My sis, yesterday, posted, with a few pics, of a hangin’ with the girls, the blessed old guard, and of games played and laughs had, Mom, Aunt Lib and Aunt Elfriede, her own girl being one of mostly smiling fond observer status I’m sure (unless there were $ involved in the games – then I know all bets were off/on and someone definitely got fleeced). Cousin Josephine noted in a response to that post that all that was missing was her Mom, my Aunt Anne, Aunt D’Artagnan, to round out the three musketeers to the right four. Growing up these four were a mainstay and our rocks. if only Aunt Marie could have joined more often they would have made quite the formidable team and screwed up so many musketeer stories.

I sat in the middle at family get togethers when I was a kid. I loved the stories my dad would tell, joyfully being part of the rapt, while I kept my cousins at bay, never quite fitting with a kid’s day, playing just enough, but I always thought to be in the kitchen listening to Mom and the girls talking shit over a dinner’s prep and glasses of wine, Aunt Marie always giving them a nod and a smile from a table in the center.

These pictures Beck?


Aunt Lib has never forgotten my birthday in my 50 + years and always with a dollar or two in a card and a “Hey Kid” phone call knowing that however old I am I could use it, the dollars sure but more importantly the phone call. I can never do the same as how are you going to send a card with a 5 or 10 or 20 spot to your Aunt at 50 + years old? You can’t repay such things as an overgrown “kid” with dollars in a card so I make sure to well spend a call caught or a one back or make one myself and joke briefly about how we don’t agree on some stuff and how about them Steelers but most times just to listen to Aunt Lib doing all the talking rat-a-tat-tat-like as she always does, agree or not.

She talks … fast.

I dare you to get a word in edgewise.


Aunt Anne and Uncle Don welcomed me with open arms, so many years ago, when I needed a place to escape to from broken things, to try and start again, some Florida sun seeming the ticket and to join my cousin Connie, even taking my Benny (the Ben) at the time into the fold. They had their couch spots and chair spots in the living room for some TV at the end of a day so you just had to be Ok with floor spots crosslegged if you were going to hang. I was good with that. Always so much more room and nothing uncomfortable or too close on a floor anyway. Aunt Anne always allowed a stretch out with a welcoming, hearty and so infectious laugh. I’d fall asleep there sometimes if I had a pillow for the stretch.


Aunt Elfriede has the most perfect of names. Elfriede. It seems to fit and not just because that is all I’ve ever known to call her but that it seems elf-like and fantastical just like her. She calls me “Stephen” in the most wonderful of tiny lady German accents, accents that just can’t be lost no matter how long the time stateside, like my Mom’s English. I can joke about how I might take a step back at the calling me Stephen, a stop, the full name call indicating that I might have something to explain or apologize for. I’ve always just been “Frankenberry” a name with silly distinction but one I’ve tried to own since a pink sugary cartoon character arrived with bad jokes and prank phone calls when I was 7, on the radio or “Hello customer service? Name? yes Stephen with a “P H” and “Frankenberry” just like the cereal.

But when Aunt Elfriede says “Hello Stephen” I’m good, no stop. There’s no admonishment to follow. It’s just warm. And who doesn’t love the lilt of an accent at the sayin’ of your name?


I get lost on occasion, I anger at the world and the stupid we seem forced to endure, the dangerous empowered stupid that keeps us on an edge that none of us want, especially now, a stupid that is almost too much to bear sometimes but then my sister posts a picture, pictures, of the girls, and I remember that there is a tether.

Thanks Beck.

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