Where They Take Christmas Seriously Oysterback Tales

Helen Chappell

December 08, 1990|By Helen Chappell

OYSTERBACK, MARYLAND — Oysterback, Maryland


I really loved your last letter about the benefit for Rob MacQuay, and all the doings in The Business. I do miss the life and my friends. There's no way I could have known, when I was playing Nellie Forbush at the Patamoke Dinner Theatre in the Oblong last summer that I would end up married to the cute fireman who came about the grease fire in the dressing rooms. But I doubt that even Toby could find a role for a nine-months-pregnant actress.

Besides, with Paisley in Saudi and little Olivier still due any second now, it's less lonely over here with his family, especially at Christmas. And it seems to me that they take Christmas real seriously over here. Maybe it's because I am now related to everyone within a 10-mile radius, or maybe it's because I never had a family before, but believe me, Christmas in Oysterback is something else.

To begin with, Mr. Eddie, the new hairdresser at the Curl Up And Dye Salon de Beaute has inaugurated community theater in the West Hundred, and cast me as the Virgin Mary in the Living Christmas Pageant. I think he was sort of hoping for a two-for-one deal, but no such luck. Hudson Swann, Junior Redmond and Earl Don Grinch played the Three Wise Men, and Mr. Eddie was quite put out when they showed up in full VFD regalia and announced to little June Debbie Redmond's Baby Oh-Oh Doll in the manger that they had ''come from a fahr.'' The good ole boys love to make fun of Mr. Eddie, I guess.

I am still waitressing for Desiree Grinch at the Blue Crab. She says when Olivier does come, we will just put him or her into the big Styrofoam cooler and keep on going. I think she is serious about this, although she has been bahing and humbugging a lot. Her theme for the Blue Crab this year is An Elvis Christmas. She put all The King's Christmas albums on the juke and strung blue lights up over the pool table and the bar.

Desiree says she understands the demands of The Business since she used to be an exotic dancer on the Block when she was married to her second husband Mario Mildeaux up there. She has been letting me emcee Open Mike Night at the Blue Crab, and it was quite touching to hear Ferrus T. Bucket sing ''Silent Night'' accompanied by his dog Blackie.

Captain Hardee Swann again blew out all the power in Oysterback when he turned on his Christmas decorations. Hudson says his father has got to get a new retirement hobby, as this one is driving his mom, Miss Catherine, crazy.

Captain Hardee had to get Earl Don over to their house with the power company's cherry picker to help him install the light-up Santa in the chimney, the sleigh and nine reindeer and Santa that he put on the ridgepole, the star on the TV antenna, the six choirboys on the roof, flanked by candy canes, the carolers on the front porch, two sets of five each, about nine candles scattered all over the yard, three Frosty the Snowmen, and the complete nine-figure Nativity Scene down by the crepe myrtle bushes. He has about four miles of string lights, too, and he not only outlined the whole house, but also the garage and the 1956 Chevy pickup that's been rusting out down by the dock for years. All the hibiscus bushes blink on and off from Thanksgiving to New Year's. Omar Hinton is furious about all the ice cream melting in the freezer at his store, but Miss Catherine says Captain Hardee never drank or chased women, and the kids come from miles around to see the house, so it's something.

Dinner is at Miss Nettie Leery's. My arteries get clogged with sweet potato and marshmallow roll, oyster fritters, cornbread with bacon, creamed spinach, creamed corn, creamed squash, mushroom soup and stringbean casserole, cranberry surprise and my fair share of a turkey the size of a Volkswagen. I could only groan when Miss Nettie asked if I wanted any of the jello mold, but I did manage to find room for a piece of Mr. Eddie's pecan pumpkin rum chiffon pie. Mr. Eddie told Desiree and I he wants to write a cookbook called ''Homo on the Range.'' No one else would get it, he said, but us. But they all ate the pie, every last crumb.

Just as Reverend Briscoe was about to pronounce the Halftime Christmas blessing, the phone rang. It was Paisley. He'd finally gotten through from Saudi, and I just took the phone out on the front porch and we had a lovely husband and wife talk without the whole family wanting to get on the line.

I guess Captain Hardee went off at halftime and plugged in his Christmas lights, because for one beautiful moment, the Swann homeplace and all of Oysterback lit up like Broadway. Then the whole town went black. I tried to tell Paisley about it all, but he said he already knew, and next year, he, I and Olivier were having a Baltimore actor Christmas. I guess he's not impressed. But he was laughing.

But in the dark and stillness, you could hear Ferrus T. Buckett singing ''Silent Night'' with Blackie.

As I say, Christmas is serious in Oysterback. Tell everyone I miss them. Write soon.

Love, Beth

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