Burying the Hatchet

From left: Billy Vera, Alan and Kris Duke, Rita Coolidge

I cannot trace the exact moment, but somehow we started off on the wrong foot.  And like a big wave, our discontent swelled over time, neither of us knowing the origin of it.  We had both dug our heels in the sand.

When my sister-in-law, Kris, turned the big 4-0, my brother threw her a party.  A really big one.  Kris had always been a fan of Rita Coolidge, so naturally, Alan booked Rita for a private concert to honor his wife.  He went all out.

As the big day approached, my one-day-to-be-husband urged, “You should really get along with Kris.”  I agreed.  I thought it was time to bury the hatchet.

So I did.

I went to a hardware store and bought a hatchet.  I also purchased a beautiful gift bag that I filled with sand.  Actually, cat litter.  Where else can you get sand?  And I buried that hatchet.


Kris (sister-in-law) on left, me, Alan, my brother on right, late 70's or early 80's

In every way my brother and his wife have a loving, happily functioning relationship.  A relationship to envy.  Alan made it a point not to follow in our family’s dysfunctional footsteps.  Lots of steps and walking in this story.  And sand.

When Kris returned home that night, she opened her gifts.  She gasped when she came to mine because she had not read the little card first.  She reached into the sand and found a deadly weapon.  Stunned, she pulled her hand back, turned to my brother Alan and said, “Your sister sent me something really scary”.

Finally, she read the card.  It’s time to bury the hatchet.

That changed everything!  I’m kidding.  Nothing changed.  Except now she was convinced I was nuts.  We kept our distance.

Then one day Kris and Alan found a cat.

I watched Kris fall madly in love with it.  They named her Dinah, thinking it was a girl, till the vet discovered the error, so they changed its name to Dinah-mite.  (Sorry, I know that most of my stories somehow segue into cats.)  But watching Kris fall so hard made me fall for her.  That’s when the whole thing turned around for me.  We shared the love-of-feline gene.  I would visit more often and now we were much more than civil.  We were sisters.

I regret all the lost years, because our kids are the same ages and the cousins missed out on those close cousin friendships.  But they all do love each other.  Alan and Kris raised two of the most amazing people.  They are good-looking, smart, funny, they get me, and oh, yes, they love cats.

family celebrating our dad, Alan, me Michael and Erica Duke, Kris, Mike (husband)

On the night of Kris’s birthday, Billy Vera also performed.  We were introduced and he was already an old friend of my future husband, Michael.  I now invite Billy to my own birthday parties or other functions.  He actually blew us away when he came and performed at my husbands 60’th birthday party.  You can see Billy, an amazing talent when he plays at Vitello’s in the San Fernando Valley at times or find a website for his other gigs.   Enjoy this Billy Vera Song. 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

me with Billy Vera!!!

Enjoy this recipe from my beautiful sister-in-law for pumpkin bread.  When my brother eats the meals his wife cooks, he still kvells after all these years over the food and the chick he landed.  I’m so sorry our parents didn’t live to see the turn of events, that Kris and I are friends and sistas!!!!! Oh and Happy Birthday Alan, this blog’s for you!!!

Kris Duke’s Pumpkin Bread

2/3 cup shortening   1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 3/3 cup sugar   1 1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs   1 teaspoon cloves

1 lb. can pumpkin   1 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cup water   1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 1/3 cup flour   2/3 cup chopped dates

2/3 cup chopped nuts

Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.  Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs, then pumpkin and water.  Gradually add sifted mixture.  Stir in nuts and dates.  Bake in two greased loaf pans at 350 degrees for one hour.

Enjoy this Rita Coolidge song. 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dinah-mite RIP

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Responses to “Burying the Hatchet”

  1. gari smith says:

    i love this fredde~you are so kind and sensitive~

  2. David Miller-Engel says:

    love it Fredde !!!

  3. Alan says:

    Amazing Fredde!!! Rodney King couldn’t have said it better. ;-)))

    All kidding aside, you are a fabulous writer and you captured this story in a uniquely personal way. I’m sure our parents knew that it would all work out in the end. Despite our differing views on child rearing, Oliver, Augie and Barnaby have become fabulously talented individuals with great personalities. I’m very glad our kids get along so well.

    As far as your relationship with Kris goes, I want you both to know how much I appreciate the fact that the hatchet was indeed buried. You both deserve a lot of credit for this. But I think the unsung hero in this little story is your wonderful husband. In his ever-present low key, clever and always funny way, he has been able to calm the stormy seas. He’s a great guy and you are a lucky woman to have him.

    Thanks again for all the kind words and thanks for this great birthday gift.

    Your Brotha.

  4. Ellen Bloom says:

    Very sweet story, Fredde. I remember ALL of this!!!

  5. Kris Duke says:

    Fredde – LOVED every word!!!!!! We definitely have a unique family. It’s funny how time does heal everything. You’re a great sista-in-law and an aunt!!!. The only thing that hasn’t changed is I still think you’re crazy!!!!!!!!!! Hugs, xox

  6. cristi ulrich says:

    Fredde – I never met Kris – but she has one thing right!! You are CRAZY!!! And we all love every CRAZY bone in your FAB BODY!!!

    xxoxoxox – keep em comin’

  7. Great story Fredde…I Love the hatchet!!!
    You are so creative and funny…

  8. Irene Freedman says:

    What a great writer you are! Life is definitely to short to hold onto old crap! Such a nice gift for Alan….and just for the record, I love crazy! 🙂

  9. Carol Dudley says:

    Wonderful Fredde – as usual – like Barbara – love the Hatchet story – xxxoooc

  10. jennifer dudley arbaugh says:


    I third the Dudley comments and I will steal your hatchet gift idea for I have many to bury. You and I seem to have the direct interfacing with friends and family down to a tee.
    Oh, about the cat loving thing. That’s where you and I take a fork in the road.

    Keep writing. I will catch up with mine soon. I will be open to your commentary!

    jenn still in Cincinnati.

  11. Mel says:

    LOL… a hatchet… in cat litter. … a deadly weapon … he he !! funny!!!! ; o)

  12. Erin says:

    Unfortunatley we all suffer until we bury the hatchet. One of the best blogs so far Fredde, so funny!

  13. Christel Chesney says:

    The hatchet! What a fabulous idea. Glad everything turned out fine. Your husband is brilliant.

  14. Hoov says:

    Wakko ?? You forgot the penny so you will not cut yourself like the great carving knife .. LI got once. Laughing

  15. Linda says:

    Dinah-mite … both the story and beautiful (RIP) kitty!

Leave a Reply