Tag Archives: Close-Knit Families

Pet Obituary: Freckles

In 2014, I wrote my first pet obituary for our beloved dog, Freckles. She impacted me as much as many of my other human friends and family have and I knew her longer than some of my other friends that had and have since passed. I wrote this obituary as a gift for my family and through this learned that I love writing pieces that capture the beauty a life can hold and share with the world.

Because this piece is so important to me, I requested that my family allow me to post it here (with some minor editing and personal information removed).

Dear Friends and Family,

On the 29th of August, 2014, our family lost their furry daughter, Freckles. She lived a long life of almost 20 years filled with love, adventure, excitement, mischief, and the never-ending need to prove her intelligence to those bipedal creatures around her. Shortly after Joe arrived with another moving truck, Freckles suffered from a stroke, causing her to lose the majority of control over her hind legs and develop severe reoccurring seizures. Our family would like to extend our deepest gratitude to a new family friend and neighbor for finding a veterinarian that would take us on short notice and relieve Freckles of her pain and suffering in the kindest, gentlest, and fastest manner possible while Glenda and Lo held her, kissed her, petted her, and spoke very softly to her until she passed peacefully.

Freckles joined our family when she was 8 weeks old, rejected by her mother, abused, neglected, and scared of the world. Joe and Jennifer went to Winchester, Virginia to pick up her from the Virginia Border Collie Rescue League during January 1996. Since then our family was blessed with the most amazing friendship and companionship.

When this small 8-week old puppy arrived in our hearts and home in Annandale, Virginia, Rebecca convinced the family to name her Freckles because of the markings all over her legs. Unlike most dogs, responding better to distinct “-ee” or other long vowel ending names, Freckles immediately responded and took on her identity. Perhaps this was the first sign that we had gotten ourselves into trouble with adopting a precocious and intelligent dog gifted with unique cognizance and an understanding of the English language.

The powers that be gifted Freckles with a strong herding instinct. She herded everything. On at least one occasion our family was blessed by watching a small puppy corral a group of slugs on a back patio and herd them. Chickens too could not escape her herding instinct. Our former chicken, Chica, constantly engaged in a battle of tolerance and wits with Freckles as she would crouch in the grass and sneak up on Chica to begin herding her again after Chica’s retaliations against her. Other animals that did not escape her herding instincts included the Canadian Geese at the local community college campus, rabbits, many many insects, and anything else she could herd, sometimes including house guests.

In addition to her herding instinct, Freckles was also gentle and loving. As an example, one night Freckles collected two small baby mice and very gently carried both in her mouth over to where Joe slept and deposited the two babies on his chest. She succeeded in waking Joe and insisting on him caring for them as she nudged them to make sure they were still alive.

As a young dog, she accompanied our family on trips to Florida, New England, and Canada. One of her favorite past times were car rides with Joe and the family. A particular memory from these travels includes a hotel in Montreal, Quebec. After a long day of driving, Joe attempted to piece together bits of French and English in order to communicate with the hotel staff tried to get approval for Freckles to stay in the room with our family. The hotel concierge eventually simply asked “No yap yap?” in broken English, and Joe grateful for the language breakthrough responded “No. No yap yap.”

When Joe’s father passed away, she looked for him everywhere, following his scent around the house in Falls Church, Virginia, mourning his death and crying with Joe. She comforted Joe in silence as he dealt with the loss his best friend, father, and role model in life. Freckles also aided the rest of our family during this hard time, comforting each member individually in very personalized ways, and communicating with us through her imitation of the human language. She kept our entire family together and sane during the greatest loss we had suffered at that point in our lives.

