a large Goldsmith's shopping bag, "Why don't you bust out of that monkey suit and give this a whirl." Inside the bag was the most beautiful pink polyester dress, covered in lace and fluffed up with crinolines. It had a pink satin sash. Mrs. G's mother called it pure d trash, but Uncle Hugh just pinched her cheek and freshened her drink. Mrs. G's mother blushed and practically twirled her hair. No one was invulnerable to Uncle Hugh's charm. Mrs. G. spent the rest of Easter Sunday bouncing and flouncing in the front yard like a whirling dervish...barely giving Jesus and his Resurrection a second thought. "If you're going to burn in hell," Uncle Hugh used to say, "you might as well burn looking good." 

Uncle Hugh was the cool uncle. He had no wife and no children and, consequently, he had a fair amount of disposable income and absolutely no sense of discipline. He was all about excess and good times. When Mrs. G. was down on her luck, he'd slip her a fiver. When she was sick, he'd show up at her bedside with Richie Rich comic books and Coca Cola Slurpees. When he came over to babysit so her parent's could see a show, he always brought a bag of new Barbie coloring books and the 64 count Crayola Crayon Box with the sharpener on the back. And he brought Jiffy Pop. Unlike Mrs. G's mother, Uncle Hugh didn't give a tinker's damn it was a waste of money. "You are peachy keen, doll face," Uncle Hugh would say when he tucked Mrs. G. in way past her bedtime, "you are the bee's knees."

Until the day he died, Uncle Hugh was Mrs. G's favorite uncle. He always had her back. In high school, he willingly read Mrs. G's poetry and unlike the rest of her family, did not roll his eyes and make retching sounds when doing so.

As he aged, Uncle Hugh, did go a little nutty. He became obsessed with African violets and Shi Tzu puppies. He occasionally heard voices and one summer, camoflauged portions of his home with spray paint. In Mrs. G's family, this was just another day at the office.

Uncle Hugh died when Mrs. G. was sixteen. He was the cat's pajamas. He was the cool uncle. Every family should have one.


Unleaded Please

The recent recall of millions of lead laced toys from China has made Mrs. G. happy that toys are no longer a part of her holiday shopping. Her kids have aged out of Thomas the Tank Engines and stuffed animals and are more interested in the entertainment value and plushness of cold hard cash.

Mrs. G. remembers the breezy 1970's of her childhood when no one cared if toys were safe. A time when swallowing a Mr. Potato Head eyeball was nothing a little Heimlich maneuver couldn't cure and searing your flesh on the E Z Bake Oven light bulb was a rite of passage. Safety Schmafety. Just quit your whining and go smoke a candy cigarette.

But the decade that breathed life into polyester and earth shoes wasn't just about disco and apathetic parenting. It also happened to be the decade of the most excellent toys. Mrs. G. should know. She played with most of them.


Mrs. G. and her cousins would spend hours playing this game. Mrs. G. remembers the thrill of "getting married" and "having children." She would shove as many pretend child pegs into her fake car as she could fit. This is pretty funny considering Mrs. G. now spends much of her time trying to shove actual children out of her real car.

Mrs. G. loved this muscle man, and she and her friend Connie spent many late nights stretching him and his disturbingly scant man panties 3 to 5 feet across the living room. Mrs. G. loved to pop off Stretch's head and watch the, no doubt, plutonium infused syrup gurgling beneath the plastic cap that was his skull.

And nothing says safety like two rock hard acrylic balls attached to substandard string. Mrs. G. loved her Clackers, and she discovered that if you clacked them hard enough, they would shatter into knife-like shards of acrylic that could most definitely put an eye out or pierce your face skin like plastic shrapnel.

PlayStation? X-box? Whatever. Mrs. G. had a little technological wonder called Simon.


Not realizing that for most of her twenties she would be knee deep in bodily fluids, Mrs. G. adored her Baby Alive. When you fed Baby Alive her specially formulated baby food, gelatinous poop would come out of her butt. Latex and solidified chemical powder? No bacteria issues here.


Mrs. G. would slip this onto her ankle and wile away the afternoon on her concrete driveway hopping and lemon twisting like a bat out of hell. If you were lucky enough to have two, you had an instant set of citrus nunchucks.


Mrs. G. had no use for Barbie, but she loved Cher doll and her silky black hair. She also had a Sonny doll but when Cher divorced Sonny, Mrs. G. threw him in the trash.


When she wasn't placing the Spirograph's smallest disks in her mouth and pretending they were Communion wafers, Mrs. G. spent many a day trying to pen psychodelic designs...


like this.

And while Pop Rocks weren't sold on the toy aisle, they were Mrs. G's greatest source of childhood fun. When this candy first came out, it was called Space Dust, but the name was changed during the Angel Dust epidemic of '79. Understandably, the candy company didn't like being associated with high hippy teenagers jumping out of third floor windows. Mrs. G. chomped on these bad boys until the news hit the street that Mikey, the kid from the Life cereal commercial, ate Pop Rocks and drank Coke and died from the fatal explosion of his stomach. Let's get Mikey; he'll eat anything...

Looking back, it's a wonder Mrs. G. lived through her childhood to tell the tale. She survived despite the fact that when she consulted her Magic Eight Ball about her future, it often predicted: Outlook not so good.


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