From the time I was little, I mean really little, like two and three years old, my own mother said I was “spooky,”. I would look at my mom and say in a nonchalant demeanor, “Grandma’s calling.” Seconds later the phone would ring. Guess who it was. Yep. Grandma.
My dad managed a local county campground in the early 1970’s, a place called Groveland Oaks in Holly, Michigan. Our family lived in a house within the campground. There are 4 kids in my family. I am,of course, the baby. I have 2 older sisters and a brother, all of whom are almost a decade older than I am .To this day they seem more like aunts and an uncle than siblings, but I adore them all.
Down the lane from our house, also living within the campground was a couple I only knew as “Uncle Arnold and Aunt Evelyn.” Aunt Evelyn was a snazzy dresser. I loved her big red beehive hairdo. She was always wearing super cool, colorful moo moo type dresses that she would get on vacation. She wore what I thought were the coolest shoes ever, my favorite pair being sandals with big giant gem stones on them.
I think my “Uncle” was the head of all the parks in Oakland County, but he chose to live at Groveland because it was the most beautiful of them all. They lived down a cobblestone lane that was just a stones throw from our house. Our houses were deep in the woods. We couldn’t see each other, nor could we see the actual campground. We were snuggled back in the dense Mickigan woods. The only other thing nearby to us was the Groveland Fire Department. Again, separated by the thick woods, we couldn’t see the actual building, but we certainly could hear the sirens of the fire trucks and rescue vehicles when they were called to help. Many times they were being called into the campground. I would hear my dad and Uncle Arnold talk of drownings, fights among the campers and the occasional overdose. It was the ’70’s. Wild bikers and clubs would reserve up the campsites and scandalous parties parties took place.
As usual, I digress. I ask forgiveness in advance from you, the reader, as I tend to ramble off subject from time to time.
I loved visiting Uncle Arnold and Aunt Evelyn’s house. It was a modern home, probably built in the 50’s with that certain Frank Lloyd Wright look to it. It was so cool. Inside was always perfect and pristine, and decorated to the nines. I was only allowed to go into 3 rooms. I was so young but I remember those rooms so vividly. The kitchen was the first room you saw when you entered. When it was just Aunt Evelyn we never went past the kitchen table. When Uncle Arnold was there we would go past the mirrored room, with gorgeously gawdy furniture, ferns, a white bear rug (complete with a face) and a piano. The whole room screamed “Liberace!” Past the Liberace room was the great room. The biggest living room in the universe, at least it seemed that way at the time. Always perfect, decorated more in a manly fashion. Dark fabrics accented the dark wood of the walls. Unique treasures from all their travels around the globe. China, Haiti, Africa. They each had their own displays on built in shelves, lit and reached up to the ceiling it seemed. It was the display of Uncle Arnold’s collection from Africa that captivated me the most. The masks, drums, spears, creepy little dolls and other strange things displayed on the beautifully lit shelves. What captivated me the most were the shrunken heads. I could not stop looking at them. There were several encased in dome covers, while others were not. They were so disgusting that when I was there, all I could do is stare at their grotesque faces with their eyes and mouths crudely sewn shut. Uncle Arnold told me if they didn’t sew the eyes and mouth shut that the evil spirits were set free.
I also remember that when I would get too scared from the shrunken heads, I would go to Aunt Evelyn’s shelves which were a little more light hearted with dolls, books and photos of their holidays. In particular I remember I would touch a carving of the Last Supper. I loved the white marble carving of Jesus and the disciples. I would touch the tiny little plates with the even tinier pieces of bread on them. My mother would always scold me for touching the statues, but Aunt Evelyn always stuck up for me, telling my mother not to worry and that I wasn’t going to hurt it. But even though the carved Jesus comforted me, I would always go back to what terrified me. Those shrunken heads. It was at that very young age I realized the comfort Jesus brings, but couldn’t understand why the evil was so much more appealing to me.