Freckles’ exceedingly brilliant intelligence included many talents, such as problem-solving, language comprehension, obedience, her ability to act as an obedience teacher, and playfulness. Shortly after Freckle’s first growth spurt, she began opening the door to let herself outside, as just one example of her problem-solving abilities. Additionally, her talents in the English language are not to be ignored as part of her remembrance. On more than one occasion Freckles answered yes or no questions by nodding or shaking her head. She also regularly imitated the English language when greeting Joe upon his arrival home from work each day. There is no question that Freckles understood almost everything anyone said within her hearing range. Shortly after obedience training, it became clear that Freckles’ obeyed commands only on her own terms, yet she passed her obedience and expectations of obedience on to other family dogs shortly after their arrival in the family.

Her joy and vivacity in play with Joe were incomparable. Three of her favorite games included Tug-Of-War, the Black Drain Pipe, and catching the hand monster. Freckles aged with grace, dignity, and pride for herself and her family.

Our Family was always welcomed home, snuggled, and sought after, sometimes out of herding instinct, but mostly out of love. Our family human children: Jennifer, Rebecca, Lo, and Austin walked protected by her through the yard, and guarded every moment we walked through the streets of the neighborhood. She watched over the safety of all of Joe and Glenda’s children and the friends of their children of which she approved, both furry and bipedal.

Freckles will be cremated and her ashes placed in an urn made of pink granite to match that of our family memorial. At a future date, our family will take Freckles’s remains on a final trip to Savannah, Georgia to visit the family memorial in a small private ceremony.

Our sincerest thanks to all of our friends and family during this difficult time.


Thank you for reading Freckles’s obituary/memorial today. The comments section is reserved for readers to share their own personal experiences and thoughts around pet obituaries. Do you agree with having them written? Disagree with them? Comments are moderated only to prevent spam and middle school style indecency. Once you have one approved comment on the website you won’t have to wait for comment moderation. I try to get comments approved as quickly as possible.

For Linden – A Poem

This poem was crossposted to Instagram on 14 September 2020.


For Linden

When you look up at the stars
Do they guide you on your way?
This tiny vessel of time compose
Of hands, and feet,
And eyes, and toes,
On a spaceship on its course –

Navigator, your path
Is yours to choose
So don’t let lights
Of ancient love confuse
Instead know they send
Echoing guidance across
This eternal sea;
So you may find safe passage
When all is fraught with fear
For no matter how far away
Your family is always near


Thank you for taking the time to read this poem today! What did you think of it? What did it remind you of or make you think of? I’d love to hear in the comments!

If you’d like to see more of my poetry, please like, comment, and/or share this post. It helps me know what content my readers are most interested in seeing, so I can better know what to share here.

Things That Influence My Writing: Small Town Gene Puddles And Not Liking “Gone With The Wind”

Listen – you’re going to see a lot of posts involving inspiration from Reddit’s /r/Mapporn or similar subreddits. I love maps and I’m a very visual/spatial thinker. Sometimes these will make you laugh and sometimes these will make you scratch your head because I’m posting a map about the percentage of first-cousin marriages per population found in each region of Turkey (see below) and wonder “how does this relate to Southern Gothic?” Well, no one’s dared to make one of these maps for the United States as far as I can tell. Cowards.

I promise it will all make sense. Now take a deep breath and listen for the imaginary banjos playing “Turkey In The Straw.”

Gene Puddles And Regionalism

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/hiny8f/rate_of_marriage_with_first_cousins_per_turkish/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

I grew up in mostly small town areas, save a few years in Northern Virginia. When living somewhere for generations with five other family names to choose from in terms of social circles, let alone dating, it’s not uncommon for people to accidentally date their cousin(s). Or date their cousin(s) on purpose – I don’t know the culture and I don’t want to judge. I’m from the American South (yes, a weird edge-case part of it). I’ve seen a lot of weird things happen at family reunions.

I knew people in high school that accidentally ran into the person they were dating at their family reunions. Yes, that’s plural.

State Laws on Marriage to Cousins
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures | The Washington Post 25 April 2005
If you’re wondering why these marriages are illegal in some states and not others, you can primarily look to American religious communities and The American Eugenics Movement.

