Beans, chopped peppers, beans, chopped onions and more beans all went into the largest bowl she owned. Shaking together the ingredients for the dressing, Sherry realized she was humming and she couldn’t help but smile. It had been so long since she had seen her family, but that was about to change. She covered the finished salad and slid it onto the refrigerator shelf just as Tim walked through the kitchen door.
“Hi, Sweetheart,” she offered. His lack of response caused her to turn and look his way.
“Sherry…” Tim started, then cleared his throat and tried again. “The car broke down on the way home and the mechanic from the garage just dropped me off. They can’t get the parts they need until Monday …so we won’t be able to make it to the reunion tomorrow.”
“We… can’t… go?”
“I’m sorry, Sherry.”
“I… guess I’ll phone my parents.”
Still discouraged the next morning, Sherry was relieved that all the children accepted the change in plans without much fuss. “It’s been so long since we’ve gone home, the kids have forgotten...but I was so looking forward to seeing everyone. Tom and Tammy finally had their first baby, and Jessie just got her degree in music…she was going to critique that song I wrote…”
All morning, Sherry’s thoughts were 50 miles away. “Aunt Martha is so artistic…everything she makes is breathtaking.” “Nobody tells a better story than Uncle Paul.” “Mom’s and Dad’s different ailments have slowed them down, but through it all they’ve kept their sweet spirits.” Dejection tainted every memory.
Realizing the morning was coming to a close, Sherry roused herself from her dreary thoughts. Walking to the shed to collect her gardening tools, she noticed a little figure standing in front of the glider under the oak tree. Six year-old Althea had her stuffed animals lined up on the seat and was teaching them a song.
“You all lithen the firtht time, then you can thing with me, okay? Thith little light of mine…”
A fleeting smile appeared on Sherry’s face. “What a cutie.”
Turning back to her task, she opened the shed door, only to realize that the hoe was missing. While she stood there wondering where it could be, another young voice carried across the yard. Moving around to the backside of the shed, she saw Allen working away in the garden, talking to himself, as usual. “Mom looked so sad cuz we couldn’t go see Gramma. If I do the weedin’, she’ll be happy for sure. I know she’ll start smilin’ again.”
“Ooooh… What other nine year-old boy has a heart like that?”
Then she heard his voice again. “If that doesn’t help, I’ll try telling her that story about the purple dog and the alligator.”
Sherry found herself choking back a laugh that suddenly became a sob. Resentment drained out of her as sudden tears filled her eyes. “Why have I been so upset? I am a blessed woman.”
Humbled, she quietly went back to the house to collect herself. Curled up on the sofa, a spot of color caught her eye. Reaching across the table, she picked up the small ceramic sculpture. It was so delicate, and the colors were so vivid…it still amazed her that Ashley had been only ten when she created it. “Now we can’t keep her out of the clay. She has so much talent, just like Aunt Martha.”
With that thought, Sherry’s heart filled with wonder at a new insight. “I haven’t missed my family reunion at all. They’ve been right here with me all along. All those qualities that make my relatives so unique are showing up in my own children. Aunt Martha’s sitting downstairs at the potter’s wheel, creating a new work of art. I just heard Jessie down by the oak tree, singing to the stuffed animals. My parents are over in the garden, and Uncle Paul was right there with them.”
With a light heart, Sherry determined she would make the rest of the day a happy one for her family. “We can have our own picnic…” Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of several cars turning into the long driveway, horns blasting away. Curiosity drew her outside.
As doors opened, familiar faces started appearing, and as trunks opened, loaded coolers started emerging.
“Surprise! We’ve brought the reunion to you.”
“Mom? Dad? Jessie?”
“We heard you’ve got Three-Bean Salad.”
Sherry laughed. “Boy, do we. I was afraid we’d be eating that for a week.”
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