Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Distance



This past summer, for the first time in four years, we were able to go home. It was just for a week in August, but looking back, it is so very vivid in memory and each moment was saved and stored so greedily that it feels almost as if we were there a whole month. I have been going back again and again over the photos I took with a full heart.

I remember those great family gatherings of yore–fitting a dozen people around the dinner table, and another handful around folding tables in the living room. Oh, I hated ‘em as a kid, being mercilessly teased by the uncles, and hearing the same tired old stories pulled out year after year after year, and listening to the Grown-up Talk. Those times pass away, I think, before we’re old enough to appreciate them. There was managed a small family get-together while we were there in August: a bonfire down at one of the uncle and aunts’ houses–small, lacking all the cousins who are now married and spread out across the country. Yet there was nothing more comfortable and right than just being there with those old, familiar faces. An uncle was goaded into telling his UFO story, yes, once again. The twilit sky was a more vivid shade of robin’s egg blue than has been seen on this earth before, since, or ever. I didn’t want the evening to end.

I think we tell the same stories over and over again, not because we want to hear them again, but to conjure up the times past when the stories were still new, to bring back the faces that have long since gone missing from the crowd, to push away the present times and their ever-innovative troubles.
We are back in Connecticut now, and the distance isn’t only in miles, but in years.

I think there are some people that effortlessly draw their dear ones closely around them–that have a gift for bringing people together and keeping them there. They are the centers upon which the spokes of our varied lives and personalities turn. While the center stays, we all hold together, ordered and unified despite our differences and the forces pulling us apart. Connected. What happens when the center no longer holds? My grandfather was one of those people; he's been gone for eight years. But when he was with us it seemed like his personality and authority imposed order, smoothed out arguments, brought everyone together.

And so the leftover spokes still gather together when they can, and tell the old stories, because to do this is to will the center back into being, and for just a little while the ghostly wheel is whole again; Its holes are filled in by memory.