I’m usually not one for memes, but I’m going to use Sheila’s as a jumping-off point. Maybe I’ll answer another of her questions tomorrow. This is a bit stream of consciousness, but here goes.
What was I doing ten years ago? Driving, constantly driving. No school buses here, and I had four kids in three different schools, soccer games (we may have given up on soccer by that point, I’m not sure) and oboe, piano, piano, piano, clarinet, and saxophone lessons, later organ too, and for that one summer, trumpet tutoring thrown in as well. “Make a joyful noise.”
Ten years ago, we had a big family reunion coming up. When my Grandfather Bennett had died, Gram, at 94, watched all of us cousins having a grand time being reunited en mass for the first time as adults and asked us when we were going to do that again. Nobody could bear to say out loud, When you die, Gram.
Two years later, what was left of her hip, which had been replaced at Johns Hopkins when I was a kid, crumbled, and she became bedridden. My cousin Katherine’s husband, a cardiologist (trained here at Stanford), quietly told us that in general, once a very elderly person can’t get out of bed, they’re gone within about six weeks.
Gram would last about twice that.
Gram told her oldest son she wanted money not to be a reason why any of her 29 grandchildren couldn’t come to her funeral: he was to send $5000 of her money to each one right now, and promise to reimburse them for any hotel expenses they might incur as well. He did, and about two weeks later, after considering living to see three different centuries and deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle, she slipped away.
We had such a lovely time together. We lined up by order of year born, and everybody pulled out cameras and snapped pictures of each other.Â (I had at the time, for a winter coat, my Kaffe Fassett’s Big Diamonds in two strands of wool and mohair knitted on size 9s, quite dense and warm, but it definitely seemed a bit bright for the November occasion, happy/sad as it was. I have no doubt my cousins remember me standing in the snow at the gravesite wearing that 86-color piece of clothing. I later bought a somber charcoal coat, a little too big, not realizing immediately that it was a horse-after-it’s-left-the-barn effect. Once I did, I gave it to my tall daughter to take to college in the snow, where she needed it far more than I, and it fit her better anyway. I had my handknit one; in my climate, why would I want more?)
And so, a few years later, it was decided that we needed another reunion, one with no funeral attached to it, just purely for the sake of joy. It was July 1998, the year Grandpa would have been turning 100. As a central gathering place in the country, Katherine decided to schedule us at an offseason ski resort that was within a stiff hike of where our grandparents had owned a mountain cabin near Brighton. (I can see the ski afficionados nodding their heads.) That cabin had a small back patio overlooking the creek with an iron railing around it, deeply bowed in; my grandmother had once told me that it was from the weight of the snow there.
Grandpa used to like to go that cabin to get away from the pressures of his US Senate seat; to get to a phone, he had to walk a mile to the little general store. Nobody could reach him unless he chose to be reached. When he was on vacation, he was on vacation, walking that mountain, listening to the icy-cold water of the creek going over the pebbles, seeing chipmunks dart and eagles soar. I used to feed those chipmunks, the times I got to go to that cabin in the summer, growing up; it was a lesson to an antsy child in being still and waiting, trying to teach a tiny animal not to be afraid of me.
My sister Anne and her six boys decided to drive from Atlanta for that reunion, and since they were coming that far anyway, went further and came here first. We got to spend a joyfully noisy week or so with them at our house before they continued to Yosemite and then on over to Utah with us joining them there. Muir Woods, Chinatown… That was the visit where I gave her copies of my photos, and she asked her identical twins gleefully which one of them was in this picture in her hands. They both claimed themselves. “See! You can’t tell you apart! Now you can’t get mad at anyone else!”
My kids had loved Tim Robblee, the best music teacher any school ever hired; Tim announced ten years ago that he was leaving to go back to school himself. He had led our high school’s jazz band to a national high school competition in Monterey, where they did so well that his kids were invited to play as professionals at the famous Monterey Jazz Festival in the fall!
I knitted Tim an afghan in many colors, a picture as best as I could do of the Monterey Bay, complete with waves of water at the beach, in remembrance of how he’d believed in his students and what he’d helped them achieve. I took a roll of pictures of it before I gave it to him.
I later found I had a roll of film that had been double-exposed: Anne’s kids at Stinson Beach. Tim’s beach afghan. Superimposed on each other, so that in one wonderful piece of kismet, Anne’s boys were reaching down into the water, their feet submerged in wool and water in the tide. I got not one single good picture of the afghan, in the traditional sense, but the ones I got–after the initial disappointment, because Tim had moved by then and the afghan was out of my reach–delighted me.
Oh, and, one funny thing about the reunion? Katherine, the one in charge, kept emailing me re the arrangements and kept getting antsy about getting no response. I heard through the grapevine, and protested that I had received nothing. She insisted to my brother that the emails didn’t come back to her, so clearly, I was simply not remembering. (This is often a very valid thing to say about me.) But no, I’d been waiting and looking and getting nothing.
Christmastime, five months later, Katherine sent out an extended-family email, and at long last she got a response: from an Alison Hyde in England, saying she’d been enjoying all the emails, almost felt like a part of our family now, and how had the reunion gone? Had we had a good time? And where in the world were we? Were we in Spain for that vacation? (I guess it was all those Californian place names when Katherine wrote to me.)
It let me off the hook, at least!
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