1. Some are useful
2. A rattan rocking chair
3. Like the weather, it just is


I got these relatives, you see, that can cause me a lot of grief if I don’t keep an eye on them. I have to say that the majority of my kin are okay, but the branch that came down from my step-grandpa Culbertson has a few loose twigs.

My Grandma Culbertson, whose given name was Mamie, was wed first to my mama’s papa, George Finkel, but he died when Mama was still in diapers, and Mamie wasn’t one to run around and take care of a newborn by herself. I can’t say I blame her, ’cause there were already six little ones in the house by the time Mama came along and not one of them was worth the time of day when it came to helping Mamie. Some are useful, some ain’t. All my aunts and uncles from that union eventually turned out okay as far as I know, but at the time Grandma Mamie figured having another grown-up around to help out would be a good thing.

Caleb Culbertson was one of two eligible men in the town in those days, from what Grandma told me years later, and the other one was a Littlejohn, which put him right out of the running. Mamie set her cap for Caleb, even though he was maybe twenty years older than her and, by all accounts, a tiny bit short in the smarts.

Well, Caleb never knew what hit him. By he time Mama was weaned and potty-trained most of the time, Caleb and Mamie had tied the knot and set up housekeeping at his place in Monkton, next to the post office.

It didn’t take long for Mamie to realize she might’ve been in a little too much hurry to find a new mate. Caleb spent a good deal of time sitting on the front porch in his old rattan rocking chair, drinking home-brew and contemplating the ways of the world. Well, it was his porch, after all, and his chair. About the only thing Grandma Mamie brought to the marriage was seven kids and a loving heart.

My mama can’t remember when the first couple of Culbertson babies came, but she always said she could recall the day Jesse was born. He was bald and red, but his fingers and toes were blue. Mama said to me that even on that very first day she knew that Jesse was going to be different.

“I crossed my fingers and crossed my ankles,” she told me, “and said a little prayer that Jesse’s life and mine wouldn’t ever get too tangled together. Mostly, it worked, because all the troubles Jesse got into