“HUMBUG!” So stated by one Ebenezer Scrooge in the Charles Dicken’s Novella ‘A Christmas Carol’/December 19, 1843
As we approach the holiday season again this year we experience reminders of past holidays. Music, decorations, meals and religious celebrations bring forth those cherished remembrances. There are common themes centered on family, friends, churches and synagogues. I was born in the foothills of the Allegany’s about 80 miles south of Buffalo. The ‘lake effects’ snow that covers the region in the winter is brutal and my family moved from the region to Florida in 1956 and never looked back.
But while living in the region my childhood holidays were split between two sets of wonderful grandparents. As kids my siblings and I quickly learned that Grandmas and Grandpas were designed specifically to be the benevolent Christmas ‘spoilers’ with whom we could have lots of fun. They rewarded us with such ‘necessities of life’ as Oreo cookies and Hershey bars. So naturally we took as much advantage of the situation as we could.
It was only in later years that I came to appreciate my ‘real’ grandparents. They were hard working dedicated people. It would have been nice to have more contact with them as an adult but that was not to be. After the Florida move our contact with them was very limited. However, a hilarious incident that occurred to my paternal grandparents was passed down through oral history.
This involved my grandfather Floyd Oliver Neely. Floyd Oliver was one of seven children who grew up on a Pennsylvania farm in Northwest Pennsylvania. Their mother, Mary Neely remained on the family farm in her later years after my great grandfather had died. Over time the siblings drifted away creating their own lives and families. But in the 1920’s distance and movement were difficult. It was no easy task to ‘hop in a car’ and run down to the farm. Roads, weather and travel conditions were not the best.
My Grandfather at the time was an oil driller frequently on the road in New York and Pennsylvania. It was extremely hard work but he excelled as a contractor and it paid the bills. As was his custom on Sundays he attended church and took time to read the Sunday paper. To his astonishment one Sunday around holiday time he read the obituary section and discovered that one ‘Mary Neely’ of Bradford Pennsylvania had passed away. He was overcome with emotion and immediately called his sister (not easy in those days) to inform her that ‘Mom had passed’.
With limited telephone and telegraph communications to those rural farm areas the various children of Mary Neely eventually coordinated a family convoy down to the farm to attend Mary’s funeral. This took some doing and a couple days but finally they arrived at the farm in several vehicles. As the column solemnly drove down the long extension from the main road to the house, the front door popped open and out came Mary. She was all at once astonished to see her entire family here, in person, as they had come to visit her. She was overcome with happiness that they had taken the time to visit.
However, after a few minutes she realized the true nature of their visit as they relayed they thought she had passed. It turned out that, unbelievably there was actually a second Mary Neely living in that rural area and she was the one referred to in the obit. The living Mary Neely was absolutely furious (tongue in cheek). Once she realized that her children were there to bury her she said they ‘could not be bothered visiting her while she was alive, but now that she had died they all showed up’. A fine state of affairs! Of course, eventually they were all relieved that things were alright and had a wonderful holiday gathering that year. Our family has laughed ever since at this wonderful mistake.
Holidays do not have to contain any ‘Humbugs’. They can revive fond memories of days gone by. Let me wish you and yours a wonderful Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a very Happy New Year!
Alarm Association of Florida