Friday, December 23, 2005


That was one of the less affectionate nicknames my Aunt Babs had for me. Babs is legendary within my inner circle: one of my prized photos is a blown-up portrait of Aunt Babs, sitting in a lawn chair, massive thighs exposed, cigarette in hand.

There are three Babs anecdotes that remain in heavy rotation. The first involves a chance meeting with the late owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Rankin Smith. Rankin was a good 'ol boy ... a rich, good 'ol boy. Local wags dubbed his family, "The Clampetts." Anyway, Rankin was friendly with a good pal of my mother's, and he was a frequent presence during my childhood.

Rankin despised pretense. Aunt Babs, of course, has none. So he was delighted when, after being introduced as the owner of the Falcons, Babs responded: "I don't give a shit what he owns. What am I supposed to, kiss his feet?" The duo ended up in our suburban backyard that night --- after downing copius amounts of booze --- shooting off firecrackers. It was not the Fourth of July.

Then there was Babs' first visit to our neighborhood swimming pool. She was wearing her Van Halen t-shirt, along with a pair of white Lycra shorts. We assumed, wrongly, there was a bathing suit underneath. My mother, aware of the visuals that accompany wet Lycra shorts, informed her sister that the neighbors might not be very enthralled with full-frontal nudity. "I don't give a shit what these country club assholes think," Babs replied as she jumped into the pool, cigarette in hand.

Cigarettes played an integral part of one of Babs' proudest moments. A devoted bingo player, she was enraged when her local VFW banned smoking during the parlor game. Babs led a walk-out, nearly emptying the hall. Soon after, the smoking ban was lifted.

Aunt Babs, the hero.

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