Suspenders This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   My uncle was a funny man. He visited our house every Saturday with a little box of doughnuts from Delilah's Doughnut Shop. Every time, he'd be wearing a tan leather jacket and a Mets baseball cap. When he walked in the door, he'd pull off his jacket and cap and hand them to my mother, his sister, older by five years. He'd be wearing a bright white shirt and deep blue jeans always, but the one thing about him that was always different were his suspenders.

His suspenders might be a solid red or blue or green, or they might be patterned with dots or stars or stripes. For special seasons, he wore holiday suspenders. Around Valentine's Day, he donned ones with tiny Cupids and hearts. At Christmas time, ones with fir trees and sleighs would sprout from his jeans. He owned ones with rabbits, turkeys, shamrocks, and fireworks as well. Mom had given him a pair with birthday cakes and candles for his thirtieth birthday and he received a pair with his name scrolled over them: Joe. Usually one pictures older, plumper men with bright red faces wearing suspenders. My uncle was tall, youthful, pale, and fun to be with. He was more like what I wanted my brother to be.

When he came to our house on Saturday, we'd sit and talk. First, he would tell us where he'd gotten his suspenders, as each had a hilarious story behind them. Then, he'd ask each of us how our week had been. He'd start with Mom, then Dad, then Ricky, then Susie, and finally me. When I talked, I knew Uncle Joe listened. He took me seriously, even though I was the "baby" of the family. If I had had any problems, he would make a joke about it that made it seem much less of a worry. I loved talking to Uncle Joe as much as I loved listening to his stories.

What stories he told! He talked about his neighbor who owned a skunk and the day it had sprayed him. He narrated the time he'd been recruited into helping the Jones boys sell lemonade. My favorite story was the one about the time he arm wrestled with the strongest man at his gym and won! My mom would shake her head laughingly and my dad would groan each time Uncle Joe told a story.

Sometimes, Uncle Joe would reach into his pocket and pull out a dollar for my brother, sister, and me. He'd say, "Here's a dollar to make you grow taller." It was kind of silly for him to be giving us money, since we were all teenagers and even Ricky had a job, but there was something about this generous act that didn't make us want to turn him down - - as if we knew he would be disappointed.

Uncle Joe wasn't totally perfect. My mom talked to my dad a lot about how he gambled and drank too much. He had lost a lot of jobs and that worried her too. She was afraid he was irresponsible and immature and would someday get into great trouble.

My Uncle Joe doesn't come to our house on Saturdays anymore. Mom said it's because he's been busy, but I'm not stupid. There she goes, not taking me seriously. Uncle Joe would never have lied to me. He would have told me straight out that he and Mom have been fighting and why. Probably, she has been worried about him and he has asked her to leave him alone. I can understand both their sides. Now, why can't they understand each other?

I miss Uncle Joe and his stories and his suspenders. It's funny how right people are when they say, "Don't take for granted what you have, because if it goes away, you'll see how greatly you needed it and you may never have it again." My grandmother told me that before she died last year. I miss her a lot, too, but there's nothing I can do about it now, sadly. Still, there is something I can do about Uncle Joe. I'm going to call him up and ask him to come over tomorrow like before. Boy, I can hardly wait to see what suspenders he'll choose for tomorrow! It doesn't matter, because while suspenders hold up one's pants, it's one's family that does the most important holding up, or supporting. Families support one through life, troubles, happiness, excitement. That's one thing that should always be the same, no matter what the season.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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