Family – you can’t choose it – it just happens. This is a story about my cousin Thomas-also known as the black sheep of the family or jailbird. The cast of characters back story– Aunt Edna, who was married to Uncle Bernie, who drank her vanilla extract; their three sons – Jack, Thomas and Billy; Thomas’s wife Marjorie; and Aunt Rosie, who came to live with Aunt Edna.
Aunt Edna watched over me during the day while my Mom & Dad worked. All of Aunt Edna’s sons were much older than me and were married with children. I was raised with some of their kids. My cousins’ families, along with other aunts, uncles and cousins, would come and go regularly at the old homestead.
The Old Homestead
Cousin Thomas drank heavily and tended to get into trouble. His temperament ranged from funny and sweet to angry and violent. His violence landed him in the local jail and eventually a federal prison, and ultimately dead while serving time. When I came across this picture of Thomas in a striped jail suit, I thought to myself, how ironic that he chose to have his picture taken in that suit. It was foretelling of his lifestyle.
Jailhouse Rock-Elvis & Cousin Thomas
Thomas had a family, a wife named Marjorie a/k/a as “Foxy.” She was called this because she was blonde and very Marilyn Monroe-ish. They had two sons, Tommy and Johnnie. Both boys had drinking and criminal problems, just like their father. It followed them their whole lives. Marjorie put up with Thomas as much as possible, and the family tried to protect her as much as possible from Thomas. One day Thomas showed up very drunk, and all hell broke loose. He was accusing Foxy of cheating on him. She ran to their car, got in and took off. Thomas chased her to the Stop sign, a short distance from the house, and with a lead pipe in his hand proceeded to bash in all the windows of the car. The cops were called and he was arrested. I did not witness this episode, but it is a story that lives on in our family’s history.
Thomas & Sons-Tommy & Johnnie (front)
One afternoon Thomas arrived at Aunt Edna’s house, drunk as a skunk, and wanted dinner. My sweet Aunt Edna fixed him a plate of food, while Aunt Rosie hovered over Thomas at the table. Aunt Rosie was a woman of largeness and considered herself the designated dish washer. As Thomas sat with his head hanging over his plate, Aunt Rosie constantly asked, “Thomas, are you finished yet?” I sat at the end of the table, just watching.
About the fourth time she asked him if he was done, I watched in horror as he picked up his plate and dumped the food on the table, muttering “…here goddammit, wash it!” I immediately ran out of the kitchen to find Aunt Edna. I thought for sure Aunt Rosie was going to pick up a frying pan and hit him in the head with it.
In honor of my Mom and these strong women that raised me and helped me develop an understanding of the evil effects of booze, I offer my Mom’s favorite lightly boozed cake recipe:
Rum Bundt Cake with Orange Zest
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (3.3 ounce) box vanilla instant pudding
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup water
½ cup dark rum
½ cup orange juice
Rum Glaze with Orange Zest
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2+ tablespoons rum
Zest from 1 orange & a squeeze of juice
Rum Bundt Cake with Rum Glaze Orange Zest
Remember, please drink or eat your booze responsibly.