Our two, elite cousins from Missouri came to visit. The two girls, classically trained vocalists, seemed a little out of sorts to be in rural Washington State farm country. The oldest, Cathy, had peers in my first five brothers, all teenagers at that time. My uncle, the girls’ dad, could easily be described as a heavy hitter. He was an engineer, and during World War II, he invented a vehicle feature which solved a problem with the tanks. This feature was soon to be duplicated, and eventually found in every vehicle. For this invention, my uncle was amply rewarded by the military, and later, Chrysler. He was the longtime mayor of Frontenac, an upscale neighborhood in St. Louis. His wife, a southern belle, ensured that their girls were being properly brought up as debutants. At first, the family seemed reluctant to mingle with us, but my mother finally issued an ultimatum to her brother, so they eventually came.

My brothers, although polite and respectful, did not stand on ceremony with anyone, especially not with their slightly uptight and bewildered cousins, whom they had just met. So, to lighten them up a bit, my oldest brother, John, decided they should all dance. He closed the living room door to the other part of the house where the adults conversed, put on some 45s, a stack of small records that fell down, one by one, from the record player attachment, and filled the room with song.

The first song, Wooly Bully, was a hit originally recorded by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs in 1965. The epitome of rock and roll at the time, the boys came to life, one of them cranking up the stereo, and all of them dancing. John immediately swooped the oldest girl, Cathy, up into his arms, and began to dance with her. Blown away initially, she began to dance a little, then soon got caught up in the enthusiasm and attentions of her attractive male cousins, and let loose. By the time the first song ended, she was smiling and laughing and having a ball. Her father, somewhere towards the end of that first song, heard Wooly Bully playing. He opened the slider to the other room, and looked in. His sister, our mother, viewed the spectacle too. She chuckled softly and glanced at her brother. Appalled at first with the song and what he witnessed, he then smiled hesitantly, and shook his head. Mom closed the slider and led her shocked brother back to the others. The teens danced for an hour.

Later that same day, Cathy and her younger sister, Linda, both entertained the families by singing songs of their own, classical pieces both beautiful and elegant, and we all appreciated the girls’ talents. Still, we sensed that a barrier had been broken. Blood is thicker than social class, power or prestige, and each family had a glimpse into the dramatic strengths of the other. Reservations disappeared that day, at least for the younger set, and this family came again at a later date to enjoy the unreserved warmth of the Doumits.