Foreword to Homer
As Christmas Day 1973 drew to a close, we were all aware that Aunt Isabel’s dog, Homer, had become the ‘family beggar.’
That day, he had conscientiously circled the table, choosing his benefactors skillfully …and even though all of us had been warned not to feed him, with a wag of his tail and a mischievous glance, he was able to bring out the ‘worst’ in almost every one of my relatives. Most of them slipped Homer a ‘little something” under the protective canopy of Isabel’s ecru tablecloth …and no one ‘fessed up’ when, later, Homer became very sick at his stomach and vomited all over Aunt Isabel’s flowered Persian rug and Uncle Ray’s new cordovan tasse.1loafers. We’ll never be sure whether Isabel wept over Homer or her badly stained rug; but one thing was sure …Homer, an eighty-five pound sable Lab-mix, was going on a diet…
Fast forward to Christmas Day,1983. It was once again Isabel’s turn to host the Whitlow family’s Christmas Dinner. Some of our folks had died, all of us had gotten visably more wrinkled and gray, but Homer was still there; ten years older, fifteen pounds lighter, and with a chronic case of exema and frequent flatulence. Although Isabel assured us that her ‘baby’ was very mellow and much too old to be a problem, I was not convinced. From his vantage point in his favorite chair (usurped since Uncle Ray had died), he still gazed at me with the steady eye of a ‘dog with a plan’.
Our kinfolk bustled about, each concerned with their own contribution to the feast, while the turkey basked in an inch of clear grease on a steaming platter on the table just inside of the pocket doors of Isabel’s dining room. Homer wasn’t begging this time …and the parade of assorted nuts and eggnog would seem to have escaped his gaze …butl knew in my heart that he was just lying in wait, surveying the steaming bird through disinterested eyes.
Bathed in the warmth and sounds of preparation, time in that room almost stood still. Then, there was a knock on the door, and everyone’s attention turned to the arrival of cousin Marjorie, her husband, Cletus and their three kids, up from Cordele. A cry of joy resounded in the room, for they had arrived just in time for dinner. Christmas could now begin!
No one actually saw his initial move, but my Uncle Bob swears to this day that he saw Homer virtually “sail” over the armchair at the end of the table, grasp the turkey by a drumstick, and lunge into Aunt Isabel’s pristine Victorian sitting room. In his hasty flight, Homer had managed to drag the starched Italian lace tablecloth completely off the table, leaving a trail of broken dishes, mashed potato, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce in his wake.
That infamous day at Aunt Isabel’s is the only one in memory where the Whitlow family ate two buckets of the Kentucky Colonel’s southern fried chicken at a Christmas dinner.