OUT OF BOUNDS By Geary (Smedley) Leason

A Smedley Christmas to Remember

Grandfather Ebenezer Smedley, of nearby Formosa, hit it big the last few years as the shale gas guys determined that there was a huge lode of natural gas beneath his twenty acres, which were left to him some fifty years ago by his own grandfather, Ezekiel Smedley. Ebenezer got a ton of up front money by selling his mineral rights and, at the same time, retained a juicy royalty for future payouts, which were now starting to roll in.

With his new found wealth and with not so many years ahead of him as he was closing in on ninety, Ebenezer felt led to spread the joy around to his many relatives – and these he had by the carload. Ebenezer was one of nineteen children – all of whom were prolific procreators like their parents. Ebenezer himself added fifteen to the pile. He came up with a preliminary list of about six hundred living relatives for his planned family bash, but this number was soon whittled down to a workable ninety-seven after he factored in the number of Smedleys who were either incarcerated, were parole violators or were on the lam.

Ebenezer figured that a family reunion, set around the Christmas Holiday, would be a joyful day of great food, drinks, and most importantly – renewing old family ties and sharing memories. Smedley was determined that every invitee’s peculiar needs and tastes would be precisely accommodated and so he sent out the invitations with a RSVP open-ended list of what each person needed so as to be completely comfortable in this grand occasion. Smedley did not anticipate these lists would create a lot of extra work, especially as all the Smedleys were of the Baptist persuasion, going way back.

The first Smedleys came to America from some where in Europe – some say it was from Ireland. Others believe it could have been Hungary or even Transylvania. Whoever it was, the first newcomers, Adam and Eve Smedley, settled in Rhode Island in 1638 and immediately joined the very first Baptist Church in America, led by Brother Roger Williams (not the piano player, by the way). The Smedleys, even back then, were prolific procreators and over the years, many Smedleys migrated south and southwest, planting themselves mostly in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas – and all bringing their Baptist faith with them. Along the way, however, some doctrinal deviations and practices crept into the mix. What denomination hasn’t experienced much of the same?

As the RSVP s came floating back in, Ebenezer became aware that the Smedley clan was no longer a homogeneous, one-size-fits-all group of people, though they all professed to being Baptists. It quickly became obvious that Smedley needed to create a spreadsheet to come close to his goal of considering every invitee’s brand of Baptist faith. Some of the Baptist denominations indicated on the RSVPs were: American, Missionary, Baptists, Free Will, Landmark, Southern, General, Primitive, and Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestination. There were forty seven others mentioned. Smedley then had to differentiate for the special peculiarities existing between members of the their respective denominations. Some of the dividing issues were: no drinking, no cards and no dancing vs. no drinking, no cards, but dancing OK; no divorce vs. divorce OK, but no re-marriage vs. divorce OK and re-marriage OK; wine OK vs. beer and wine OK; chanting OK but no singing vs. singing OK but no instruments vs. singing, instruments OK, but no canned music; dresses, no slacks vs. dresses and slacks OK; no jewelry or makeup vs. no jewelry but makeup OK; women silent in church vs. women OK to teach, but not preach vs. women OK to talk, teach, preach, deacon, and usher.

Another category that needed attention was what kind of food was acceptable: Wal-Mart frozen turkey vs fresh from the farm turkey; vegan (vegetable) turkey vs. free range turkey; gluten free vs. low carb dressing; free trade coffee vs. Folgers coffee. This list went on for pages.

Finally, with help from the Best Buy Geek Squad, Smedley had figured out the appropriate seating and menu for each guest. Nobody would be uncomfortable and everybody’s taste would be fully accommodated. The Smedley Thanksgiving bash had its ninety-seven guests, each with their own ear pods for their peculiar music (or not) – seated at ninety-seven tables, and served by ninety-seven waiters and ninety-seven chefs!

Everybody got along and had a good time. It was a Smedley Christmas to remember!

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