My fatal mistake was dumping the shoebox of photos onto the kitchen table. A close up of Kirby John slid off the walnut surface and onto the floor. I bent down to pick it up and got snake-bit. He must be in his teens by now. I saw Uncle Jimmy in the background helicoptering little Delaney and wondered if he’d survived his surgery. I wondered if that was Isabella’s hat I was seeing moving into the barn.
My second fatal mistake was unbending my knees and trying to return the picture to the montage of images that grabbed for my heart. Charlie was sucking on a steak half the size of his head. Anna-Marie was blowing bubbles into a cloudless sky with sunshine flowing out her veins. My brother Jack sat backwards on that Bay looking like he was ready for Barnum and Bailey’s.
I sat when I saw the picture of Grampa Gus. That was the last time I’d had a chance to jaw at him. That was the last time I heard his tales about the “war” or the first car he ever saw or the way he’d met his first bride at a wagon train. It was the last time I’d had a hug from our family patriarch.
I’m not sure if the itch started in my heart or my finger –if it took hold of my brain before I could think or if I willed it all to happen. Before I knew it I had 121 names before my eyes.
Skydiving with a pair of kaleidoscopic glasses would have made more sense than to recall the 121. Ten years ago, when we were the 93, I just had to RSVP, show up and have fun. I must have had too much fun. Now, that shoebox of photos had snared me into being in charge.
I scan the cc list on my e mail as I get ready to push “send”. What am I thinking? This idea has the same possibilities as regathering dandelion puffs after a windstorm. It has the chance of a Monarch climbing back into its cocoon and reverting to wormhood. It’s like recapturing lost time. I force my eyes to see again.
How can Andersens and Bernowskis and Bobbericks and Desmonds and Findleys and Harrises and Garneshes and McKenzies and Shortfields and Taylors and Thompsons and Wineriches and Zetterbergs all be related to Hendersons and Singhs and Khans and Poirers and Goodwins and Abramchucks?
The subject line says “121 or bust”. Half the group will probably delete this as spam. I change it. “Family Reunion – 121 or bust”.
I stop to think of the last time with just the 93. We’d come from seventeen different States, 3 Canadian provinces and two countries in Europe to spend a weekend together. Grandma Findley was the oldest at 98 and Amy-Lyn Goodwin was the youngest at ten weeks. Why would people give up perfectly good holidays to spend time with people they don’t even call or write?
I got to wondering why I went last time.
It all started with a phone call from my brother Jack. I hadn’t seen anything but a few digital pictures of him in the past decade. He’d been off working for a chemical engineering company in France then picked up the “missions” bug and gone to do some drilling and building in Rwanda. He was coming home and wanted to see how everyone was doing.
I called my sister Kelly to see what options were up for her and she got talking to mom who got talking with her network and before we knew it some uncle was volunteering his farm in Kansas and then a date was chosen and tickets were being bought and I just got curious as to what everyone was up to.
Remembering that one phone call from Jack led to this shoebox of photos and now in some delusional moment I was being tugged into trying to recreate and relive and rebuild and relaunch new images that would pull a family together again.
Uncle Bud was retired now but his son ran the farm and was all for another chance to add some life to the place. Mom was firmly entrenched in a nursing home. I hadn’t heard from Kelly in years since her divorce. I was sure I wouldn’t recognize half the additions to the clan. I wasn’t sure I could handle the pain of the missing. I breathed and pushed “send”.
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