Dad tried so earnestly to get pictures of his collected children. Every year there would be a photo session after church for the annual Christmas card. It seemed to take hours. By the time the youngest of us were in our teens, we five brothers and sisters began to throw in a goofy shot at the close of Dad’s attempts at serious portraits. Here we are, still being silly, in our fifties and sixties.
It was wonderful to see everyone. I hadn’t seen one of my big brothers (he’s a trucker on the west coast) since Mom’s death in 2004.
All the nieces and nephews are lanky young adults now, several of them towering over me. I remember holding their chubby toddler hands on the beach, helping them build sand castles, and cuddling them on my lap to read picture books. Now their voices are deep and they talk about college and jobs.
Before leaving I had been so consumed by the difficulty of the logistics — exchanging vehicles with Jon so I wouldn’t be driving the truck, picking up Lucy from camp, arranging for the farm in my absence, dreading the nine-hour drive — that I’d hardly looked forward to the trip. However the moment I walked into the old rental beach house where we spent so many summers with our mother, I felt deeply peaceful and happy.
As a child I was odd, intense, and dreamy, and, growing up, had felt like the odd man out in our family. I seemed to have nothing in common with my siblings. My interests and personality were so different I used to wonder if I’d been dropped from Mars. (Slightly more possible if I’d not looked exactly like our mother.)
I’m still just as odd and different, but listening to the laughter and jokes I suddenly realized I had the deepest possible bond with my brothers and sisters: in all the world we had all lucked out to be our parents’ children. What a gift.
Lucy is staying at the family reunion for the week. I could only stay overnight. By the time I got home Sunday evening, I’d missed two milkings and Katika was painfully swollen. It took me almost an hour to milk out six gallons. But as I pressed my head to her flank, I thought about my brothers and sisters and smiled.
Mom and Dad would have been so happy.