…as the late Paul Harvey used to say. Yes, strange indeed! So strange that I’m not sure where to run with this one. I took this picture a couple of weeks ago with the intention of using it for a fun, no silly, post about a picture we had in the dining room, but since I can never be sure what I’m taking a picture of until I upload it and see it enlarged, I had no idea of the effect that I had created. Now that I can see this ghostly apparition, I’m tempted to go in a different direction.
Oh, such weighty decisions!
Should I use this picture as a metaphor and write about our debt to those who have gone before, or should I just run with the story of the picture…?
OK, I’ll go with plan A.
This picture has been in our dining room for several years now, and I have named it the “Smiley Twins.” I’m sure you can guess why. In the beginning, we had an original oil painting of Babe Ruth in this spot, but one day “She Who Must be Obeyed” determined that she would not have a baseball picture in her dining room, and banished the Babe upstairs. I picked up another picture for the spot that was one of those inexpensive prints that has a wine bottle, some grapes and some cheese, but “She Who Must be Obeyed” banished that one to the basement because she didn’t want to be considered a “wine-o.”
After that, we happened to be in an antique shop where I saw the Smiley Twins and bought the picture for about five bucks. When I placed it in the dining room spot, “She…” asked me why on earth I would put that thing in her dining room. Not about to have a third picture tossed out of there, I told her that it was going to stay because it will be the best conversation-starter of all time, and so it is! Every time we have dinner guests for the first time, somebody will ask about the picture: “is it a family picture?” Why are they so unhappy?” “Are these the original owners of the house?” and so forth. As long as the guest didn’t have “General” for a first name (and we had a number of guests who go by that name) I would immediately start telling some kind of a tall tale about the picture; just whatever popped into my head. In every occasion save one, the person would quickly realize that it was a tall-tale and call me on it, and then we would all have a laugh and I’d tell them the real story of how that picture came to be there. In truth, I know nothing whatsoever about who those people were.
Now there was one famous occasion when I was hosting a planning session for the church Christmas program, and somebody asked me the usual question about the picture, so I launched into a crazy tale about the Smiley Twins. (I even used that name for them) As I recall, I told them that he was a district court judge in some Illinois town in the late 1800’s and the woman was his sister. She had run a bordello for about 20 years when Judge Smiley’s wife died, so she sold the bordello and moved in to his house as his official hostess, since his was the leading place in local high society at the time. As the years went by, sister Smiley became bored and bought a bourbon distillery and ran it, while also serving as the major hostess of high society, and on and on…
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that one of the ladies present was just about to choke while trying not to laugh. She had asked the same question a few weeks prior and knew that this story was nonsense, but the gentleman who asked the question appeared to have swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
A bordello Madam being the center of high society in the late Victorian era… and then running a distillery…?
Finally, I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous and had to confess to the real story of the picture, but not before everybody laughed so hard that our sides hurt.
Of course, it was only later that I realized that the gentleman who had asked the question wasn’t taken in at all, but rather had turned the tables on me entirely, playing along until I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Obviously Mike is the reigning champion of the Smiley Twins game at our house!