RETURNING TO THE MIDWEST

organicthanxsquare.jpgI reminisce about a long-ago family reunion...
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The Dutch Calvinists Expel Rev Billy Early

When I was a teenager I attended a reunion of the Talen family, in Holland Michigan. (I was a Dutch Calvinist, from birth until this particular family gathering.) The second night of the reunion, with 30 cousins everywhere, including about six tall Dutch American young women cousins, I decided to host a dance party. I commandeered one of the cottages that we rented on Lake Michigan and put James Brown and The Doors and the Velvet Underground on the sound system. We lowered the lights and laughed and danced. 

An uncle appeared in the doorway. He wasn’t dancing. He stared at me like I was a cloven-hoofed satyr. I must have been monstrous to look at. I was a body builder in those days, big chest and shoulders, with long matted Conan-like hair. I wore red and white plaid wool bellbottoms and lumberjack boots. This uncle – I called him the Manly Uncle From Christ - he pulled on the wrist of his daughter and she was sucked out the door as if by a great wind. This happened again and again, Manly Uncle From Christ after Manly Uncle From Christ appearing to fetch a daughter – until I was dancing alone. So I went outside, only to find the beauties lined up opposite their Manly Uncles From Christ and I began what I think of as my first sermon. I preached about freedom and dancing… 

My sermon ended when a Manly Uncle From Christ who bulldozed golf courses for a living hit me so hard that I fell to the ground unconscious. I came to in a police car. I spent the night in the Holland jail. Next morning, the policeman drove me to the airport and gave me a ticket. “Is this from my family?” He shrugged. Most of that Talen family have not seen in 40 years. So now I'm a New York orphan, spending Thanksgiving with other orphans, many with abusive expulsions from their bio-families less comic and more violent than mine.