Darrell Huckaby - 07/01/09

The late great Lewis Grizzard defined "naked" as not having on any clothes. He defined "nekkid" as not having on any clothes and being up to something. When Aimee Jones had to write, in this newspaper, about a naked man who had been arrested by local police, she described him as "a man unencumbered by clothing." It may have been my favorite line ever printed in this medium. Except of course for the one where former Salem Principal Bob Creswell was quoted as saying he "didn't give a ... " Well, never mind about that.

I have often referred to Aimee Jones as "my favorite writer," due, in large part, I suppose, to her eloquent description of the nekkid guy. Well, just in case you are not one to pay attention to bylines and such, hers has appeared with many stories in the Citizen for the past six years or so, but in the future, apparently not so much. Aimee, you see, has recently - and by recently I mean just this week - joined the ranks of the stay-at-home moms. She will be freelancing as a writer and spending boocoodles of time with her two children, Hannah and Clay - well, three children if you count her husband, Chad. Her family's gain will be the paper's loss - especially mine.

I have come to count Aimee as a very close friend, even though I've only seen and talked to her, face to face, about five times in my whole life. OK. Maybe six.

It's a strange relationship I have with the Citizen and her staff. I write columns and send them in via e-mail. I read what the people who actually go to work at the paper every day have to say. I feel like I know them and consider them my peers but, in fact, there are many folks who work for the paper, folks whose words I read on a daily basis, whom I have never met in person. I don't know what they look like and wouldn't recognize them if I ran my buggy into theirs at the grocery store. I admire them and respect what they do - but I don't really know them.

There are exceptions of course. I know our publisher, Alice Queen, pretty well because I had to go in for an interview before she would let me start writing this column every week. (The way she tells it, I wanted to interview her because I had heard she was from Massachusetts and wasn't sure I could work for a Yankee-American, but that's another story for another day.) I have to call Alice up from time to time - usually whenever I find myself en route to Athens in the middle of the day - to complain about the decline of civilization in America in general and Rockdale County in particular. And of course we have that Bulldog connection going, too.

I see Jeff Gillespie more than I see anyone from the Citizen because Jeff covers high school sports in our area the way a muumuu covers a Hawaiian grandmother. He is good people - one of the best human beings I know, his Pittsburgh roots notwithstanding, and whenever I don't see his byline in the paper I offer up a prayer that he is winning his health battles.

About once a year - usually under the Citizen promotional tent at the Cherry Blossom Festival - I get to spend a few hours with some of the behind-the-scenes people who make sure that you have a paper to read six days a week. I enjoy seeing them all.

But Aimee, well, Aimee is just special. The first time I met her she made a comment that I am certain she doesn't remember making. She said, "You amaze me. All you do is write about what's going on in your life, yet you somehow make it interesting and relevant."

I had never thought much about my modus operandi before, but often think about Aimee's remark now and her observation has often inspired me to try and make my missives live up to her analysis. At some point over the past few years I began to send my columns to her for publication and, once in a great while, she would offer feedback - always positive, by the way - about something I had written. I began to look forward to hearing her opinions about my opinions and, little by little, learned more about her and her likes and dislikes.

I learned, for instance, that she is a huge sports fan. The Georgia Bulldogs are her team of choice, naturally, but according to those in the know, she is a true connoisseur of sports talk radio and very knowledgeable about virtually all aspects of the sports scene. I eventually learned that she and I share many political beliefs and a love for everything Disney. We also have the same taste in books and movies.

I also learned that she is a devoted wife and mother - and that devoted mother part is what finally led her to make the very tough decision to stay at home for a while, to spend more time with her kids. As I said, their gain is our loss.

So Aimee, please know that you will be missed, and don't be a stranger. You aren't just my favorite writer - you are also one of my favorite human beings.

Darrell Huckaby