Why we fried fish on Monday afternoon


We fried fish Monday afternoon at my mom and dad’s house in Newton. The occasion — if there need be an occasion to fry fish — was a birthday celebration. Not one in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday — although that was the holiday — no, we fried fish on Monday in celebration of Harmon Drexil Beeland, better known as Joe in these parts — Dad, Daddy, and Paw too — and the observance of his 86th birthday.

For the record people often ask where the name “Joe” came from and although I don’t really have any idea, I usually reply, “if your name was Harmon Drexil, you’d want to be called Joe too.”

January is a busy birthday month for our family, and family of friends. Several of our closest friends have birthdays this month and we used to all gather for a big “January Birthday Party” celebration. The last time we got together, though, was three or four years back in our old milk barn, that became a grown ups’ club house in 2011. We named the joint Delia Mae Hudson’s Famous Milk Barn Lounge, after my grandmother. I’m sure she would be proud!

For the last couple of years the barn has served as a storage facility as we’ve worked on the renovations of the house and it seems everyone has been to busy to get together anyway. We’ll have to try to renew that tradition in 2020.

We probably better renew that tradition in 2020, because we’re certainly not getting any younger. Fact of the matter is that my circle of friends — of which I’m the youngest, thank goodness — started hitting the 60 mark last year. With the exception, that is, of the old guy in our bunch, David, who actually added an additional over-60 notch to his belt a week or so ago. Ouch!

I’m not quite 58 — for two more days anyway — so I get to be the kid in the crowd and I happily wear that badge!

Our friend Julie turned 59 last year and in wishing her a happy birthday, I think I said something along the lines of “being this old isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be when I thought turning 30 would be old.” Ain’t that the truth!

I clearly remember being a child in my tree house wanting to never grow up. Then I became a teen and didn’t think I could grow up fast enough. Then at 15 with a driver’s license in my wallet, I thought I “was” grown up. And, of course, buying that first “legal” beer (legal in 1979 anyway) and registering for the draft at the age of 18 was the icing on my grown up birthday cake.

My wife, Danny, and I were married when I was 20 — she’s a cradle robber that will be 60 in May — and we thought we were so much more mature then, than 20-year-olds are today. That’s debatable...but it might be true.

Thirty still seemed a long way off and still pretty old, but then all of a sudden it arrived and, as I said to Julie, wasn’t nearly as old as we once thought it would be. I was a newspaper publisher by the time I was 30 and our daughter, Rachel-Johanna, was born exactly one week after I turned 32. She’ll be 26 next Friday, and I would bet she sees 30 as a fine young age as it creeps up on her.

Forty we said was the new 30, and then 50 arrived and, well, that was just another date on the calendar.  Now my friends and I either already have knocked, or we are now knocking, on 60’s door.

We certainly don’t look like we used to look when we used to look in the mirror, but at least we can still pick each other out in a crowd. We don’t move as fast as we used to either, but it is still difficult to keep most of us off the dance floor. All the more reason to clean up the Milk Barn Lounge in 2020 and crank up the music once again.

So, happy birthday to us all. Happy birthday to the one who is 86, and happy birthday to the one who will be 26, and happy birthday to all those folks in between.

And, that, my friends, is why we fried fish on Monday, and why we look forward to many more January fish fries at Rachel and Joe’s (a.k.a. Mom and Dad, Daddy, Paw’s) house in the years to come.