Don’t Give Up the Ship


by T Max

Just today I was on my bicycle to Seaside Graphics in Gloucester to print up the cover of a booklet.  This short print job is for a tribute to my late Uncle John. So, like I said, I’m on my bicycle and on my left I pass the Past Present Shoppe and it’s the first time I realize that’s its name. For it was in that shop a couple of months ago that I heard a traditional Irish melody on the radio that reminded me of the song “Dundabeck”—a song my Uncle John sang at every Maxwell family gathering back in the late ’50s through the ’60s. Stopping in this Past Present Shoppe is something I wouldn’t normally do, but Anne Brown asked me to pick up a consignment check for her. Now the coincidences that led to me hearing that old traditional melody on the radio are one thing, but the name of the shop, Past Present, just adds to the amazing ways reality works. So I pick up the color cover copies of the booklet at Seaside Graphics and piece together a homemade booklet that includes personal stories about my Uncle John written by myself, my two brothers, three of my aunts, and my Uncle John’s long-time girlfriend. I finish it up and call my lovely Aunt Mary in Brooklyn to let her know how the project was coming along. I’m hoping to record her over the phone as a trial run to see if my little audio recorder is adequate for the job. The job is to combine my own recording of the song “Dundabeck” with the voices of all my relatives telling their stories about my Uncle John Gerard Maxwell. So I fill in Aunt Mary on how the project is progressing. I mention that that the recording of “Dundabeck” is complete and I’ve compiled and laid out writings from her, Aunt Betty, Aunt Kate, the girlfriend Marion, my brothers Jimmy and Johnny, and myself. She says, “What about Aunt Margie?” “Uh Oh,” I respond. Aunt Margie, my godmother, forgot to send in her story about her brother John, and I didn’t realize it. So a damage-control plan had to be put into effect. Luckily I left the last page of the booklet blank. So Aunt Margie was informed about the 200 word limit on her story. She sent it in right away—via email—the first of my aunts to use the new communication system. I edited her story to fit, and pasted it into the last page of the booklet. Now I’m right back where I started. I have to call Aunt Mary again to make the first telephone recording test to see if the quality will cut it. So remember, don’t give up the ship.


One year on my birthday, I must have been around eight, Uncle John asked me what I wanted. I was collecting these little figurines called Warriors of the World and I was missing the Civil War generals—Grant and Lee. Uncle John drove me around Brentwood looking for them. The individual pieces cost about $2.50 but we could only find the two generals in a 30-piece multi-pack that cost around $30. Generously, Uncle John sprung for it—and I have kept the figures of Grant and Lee with me my entire life. Thanks, Uncle John. You were always my favorite uncle.


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