I sometimes like to think of the Nash family of East Texas as a blue collar and not quite as influential or educated version of the Kennedys. You know, those people who live up there in New England? This is due partly to the fact that there are so many of us. For the most part we call home the stretch of East Texas that runs across U.S. 31 from Longview to Chandler. If you've driven that road you know there are hundreds of backroads that jetison off the highway and into the woods. If you go down any of those roads you are bound to run across someone with Nash blood. As a family, unlike the Kennedy's, we don't really hold any sway over world affairs, or any other affairs for that matter. Mention one of us by name in East Texas and you'll probably hear something like, "Yeah, I know that Nash. I think. Was he the one who..." Usually they have the wrong Nash, but the fact that the name rung a bell means something, I guess.
Another reason for the connection between us and the Kennedy's is the tendency to gravitate toward a patriarchal figure to provide direction and comfort. They had Joseph, then JFK, then RFK, and now Teddy. When there was a death or a tragedy or a question or anything that required rallying around a central figure, they looked to that person. For us, that person is my Uncle Johnny. To everyone else he is John Nash (not to be confused with the Beautiful Mind John Nash.) To us, he is Uncle Johnny.
It is at Uncle Johnny's farm that we had Thanksgiving this year, as we have for the past 30 some odd years. (Damn, another reminder that I'm 30.)
I think I've mentioned this before, but we have a huge family. There were 9 children birthed from Cecil and Ruby Nash: Sonny, Bo, Johnny, Sister, Jackie, Jerry, Ruth Ann, Tommy, and Dottie. Those nine begat another twenty six. Twenty six first cousins-- all ranging in age now from 22-45. Now many of us (not me) are having kids of our own. That's a lot of Nash's.
I could go in many directions with this post, but I think I'll go here.
I noticed a Nash family trait this week that I think is present within me. The Cardindal Nash Rule? Don't offend. Do whatever is necessary not to offend. This is how you can tell that my mom, while she has done the theological correct move and taken the Nash name, is not, by blood, a Nash. Mom starts immediately talking about politics and how it would have been nice if Kerry had won. Everyone tensed up, but mom kept jabbering. Dad looked at her and said "Now Pansy, why did you have to bring that up?" Pansy is a Coleman. Coleman's don't mind offending. Actually, they don't set out ot offend, but they just talk talk talk talk, and are oblivious to whether or not they offend.
Get a bunch of Nash's together and for the first hour or so it is fairly quiet. No one talks because no one wants to be seen as a loud mouth and no one wants to accidently say something that might offend.
Aunt Dottie enters and gently starts telling stories. Innocuous stories, but fun and wholesome stories. Stories that tell of people who have wonderful hearts but who do stupid things. Uncle Johnny will then start telling stories about people he meets or with whom he worked with. Before long, everyone is having a fun time, yelling across the room.. "Hey Diane, remember the time?" or "Tommy, whatever happened to...?"
Before long everyone is comfortable because everyone realizes, "Oh yeah, this is my family. We can be ourselves here.
And, in some ways, this is how I deal with people. The Nash gentleness has been passed down to me. But so has the Nash reticence towards offending. I'm a peacekeeper, but not someone you want to look to to solve a conflict.
Another interesting thing about this Thanksgiving, and I'll close with this. (Like the preacher talk?) When I was a kid we lived for holidays because it meant we would get to go to Uncle Johnny's and ride on his tractor and go out to see the cows. We're all a little old for that, but there are new litters of young'uns running around. I got a kick out of my little second cousin Jonah (Sherry's, oldest daughter of Ruth Ann, son.) As Uncle Johnny was eating Noah walked up in his shy (unnofensive, now that I think about it) way and asked Uncle Johnny, "Are you almost finished eating?" Johnny had promised him they'd go out to see the cows. "In a minute, Noah." "Ok." Noah goes out to play near the barn as Uncle Johnny finishes he plate. When Johnny gets up from his chair, Noah walks up, "Are you finished Uncle Johnny?" "Yeah, but I'm going to get a piece of pie." "Oh, ok. Just one piece of pie?" "I don't know, I might get more." "Ok, two pieces of pie then we'll go out and see the cows?"
It was more hilarious than I'm able to convey here. I'll end by saying this (and copying a line from Myle's blog.) I love my family. They are weird and quirky, but I wouldn't want any other family. In so many ways they are a mirror through which I see myself and my hopes and dreams and all those things imbedded within me that will never be loosed, and frankly, that I would like to keep with me.