Saturday, April 05, 2008

Adding to My Scrapbook

Every time I think about our evening in Margie and Howard's home this is what I think: I wish I had taken more pictures.

When Jim died, both Geoff and I shared an urgent need to be with family, to see everyone or as many as possible, and to enjoy the simple contact and comfort of sharing time. We feel so profoundly shaken by the loss of someone we believed we would see again soon... you know what I mean... those plans and visits that couldn't possibly be taken away?. Our families are big and dispersed in so many directions, north and south, east and west, it was a logistical maze just trying to spend time with some of them. We did pretty good. We drove north and crossed paths with my Mom and got to hang out with Bill, Alison and Dominic too. When Hans is home, safe with Gretchen, it will be imperative for all of us to get together again... I am holding my breath.

From San Francisco we flew to the Midwest. I am always happy for a visit with Geoff's grandmother, his aunts and uncles, the cousins. I know connecting with his father was deeply important to Geoff. Time and distance can take a toll and, again, we were feeling the longing to connect with the people we love, to say the loving and kind things that too often go unspoken. I think it is hard to maintain relationships, to really share the changes and trials, the good stuff, the growth, when we live far apart. It takes more effort, or a different effort. We have to compact all of the caring and attention into a concentrated time... there is not the luxury of just stopping by for a chat, or popping over to share a dinner, hang out. I am not explaining my thoughts very well, and I think it is because I am not speaking the whole truth here. We had some really good visits, and in some instances I think we could have done better. It's a process, right?

Aunt Carol is such a light. I just love her insight and warmth. She's got a laugh that is a force, like the feel of rain in the desert... it makes you want more. We were at her place for dinner. We hadn't been in her home since she was in Madison. My Mom was with us, William was a baby and we all had to huddle in the basement during a tornado! She remembered I said "They don't have to ask me twice," as I hustled downstairs, after the first warning sounded. She taught me "LOL"... I think that is fitting. She remembered William was having a road-trip birthday and she baked him a happy 17th birthday cake. Good cake. She shared the recipe, and when I bake it, I will be sure there are plenty to share it with. Good things taste even better when shared.

More time. I wish we had set aside more to spend with Paul. For one thing we underestimated how long it takes to drive through small towns, in Winter, on unfamiliar roads. It was getting late by the time we arrived. Look at his sweet house, out in the country. He's invited us back in Summer, when he says "it is so much nicer." I just know it will be funny to see his house surrounded by green, leafy trees and to be sitting on his deck, cooking out, drinking something ice cold. In winter or summer, I think Paul's home will be a welcome sight, and I will be happy to go back.

He found a good Mexican restaurant for us to go out to eat, and then we drove around Lake Winnebago. Thank goodness for ginormous rental cars, so we were all able to hunker in and see the sights together. Paul's mom pointed out their familiar places and Paul talked about his travels to Spain and Mexico, card games, and his new snow mobile. I snapped this last picture before we headed out for the drive back to grandma's. Boots. This is totally the way to go, living in the snow and cold. It's gotta be boots.

Our time in Chicago came at the end of our journey, which kind of brought us full circle. We had started out of grief and a yearning to be with family, and we had found so much pleasure and comfort along the way, that I was, in a way, caught off-guard when we got to Margie and Howard's home. We were with Jim and Ruth the first time I met Jim's sister, Margie and her husband, Howard. It was in their mother's house, Ruth M.'s home, where she showed me her wool rugs and I saw for myself the house where Jim spent much of his childhood. And as we pulled up to Margie and Howard's I felt a sadness, a mix of recollection and grief. It felt like only a few days since we were together in Hawaii and fumbling our way through the initial shock and pain of Jim's death, and now here we were, suddenly, far from the Island and still so close to the loss. I guess that is just a part of mourning, the sudden waves of sadness.

Margie fed us roast beef, and salad and mashed potatoes. Roast beef that Max declared "better" than mine, so I should ask her for a recipe and tips. Max helped with smashing the potatoes, so when I make roast beef the way he likes it, he can mash potatoes the way he learned at aunt Margie's. Here is Maria asking for something. Max is enjoying cold water... another treat he would like us to adopt in our home is recycling bottles with drinking water.

Throughout the house there were good conversations happening. I love David's story about getting back to school after a penniless adventure and hitchhiking. He laughed at the memory of the daring, and the strange coincidences. He has a good laugh. Rebecca and Mike came after work and it was a treat for me to hear about their chickens... I am partial to chickens. Grin. Sadie and Jim came in a bit later, and I hope we left them enough for their dinner. I was trying to hold Max from inhaling all of the roast beef. The whole dinner was so good. And then Margie made chocolate chip cookies. She sent Howard out for more milk for the children... no small task on a cold winter night.

So, I wish I had taken more pictures while we were there. The boys played rock, paper, scissors with Maria. Howard took the boys out to the garage, the one he built, and they got to see the old motorcycle, bows and arrows and a lot of tools. Margie showed us the basement, which made a pleasant, lasting impression on me. We got our hopes worked-up anticipating the next Pillsbury Bake-off. Alex really wanted to give it a try, and David is sure his buddy's scone recipe could take the million dollar prize. Don't you want to try million dollar scones? I do.

More time. Our flight home was the next day. Thanks to Margie and Howard's hospitality, the inviting comfort of their home, we enjoyed a full and lovely evening, one that I wish could have lasted longer. I feel a happiness for Jim... he had very nice family. He loved them, I know. If we had had more time, I would have asked him more about them, about his memories.

I respect and admire people that remember their past, their connectedness to loved ones, to the family that nurtured them, and who know how to open their homes and to make people welcome. I want to learn more, to do better, to honor family and memories, to make relationships sacred and valued. I see it's about thoughtfulness, presence, effort, and care... those qualities emanate from this home and I feel privileged to have enjoyed them. Maybe a photograph couldn't capture what I felt there... maybe the real point is that I appreciate how kind they are, how thoughtful, at ease and generous they are. Ah, but I do wish I could picture the painting hanging in the stairwell... the one with the pink dancing ladies and the funny animals.


Tarie said...

*lots of big big hugs* :o)

nikkipolani said...

How well you've captured all the connectedness and shared memories that you love, Natalie.