Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)
By Debra Martinez
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A sandwich provided the perfect metaphor for my present stage of life. The working mother of three young boys whose dad worked both nights and weekends, I also shared the load of caring for aging relatives with a precious sister for whom I daily counted my blessings.
We had once again reached the first Sunday in June, a sacred day for our father’s family. Our reunion would yet again exert its pull from Georgia to Florida, as close as fifteen miles to as far away as 500. “Who will make it this year?” I wondered as I loaded a gallon of sweet tea into the van next to a potato casserole and the plate of sandwiches, my ticket to the big feast that awaited us in the next town to the north.
I was feeling the strain of raising adolescent sons while also providing support to my mother, my dad, and a dear childless aunt who had always been there when I needed her. No, it was seldom health crises, thank the Lord, that took up time, but more just being on call, such as today, to a reunion to see people whose names and connections I seldom knew before or after the day was over. After cajoling the boys into attending for an hour, I drove northward, mentally listing the things I still needed to complete for school on Monday.
“Debbie! There you are.” I was greeted by a familiar voice filled with sounds of relief. My sister helped me place my contributions on the sawhorses and plywood that would hold our meal as she continued. “Aunt Jane is the only one I even know by name. Dad must be running late. Do you know who is bringing him?”
Our family, which has been blessed with long life, had recently suffered the loss of three of the people who were usually among us. A favorite uncle, John, had passed away in December, and we looked forward to time with his widow, the lively Aunt Jane, so we approached her to visit, but also to create a safe harbor of familiar people to protect us from those whom we should know but did not. This buffer zone would suit us until others whose histories we knew made their appearance.
As the crowd established itself, faces that we had hoped to see did appear, other sandwiches from Florida who knew us from childhood and faced a similar lifestyle now. These cousins were the very ones that I had hoped to see. There was Jack, who joined me at age eight in disregarding Papa’s advice to tie off the end of the kite string before it was too late. Though we searched the woods for hours, we never saw that kite again. His wife, Pam, had become a favorite of my sister and me, a kindred spirit whom we saw once a year for a few hours, but with whom we bonded instantly each time. Again, she exuded her strong faith as we chatted about family. Both of her children were active on mission trips both in and out of the United States, and she always bolstered my confidence in the raising of children who have strong values in a world that makes it tougher every day.
Her mother-in-law had recently suffered a broken hip, and our uncle was now eighty. We commiserated on the struggles of carrying the load on both ends. But, we also celebrated the joys of having those children and parents in our lives every day. What a joy they were to us.
As we packed our now-ravaged plates, including my empty sandwich dish, for the return home, we promised longer visits with each other in the future. “Sure! We will stop by on our way to the beach next summer, and we will have a longer visit then,” we promised, fully intending to make it happen, though it never did. Other responsibilities to those closest to us captured our time. Yet we always knew that support was only a phone call, and lately, an email away. “Here is an urgent prayer request,” one said recently. And we all got right to it, a family reunited again.
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