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November 15, 2018

This Happily Haunted House

"So I'm a ditherer? Well, I'm jolly well going to dither then."

 By Susie Duncan Sexton

As the dearest wedding photograph in history gradually fades alongside a flowery, yellowing marriage certificate filled with rules and regulations written in calligraphy -- both keepsakes tucked into a music box which creaks out "Camelot" upon the opening of its lid, reverent memories of my parents re-emerge. Then I drum my fingers atop the kitchen table as I await my husband's backing out my 20 year old automobile to take it for its oil change. The endless mystifying racket reminds me of my breakable, manic, nutty Jerry Lewis record, called "The Noisy Eater", which I wore out as a kid. I lean toward the screened window and get greeted with, "Just moving and scooting 'Jim Fleck's garbage cans' (a reference to our former city 'chief') so that I can drive this car out my own driveway." Truth be told, Don actually ran for mayor Haunted1118.jpgprompted by his ire over that very topic...garish Tupper-ware type receptacles no longer allowed in the alleys but now those bold, electric-blue eyesores instead stand at sloppy attention in front of our houses along the tree-lined streets

I am not in the mood for controversy. I prefer to submit a love letter to the finest humans whom I ever met and who graced this fortunate town with their presence for decades. 


Now, back at the computer to write of an elopement on September 18 of 1930 and a young couple of individuals starting life together in the Carolinas, I reach out to capture two frisky, feisty, plucky ghosts named Roy and Edna. On the fingers of one hand I calculate the number of times I clashed with either one or the other or, worse, that instant united front which they masterfully conjured up when faced with the sassiness of an errant child. And contrary to the views of some rotten publicists, I do not answer to misguided identifications as either "spoiled" or "brat". I am -- always have been -- one respectful kid who enjoyed a very special relationship with my parents. The three of us -- for 10 years joined at the hips (my married sisters in their own houses) -- had an absolute ball! I was blessed to realize that fact in real time. All mine! 

My "folks" -- an apt, quaint, typically Southern reference --really still should be alive to preen for their 82nd anniversary picture...but "posing" did not fit their style. My mom detested corsages, tore up pix of herself, and possessed the talent to have outwritten Margaret MitchellLillian Hellman, or Dorothy Parker. She preferred to remain unnoticed yet occasionally penned perfect poetry for which she once received a personal, hand-written "thank you" note from Jacqueline Kennedy. My dad died at the exact age that every Duncan dies...from a cerebral hemorrhage which is an appropriately rugged Scotsman's usual adieu to this world. Endure what life hands you; think independently; live with gusto; never back down; laugh often and exit quickly one fine day, with little fanfare, singing, "...And Ah'll be in Scotlan' afore ye..."! ("Loch Lomond") Kind, beautiful individuals. 

Neither phony nor stereotypical, my parents disagreed often, attended church regularly for networking and spiritual rejuvenation with a minimal dose of dogma, quietly performed good deeds, valued and strengthened family ties yet at a reasonable distance, maintained serious friendships throughout their lifetimes, and only neared divorce court when my dad bought a new car without permission or "adopted" pets without consultation or engaged in small downtown store ownership/co-management with "Snooks"/Edna which lasted about ten minutes. The "Corral" may be remembered by many of you. My dad paid dearly for offering Wranglers at an affordable price -- small town retailers do not enjoy competition no matter what they say. Our store paled in comparison to the Wal-Mart empire we all know and love presently. To this day, I borrow a treasured tip from my old man; when human beings behave like jack-asses, I simply diplomatically refer to such types as "damned peculiar" and move on with my life, brushing off my jeans while celebrating my genes!

Only a fool offers a template for marriage "between one man and one woman", such as might be dictated by spooky judges at a time-warped Salem Witch Trial; rather, I instead salute -- as I marvel at -- the collaboration between two determined, joyous, unique, unbiased, "live and let live" human beings setting an example which served me well when Mr. and Mrs. Duncan ruled my world and unto this very moment listening to Don lug trash containers about while CUSSing "a happy tune". Roy and Edna snuck away to become hitched only one year into The Great Depression-- weathering many storms. Both continue to live with me while dispensing their daily advice, whispered into my over-sized ears


Although I view awards with disdain since such silly pageantry and subjective selectivity generally cause divisiveness, dissension, and jealousy, I wish to correct an unforgivable over-sight. Being as I daily function like Leo G. Carroll who starred as "Topper", I long to bestow upon Edna (Constance Bennett) and Roy Duncan (Cary Grant) a posthumous certification -- "Citizens of the Year"! My beloved, sometimes aggravating, personal apparitions flit about, encouraging thoughts, inspiring dreams, and motivating positive action while I live in their tiny little house to which I was brought as an infant from Ft. Wayne's Lutheran Hospital. Their steadiness, sense of fairness and fun, and lack of pretentiousness enhanced our community. So, I wish a happy anniversary to my very own delightful citizen-ghosts who eternally haunt me! I love every minute of it! 


"So I'm a ditherer? Well, I'm jolly well going to dither then." ~ Cosmo Topper


"Topper (1937) is an American comedy film which tells the story of a stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways man who is haunted by the ghosts of a fun-loving married couple." WIKIPEDIA
 

NOTE:  Among the images in the above collage are ones of McLean Stevenson's sis, Ann Whitney, who portrayed a spiritualistic medium in the Wagon Wheel's August 2012 production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" (a "spiritual" cousin to the film "Topper"). I have discussed her brother Mac and our time performing together at Wagon Wheel in earlier writings, and I presented those to her the evening we attended the show.  She was a sheer delight. The lead actor in "Blithe Spirit", David Schlumpf masterfully dodged the ghost of his former wife while married to his current spouse.  Blurb in the program stated, "The play is so artful that it was able, in 1941 (amidst the crisis of war), to make jokes about ghosts at a time when the audience was feeling the real-life impact of lost loved ones."

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Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com.  Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.