Isolation and deeply intertwined family histories breed family lore in the South and throughout the United States. Genealogy is a big deal because family lore stretches back for generations. I love this and I love my family – in our own genetic and paper trail based research, we have found some unique family scandals. This lore is where American Gothic stories find many of their metaphorical/literal skeletons and demons to unearth and/or summon to expose. It’s a safe way to discuss the atrocities committed by and done to our ancestors without shame or guilt – instead we can say, “This Is America” with honesty and fun colloquial phrases. The horrors of our past become ghost stories, biopic hero legends, hauntings, crazed outlaws and precautionary tales of devil encounters that act as reflections of reality.

Deeply Flawed Close-Knit Families

The isolated small town communities across the United States provide the most incredible inspiration for American Gothic writing. Growing up in the South I tend to focus on Southern Gothic, but American Gothic includes New England Gothic, Midwestern Gothic, Pacific Northwest Gothic, Southwestern Gothic (aka Western Gothic). When I write American Gothic and Southern Gothic short stories I think about these close knit family ties between characters. The story a reader sees will only show a small portion of the full cast of characters.

In my short story, “The Disappearance of Lula Mae Darling” I choose to introduce readers to the characters of Lula Mae Darling, Uncle Rod, Becca Lynn, and Henry “Hank” Bryan. But I mention other characters and the types of relationships all of the characters have with each other around this family business, the gas station off I-95 near a South Of The Border billboard.

I waffled on how to include Lula Mae’s mother and absent father in the story. I knew their presences (or lack thereof) were essential for communicating the concept of “Southern Escapism,” and the social and economic disparities that lead to the development of this pattern of behavior.

That is not to say that the Darling family does not demonstrate unconditional love toward one another, even with their extreme differing and, in the case of Uncle Rod, bigoted opinions. In these small town communities you’re all each other has, even with these deep, painful disagreements.

In another short story I am currently submitting, I discuss a family that dies out over the course of several years after they elect to discontinue their own family trade and traditions in favor of gaining additional status and power to join the elite upper class.

I try not be heavy handed in my discussions and criticisms of cultural nuances. No reader enjoys being beaten over the head with the author’s opinions as far as I’m aware. This is why I focus on writing stories in the way I like to read them: nuanced with the ability to take from it as much or as little as I want with each read.

What Is And Is Not American Gothic?

One of the problems that constantly needs to be addressed in all American Gothic genres, particularly Southern Gothic, is glorification. An unfortunate problem with these genres is that many readers and authors have become confused by the inclusion of antebellum or “Good Ol’ Days” glorification narratives. Glorification is not the point of these genres, nor should literature focusing on glorification be included in these genres. I do like the phrasing of themes used in the opening introduction of the Southern Gothic Wikipedia page. “Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may be involved in hoodoo,[1] decayed or derelict settings,[2] grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.” I extend this to include several other factors as well. One such being the deep stratification of society that remains as a result of failure to reconstruct the Southern economy and deconstruct social, economic, and legal power structures after the Civil War.

Throughout the South there is the omnipresent racism in language use while individuals will claim it does not influence their actions across these stratifications in modern day, but stepping backward in time reveals stronger influence in action. With these deep societal divides, some horrifying community-wide behaviors can be found in historically impoverished and non-slave holding, religious Southern communities such as something akin to the Tall Poppy Syndrome. This same or similar societal strata is often associated with the worst oppressive reinforcement of racial divides thanks to the influence of white elites. This still persists to this day and gives a lot for American Gothic authors to write about.

There’s an unfortunate part, particularly among class preservationists that would prefer to reinforce Tall Poppy Syndrome among the lower strata. They pretend none of these problems existed and instead glorify only specific details, pretending anything unsavory, shameful, or embarrassing never happened. This still happens today with modern issues and is a common problem throughout the South. I have no doubt that this is the origin of Jenny Lawson’s memoir title “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.”

A great example of a book where this happened and was culturally amplified was “Gone With The Wind.”

