Monday, April 26, 2010


My sister's recent comment "Did Claytus spike your custard again?" brought back a favorite funny memory from my childhood.

My very proper, genteel Granddaddy married the electric and unorthodox Claytus after his retirement from the ministry. Their first Thanksgiving together as a married couple, Granddaddy and Claytus invited my mom and dad and us kids to join them and a few other guests for the traditional holiday feast.

The grownups gathered around the long, highly-polished table in the dining room. China, silver, crystal, linen napkins - everything sparkled and glistened. We kids sat at the kitchen table, decorated just for us with orange and red placemats and a funny pinecone turkey centerpiece.

Claytus's philosophy of food was: if it's not rich enough to potentially cause a heart attack, it's not worth eating. Potates smothered in sour cream, sweetened cream cheese squeezed between layers of sugary jello, rolls glistening with butter...every dish crowded on the table that day oozed fat and calories. She had outdone herself to impress her new family.

For dessert, Claytus offered pumpkin and pecan pies, fruit cake, and the traditional boiled custard. Following dinner, she served everyone their dessert of choice and supplied each of us with a small glass of custard. Buzzing about the kitchen, Claytus pulled a small flask of whiskey from the cupboard.

She paused at our table, spoon in hand, flask poised. "Does anybody want flavoring in their custard?" Recognizing the "flavoring" as whiskey, we kids declined the offer. At our house, whiskey was medicine for sore throats and sinus congestion and sick calves - we knew it tasted nasty and none of us wanted an unnecessary dose.

As we youngsters eavesdropped from the kitchen, Claytus repeated her offer to the adults. My tee-totalling Granddaddy choked on a bite of fruitcake and began coughing violently. He struggled to regain composure. "Claytus! I don't think offering your 'flavoring' to our guests is appropriate!"

Claytus didn't miss a beat. "Charles, I've already offered flavoring to all the children. It would be rude not to offer some to the adults as well."

Granddaddy again erupted into coughing, while everyone else seated at the table struggled to suppress laughter. Poor Granddaddy! He had a lot to learn about his new wife!

Over their years together, Granddaddy did learn a lot, both about and from his new wife. Claytus added a generous dose of spice, danger, and adventure to his rather quiet, retiring way of life. She encouraged Granddaddy to learn to play billiards, although he always emphasized that it wasn't the same as playing pool, like the local ruffians did at disreputable establishments. No, billiards was a gentleman's game. She joined him on road trips to explore new and interesting destinations. She convinced him to become active in a social club for seniors, where he eventually dared to participate in a womanless beauty review, winning the title of First Maid.

When Claytus died, Granddaddy kind of slowly withered up and faded away. All the ooomph disappeared out of him. She had brought enough life and energy into their marriage for the both of them - and she took with her his will to press on in this world when she left. But she left the rest of us a treasure chest full of memories, family stories that bring smiles and laughter with every re-telling.


emily said...

Thanks for sharing! This story makes me laugh out loud! I don't remember Claytus, but knowing Great Granddaddy the little bit I did only makes this story more hilarious :)

Jennifer Ward said...

Wow! What a testament to how great an impact one person can have on another. Also, what a testament to how life is so different when we have God caring for us: think what Granddaddy's life would have been like had he never met Claytus.