Extinction of the Shivaree

A tradition came to an end, after I was grown and had a few Little Kids of my own.  I lived  in the Upper Peninsula, or maybe I was over in The Thumb; I only heard this story, it belongs to the Little Kids.  They were, well, still little girls (and boys).  The tradition is the Shivaree.  To those readers who are unfamiliar with Shivaree it is a surprise party, in the middle of the night, at a newlywed couple’s home.  Neighbors, friends, and relatives get together outside the unsuspecting bride’s and groom’s home, bang pans, blow trumpet and raise a hullabaloo, until the sleepy couple let the revelers into their home.  Great fun, until Aunt Annie and her new husband, Dave put an end to the fun.

When Deanna was a new bride, she and her husband, Mike, lived in an apartment near the city.  That didn’t stop us.  I gave Bonita a leg up unto the balcony and she pulled me up, while I stood on Julie’s thigh; together we pulled Julie, then Johnny up.  The rest of the family and friends hung around below the balcony or took the inside stairs to Deanna’s apartment to bang on the door and walls.  Bonita blew her trumpet, and I banged on the sliding glass door, shouting “Shivaree!  Shivaree!”

Apartment lights popped on all around Deanna’s place until at last, she stopped pretending to be asleep and let us all in.  She hoped we’d give up and go home.  Did she forget the relentless willpower of her family when she changed her last name?  No way.  The best part: explaining Shivaree to Deanna’s Brazilian neighbors, brand new in America.  After all, anyone who snapped their lights on, got invited to the party along with the newlyweds.  The more the merrier.  That’s the way it worked.  Except for Dave, Aunt Annie’s new husband.

Aunt Annie lived way out on a dirt road, with no neighbor for a half-mile.  Dave was a towny; he knew nothing about country ways, and even less about Shivaree.  He acted brave, but he was a scaredy-cat; kind of like a gorilla beating his chest in the jungle, and scampering for cover as soon as another gorilla challenged him.

Deanna and Bonita and Julie and Mom and Dad, and Marcia and Frank and Loren-dee-dee-bopper and Johnny, too, loaded up casseroles, cakes and cookies and fine beverages along with the usual trumpets and other noisemakers.  The cars crunched up the gravel driveway and everyone piled out, spilling muffled giggles with them as they sneaked up the wide lawn to Aunt Annie’s front door.  “Shivaree!  Shivaree!” the whole gang shouted, laughing and trumpeting, ‘ta-dee, ta-dat-tee-daaa!’, and banging cans together.

“Who’s out there!” shouted Aunt Annie’s groom.  “I’ve got a gun.”

“Shivaree! Shivaree!” the happy bunch shouted and banged on the windows, because for sure, Dave was just a bit startled in the middle of the night and pretty soon, he would see the fun in all this.

Dave burst out of the door, shot-gun shouldered, blindly swinging it from side to side.  When I say blindly, I mean blindly; no glasses. Without his glasses, the end of the shot-gun was a blur for Dave.

Mom stood there, one foot on the porch, dutch oven in hand, mouth in the middle of a “Shiv….”  Julie pushed Little Kids to the ground and covered their heads like a hen covering her chicks.  Bonita spurgled out one last blurt on her trumpet before Vickie pulled her to the ground.  All the while, Dave swung that shot-gun around, shouting, “Who’s there?  I’ll shoot.  Get off my property.  Don’t move or I’ll shoot.”

“Don’t shoot, Dave.  It’s us,” Dad ventured.

“It’s us.  Don’t shoot,” joined in a chorus from their knees in the damp grass.

A ghost, white gauze billowing around her, appeared on the porch clutching the throat of her negligée cover-up.  “Dave, it’s all right.  It’s just my family.” you could almost see the smirk in Aunt Annie’s voice, or so the story goes.

“I’ll shoot.  I swear I’ll shoot,” but the shotgun lowered and the bluster went out of Dave’s voice.

The party commenced with all the fun of any other Shivaree.  The aftershock lives on until this day: the last of the Shivaree.

Wide eyes and dropped jaws look back at me in disbelief when I tell this story to my Big City friends.  They never heard of Shivaree.

“You mean, you climbed up the side of a building and knocked on the balcony door, in the middle of the night?”

“While people were sleeping?”

“No one ever called the cops?”

“And that’s fun?”

“You’re lucky no one got shot before Uncle Dave, popped his skinny ass out of his door.”

My Big City friends could be right.  Dave, his shot-gun and his skinny ass ended the Shivaree.  The rest is just legend.

3 thoughts on “Extinction of the Shivaree

  1. That was my double chuckle for the day. In fact it was a laugh out loud kind of story. Just remembering that night makes me tremble, especially after we knew more about Dave.

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