Why I Dislike “Gone With The Wind”

At one point I mentioned not being a fan of “Gone With The Wind” by Margaret Mitchell and the movie related to this book. I have seen this book listed on “Top Ten” lists for Southern Gothic Literature. I do not believe this book belongs on those lists. I personally believe it was poorly written and its publication and success is more indicative of the politics of the United States in the mid-1930s than it is of the book’s quality or value to history beyond the significance at its time of publication. The book was poorly written compared to other books written by other female authors at the time to the extent that even the book’s editor, Harold Latham, almost refused the book due to its poor writing, but changed his mind after deciding the story was more important than the bad writing. He went so far as to tell Mitchell it was “the worst looking manuscript he’d ever seen.” What changed Harold Latham’s mind about the story? According to the telegraph Mitchell received regarding her manuscript, most likely, it was due to the “Advisers” at Macmillan Publishing.

Image may contain: text that says 'BY DIRECT WIRE FROM WESTERN SIGNS -DayLetter UNION (10) Deferreda NWOM QL202 TWS PAID 3=NEWYORK 220P MRS MARGARET MITCHELL MARSH= EAST SEVENTEENTH ST= MY ENTHUSIASM YOUR NOVEL SHARED BY OUR ADVISERS WE WOULD MAKE ITS PUBLICATION FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ADVANCE HALF SIGNING BALANCE DELIVERY MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT PERCENT ROYALTY FIRST TEN THOUSAND THEN FIFTEEN STOP MY RENEWED CONGRATULATIONS AND ASSURANCES UNDERTAKE PUBLICATION WITH TREMENDOUS ENTHUSIASM AND LARGE HOPES STOP DO WIRE APPROVAL COLLECT THAT MAY SEND CONTRACT IMMEDIATELY= S LATHAM.'
Source: Margaret Mitchell House Archives Retrieved from their Facebook page

Margaret Mitchell wrote the book based on her correspondences with exclusively white Southerners while writing for The Atlanta Journal. After the book’s publication and shortly before her death the majority of these correspondences were burned, leaving historians unable to confirm the contents. An additional interesting detail to note is that one article on Margaret Mitchell notes that she was even raised by her family to believe that the South had originally won the Civil War.

I am under the firm belief that the only reason “Gone With The Wind” became popularized to the extent it did was due to the campaign efforts of the Daughters of the Confederacy, the marketing efforts of New York’s Macmillan Publishing, and the planned success of its film adaptation. Margaret Mitchell was a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and received an award from them for “Gone With The Wind”.

These marketing efforts extended to include multiple celebrity endorsements from former residents and veterans of the Confederacy, including Helen Keller. Although, the Daughters of the Confederacy did campaign against the casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the film adaptation.

Margaret Mitchell receiving United Daughters of the Confederacy citation
Here’s Margaret Mitchell receiving her award from the Daughter’s of the Confederacy. Source: https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital/collection/lane/id/14324

Given the timing of the publication of “Gone With The Wind” it comfortably fits in among the 1930s Era of the American Eugenics Movement and the rise to power of Southern Confederate “cultural preservation” groups. It advanced the antebellum narratives that they wished to push and helped to define the vision of the Old South that they claimed they wished to fight to preserve, while silencing Black voices during the early days of the Civil Rights movement. It is important to note that the majority of marketing efforts to use the book and film as pro-Confederacy propaganda did not take off until after Margaret Mitchell’s death, particularly during the 1960s in response to the Civil Rights movement.

TL;DR

  • American Small Towns = Gene Puddles = One Of The Sources Of Material For American Gothic Literature
  • Gene Puddles = Close Knit Families That Are Deeply Flawed But Love Each Other Unconditionally
  • Glorification Of “Good Ol’ Days” Is A Problem And Does Not Belong In American Gothic Literature
  • I Don’t Like “Gone With The Wind” – This Is A Personal Opinion

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As Always, Thank You For Reading – Without You These Words Are Floating In A Void Of Approximately 1,200 Petabytes.