Hamilton, Ontario

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Uncle Jim

By Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Emily Jane Hills Orford  pottery Granny was just Granny. I never could fathom how or why she had a brother. But she did. And a younger one at that. We called him Uncle Jim. He was really a great uncle to us, but we still just called him Uncle Jim. He lived in Detroit where he had worked in the auto industry until illness forced him to retire early. We didn’t see Uncle Jim often, but Granny talked about him. And, when he did visit, it was a special occasion.

“Will you turn the rope for me, Uncle Jim?” my older sister asked. Granny’s younger brother was like another playmate to all of us. He loved being around children and he spent most of his visit playing games with us. Skipping was my sister’s favorite. At three, I hadn’t caught onto the technique. Yet. But I would. Eventually. With Uncle Jim’s help.

Uncle Jim took the rope offered and gave me one end. My sister rolled her eyes. She knew I wasn’t very good at turning the rope either. If she was lucky, I might manage to pump my end straight up and down, like a whip, slapping it firmly on the ground before whipping it upwards again. However, Uncle Jim appeared to have faith in me, so I would give it a try.

While I pumped my right hand, the one holding my end of the rope, somehow, magically I suppose, Uncle Jim managed to turn his end in such a way that my sister was able to skip inside the arch. As long as she ducked her head when it made the overhead circle. She dashed in and out of the circling rope, chanting this and that. None of it made any sense to me.

Finally, I had enough of pumping my hand up and down. “My turn,” I called out hopefully. Uncle Jim winked at me. “Give your sister a turn,” he instructed. I was relinquished of my duty and my sister took my end of the rope. “Stand in the centre,” Uncle Jim suggested. “I will tell you when to jump.” “Okay.” I glowed at the attention I was receiving. Scrunching up my face in concentration, I focused on the rope. It turned. Uncle Jim called out, “jump,” too late for me to react. The rope hit my feet. “Try again,” he said with eager encouragement. This time, his voice said “jump,” too soon. Anticipating that I would be a bit delayed in the response to his command, he had planned to say “jump” earlier than the first time. However, I was overly eager. I jumped and landed on the ground just as the rope once again hit my feet. “Try again,” he called out. He wasn’t about to give, so neither would I. “We will get it right this time.” The rope turned. Uncle Jim called out “jump” and I jumped. The rope swung underneath me feet and once again was swirling over my head. I didn’t have time to gloat in my success as my uncle once again called out “jump”. And I jumped. We managed five successful jumps in a row before my feet were once again entangled in the rope.

Granny was clapping her hands, acknowledging my success. At some point, she must have come outside to watch. “You did very well, Emily.”

keep reading more articles My sister handed me the rope and I took up position to once again turn. Granny came to the rescue and stood behind me, taking my swinging arm in hers and helping me turn the rope instead of slapping it up and down. My sister skipped with greater ease, no more ducking, content to have me swinging the rope at last. I didn’t realize Granny had let go. At least, not until my sister ran out of skipping range and actually tripped on the rope herself. Yes, my sister, skipping champion and all.

I guess none of us are perfect all the time, but Granny and her younger brother certainly tried hard to make me feel perfect.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novel, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: A Piccadilly Street Story” and the recently released “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: A Piccadilly Street Story Book 2”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her website at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca