TITLE: Family reunions
By collette mcfarland
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I sat behind him holding on for dear life. The wind blowing in our faces splattering our masks with bugs. The ride has been hard and arduous. Sitting on a motorcycle for days is anything but delightful for me right now. I used to enjoy it but weight gain has made it uncomfortable. We are on our way to meet Joe's family at a reunion in a little farming town in the heart of Arkansan. The first since our marriage. I've not met most of his relatives and the ones I do know are not singing my praises. They cautioned Joe about getting involved with me. I'm too young, I have excess baggage, I have mental disorders, illusions of grandeur. You name it, they've said it. No one in the band is on my side. My Joe, though thinks I am worth the trouble. He's heard the same voices as me.
Joe assured me we were almost to his family home, I can't wait to see it. It has been in his family for centuries. They have had numerous difficulties keeping hold of it. Farming has suffered over the years with droughts and other various problems. The night is getting thick around us, our lone headlight lighting the way along the narrow back roads, trees and open fields whizzing past. We swerved several times to avoid deer and stray cattle that stepped out from the darkness. I was pretty sure we'd survive the trip whole.
Joe asked me once if I wanted to stop for the night and continue on the next day but I knew he was anxious about getting me to a soft bed. I didn't want to add to his worries about me. I promised him I'd be okay. Even I can tell lies. Every muscle in my frame hurt, my head ached, and I was chilled despite the leather jacket Joe loaned me. He will be a fantastic husband and father some day. I laid my head on his shoulder, grateful he was in this with me. God found the perfect husband for me.
Joe nudged me, I don't know how but I must have dozed off? Up ahead were some wooden structures that had the glorious appearance of a farming residence! We were here. Happy anticipation and ugly dread welled up in me simultaneously. I was looking forward to a hot shower and goose down filled mattress. But I surely wasn't looking forward to the freezing stares and back biting that would surface in the family. Joe had offered to come alone but we both knew we'd be running for our entire lives so we decided to face the jury early, together and unified. Family support should be expected, not begged for. My parent's have disowned me saying I disgraced them, they had planned an elaborate wedding for me and Joe, within their budget, but we had eloped suddenly and gave an illogical explanation. I was too young to get married, fifteen, so their preparations were a little long term. I was to be engaged to Joe for at least three years.
Now they abhorred Joe for sweeping me off so secretively, where once they had admired and respected his integrity, even though they thought he was way to old for me at thirty. My friend's parents restricted them from associating with me. I wasn't a nice girl anymore. Being an Honor student and god fearing girl once, at the synagogue as often as the doors opened, I had now slipped into immorality. I was an outcast to everyone I knew. I had only one cousin that believed my story. One cousin out of dozens isn't saying much, she was something of a clairvoyant and the family thought her incredible. Joe and I had to start out married life under the burden of heavy disapproval. We would do a lot of unwanted traveling.
Joe parked in the driveway and helped me off the rear. Lights were on in the house but no cars were about. It looked deserted. Joe went to the door, discovered it was locked, and found the note. Everyone had gone down the road to his cousin's, he was invited to join them and he could bring "that woman" with him. His gaze swept over me assessing my exhaustion and he opted to stay here till they returned, we had ridden enough for now.
"Let's go in the barn and rest." he suggested, getting our gear out of the storage unit. I followed him on heavily swollen ankles, my body feeling restless.
In the barn, laying on a mattress of straw, I became alarmed. I was in pain so severe I can't describe it. All my muscles bunched up and tried to squeeze the life from me, literally. Joe's eyes widened in trepidation. "I'm going for help!" he stated.
"No, don't leave, I'm scared!" I yelled, grabbing his arm, breaking skin with my nails. It was too early for this. My doctor advised against this trip warning that I had two more weeks to count down if I was careful. I never knew such pain was possible, I had deluded myself into thinking I would be spared this misery. I was convinced Joe was going to faint but something got into him and he took over the situation, fully in control.
He laid some horse blankets down on the hay and eased me onto them. My construction worker husband, never exposed to human child birth in his life, acted experienced as he helped deliver our baby. "A boy", Joe confirmed, though we already knew that, even without sonograms. A son all covered in blood an goop. He didn't look a thing like I expected. His face all red and scrunched up with crying. If this was considered a miracle he looked like a mess to me. He even peed on me as he lay on my abdomen where Joe placed him before he severed the umbilical cord. Joe must have done some heavy reading of first aide material! Or being raised by farmers had served a good purpose. Our baby would be told repeatedly that he had been born on the same family land as had generations before him. Finally something positive to say to him as he grew up. Hopefully it would improve the reputation of Arkansas, not much good has ever come out of this state. We weren't big fans of Clinton. Sorry. I was criticized but he avoided impeachment, give me a break!
I lay there in the straw and equine blankets, sweaty, bloody and depleted of all physical reserve. There was a explosion of lightning outside over the hills, or was it a falling meteorite? The lightning was followed by hundreds of falling stars. Were the heavens collapsing? Would the fields burst into flame? And then some choir broke into song somewhere in the distance. It sounded so close and comforting. I held my son close and marveling at him we fell asleep together serenaded by the music.
Soon after wards people started trickling home. I could hear slow footsteps approach the barn. Joe opened the door and saw his family shuffling about in the light that fell from the lantern he was holding. They looked oddly uncomfortable, afraid to approach a relative they had known for years. Joe went out to explain to them what had taken place, but he was astonished to discover they already were informed of the event. They had received an announcement from an invisible choir. It shook them up so badly some of the group had wet spots on their overalls. They were real hesitant to admit they might have made a mistake about cutting me down. They were begging Joe for forgiveness and wanted a pledge we wouldn't call down a curse on their heads. My Joe, always the honorable man, informed them there was nothing to forgive and to not be ridiculous, he had gone through the same agonizing reflections as they had months earlier and had time to come to terms with circumstances. He too, had had visitations from unseen sources, family insanity must be hereditary, he joked. They laughed nervously.
Everyone entered slowly and reverently, awestruck by the miracle of birth considering, as farmers they were well saturated with the phenomenon. They wanted to get me on my feet and into a clean bed. Joe's old eccentric, widowed Aunt Anna supported me, and his even older cousin Simeon lifted the babe into his arms, proclaiming he was now ready for death. Odd thing to say, I thought, while holding a newborn.
I could almost feel the warm shower I was about to receive and taste a hearty country meal melting in my mouth before I climbed under homemade quilts. All anxiety flowed out of me, I even forgot the pain I had just under gone. Its a wonder the human race has continued. If it had been up to me the world would be childless.
Crossing the driveway to the house I heard one of Joe's brothers comment on the sky. "Where did that star in the east come from? I've never seen one so bright!"
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