Monday, June 07, 2010

Happy Birthday Henry


This photograph has to be the winner of the WTF prize in the Great Scan Project of 2010. My sister found this picture and showed it to me and we were both perplexed and horrified and oddly delighted  by it all at the same time. In this picture is my step-great-grandfather Poppop Henry, who was married to my Mommom Millpond, Memere Marie's mother and my mother's grandmother. I wrote about them in detail once before and you should read about them here before going any further, in case you don't remember about them and their tacky house and pervy paraphernalia. 

So this picture was taken in August of 1982. I guess that was Poppop Henry's birthday, being that the cake says "Happy Birthday Henry." I was not at this gala fete. In August, I was probably already back home with the Hollands after visiting my mother. I think the summer of 82 was the summer when my parents owned a nightclub at the beach and my dad got busted in a drug sting, ended up in jail in another state and my mom took off with me to a trailer in Upstate New York and faked a pregnancy to get sympathy from the prosecutor in my dad's case. Do not even ask. One day I will get the facts straight in that story and write it all down. Every time I try to though, my brain just starts to hurt from it and I can't get a firm enough grasp on the events to recreate them.

But I guess while all this was going on, Poppop Henry was enjoying his birthday party in a local park with a picnic table full of blue crabs and an obviously erotic birthday cake. I wonder where he got such a thing, because trust me, this would be shocking in Millpond today, forget nearly 30 years ago.Would you look at the bush on that thing??

I don't know who his cake-boob devouring partner in crime is. I know he looks like kind of rockabilly, but that's a common look in Millpond even now, and let me tell you, there isn't a hint of irony in it at all. That is just how people are.  This guy could be anyone. We asked my mom and she doesn't recognize the guy. Lord knows who it is because everyone looked like that. Most of the family get-togethers of my childhood resembled conventions of Elvis impersonators. No one recognizes the woman holding the cake either.

Poppop Henry died about ten years after this picture was taken in the summer of 92, when I had just moved to Atlanta. Mommom Millpond went into a nursing home then, where she stayed until her own death in April of 2000. Before Poppop Henry died though, both of them had effectively lost their minds.  Poppop Henry had money, at least by Millpond standards, because he had owned the town junkyard since the mid-1940s and because he never really spent much, unless you count his wind-up adult toys and undressing drinking glass collections. He was a massive hoarder as well.

Poppop Henry claimed to have saved millions of dollars over the years and this was conceivable. He bought his house and cars for cash. The problem was that he was violently paranoid and suspicious. He thought everyone was after his money and he didn't trust banks. Because of this, Poppop buried all of his money, and had for many years, in coffee cans and bundles in the backyard. He had no bank accounts. His death set off a frenzy to rival the Gold Rush. All of my relatives - my mom, Uncle Garble, Uncle Bull and Aunt Kiki, along with Memere Marie spent days tearing apart his house and digging up the yard looking for hidden cash and buried treasure. I wasn't there, but I heard about it. I can only imagine what this event must have been like with all these family members on a mad dash to find those millions and keep their finds hidden from each other.  It lasted days and in the end all they found were some coffee cans full of molded, deteriorated, mud-soaked bills that were almost totally decayed. The money packets that weren't in coffee cans had disintegrated to worthlessness. All those years, all those supposed millions saved up all ended up amounting to no more than a chicken and dumpling dinner when added up, so no one got anything. Memere Marie sold the house and cars and that money went to keeping Mommom Millpond in a nice nursing home for the next eight years. I think I made out the best.  They sent me a jewelry box full of Mommom Millpond's costume jewelry, things like gaudy beads and huge brooches. I love that kind of stuff. Memere Marie kept the real jewels and this Christmas, she sent me my great grandmother's pearls - a double strand with an emerald and diamond clasp. Besides my wedding rings, it is the most precious and beautiful piece of jewelry I own.

Sometimes I think though, wow, what if Poppop Henry hadn't been nuts. What if he'd saved those supposed millions in the bank, had gotten interest. What if we'd all inherited a piece of his savings? What might I have done with a couple hundred thousand back in the early 90s? What direction might my life have taken? Mostly, when I think about it, I conclude that it's better all that money rotted in the ground. We probably would have all blown it a long time ago.

5 comments:

MtnMama said...

Sad that he lived in a wet place... out in the desert, maybe, it have stayed intact.
Having worked in banks in the past, I've heard all kinds of money stories. Folks do some f'ed up things...

Eric said...

I honestly thought that was a giant bunny head cake and they were devouring the ears

Kiera said...

Is it weird that when I saw the picture I immediately thought it was a cake in the shape of Barbamama's head? I was wondering why the decorators had frosted her white.

mcgrimus said...

I usually ask for the slice with the rose, to maximize icing, but not sure what I would say in this instance...

JoeinVegas said...

Have fun back home.

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