I was thinking about my uncle the other day. Actually, I think about him a lot. You may remember me referencing him before. His name was Claude Miller, my mother’s brother-in-law. I always referred to him and to my Aunt Juanita as Big Daddy and Big Mama.
Big Mama was the sweetest woman in my life, until I met Nicole. Big Daddy was one of the most remarkable characters you would ever hope to meet. She died at around 77 years of age but Big Daddy lived to be almost 101 years old.
My cousin Linda was their daughter and she and I were raised like siblings. To this day, she and I have remained very close. I spent almost every summer at their house and I would regularly go on vacation with them to Indian Rocks Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast, near St. Petersburg.
When not on vacation with them, I would be at their house and Big Daddy made sure that everyone got in a full day of work. Whether it was painting the barn or digging footers for a new addition or cleaning molds in their ceramic shop. Sometimes I would go to Big Daddy’s barber shop where I would get to sweep up the floors. But the fun part was listening to old these old gentlemen tell their stories while waiting for the next chair or even while they were in the chair.
I was very taken with Motown music back in those days. Who am I kidding? I still am. Linda’s older brother Randy was a drummer in a rock band while he was in high school, so it was his record collection that Linda and I regularly plundered. In his stack of 45 RPMs you would find the Beatles, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, and more like that.
On my own, however, I had discovered the Motown sound like the Four Tops, the Temptations, the Supremes and Marvin Gaye. I was always infatuated by Gladys Knight and the Pips. I loved their harmonies and the choreography of the Pips as they sang back-up to Gladys.
One day, I think I was nine years old, I was working in the yard with Big Daddy. He said, “Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up?”
“Oh, yes, SIR!” I told him.
“Do you want to be a preacher like your daddy?” he asked.
I knew what the politic answer was supposed to be. I mean, not only was my dad a minister, it went back generations upon generations. It was expected of me. Still, my answer blurted out…
“I want to be a PIP!”
I’ll never forget the look on his face, somewhere between shame and horror. He took a deep breath and retorted, “Why in the name of God would you want to be a PIMP?”
It took forever to explain that I didn’t want to be a pimp but I wanted to be a Pip…a back-up singer for Gladys Knight!
Things got quiet for the rest of the afternoon. But once, I heard him chuckle under his breath and say, “Hm. A Pip.”
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