It’s been awhile since we were all together: Grams, Gramps, Mom, Dad, my three sisters and two brothers. And their families. I’m the only one not married yet.
The awkwardness is hanging in the air right now. Not sure why. Everyone gets along, loves each other. Sure, we’ve had our problems, but we’re family. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for one another. Still, I can’t get past the feeling of how it’s all changed over the years. I long for the carefree spirit that once filled our times together.
We have dinner. Chitchat. I almost wonder if there are topics that are out of bounds for our conversation. Did something happen I don’t know about? Or have we simply lost touch with each other?
Evening hasn’t quite come. We move to the back deck. The sun is hovering just at the tree line, enough for light, but far enough down to allow the breeze to cool our cheeks.
I see my sister, Beth, has her camera and two lenses out. She’s capturing the sweet faces of my niece and nephew. They squirm and run behind their dad. I remember those days.
Which suddenly reminds me of something else.
I go inside the house, up the stairs to the second floor and open the hall closet. Yes, they’re still there, on the top shelf next to the box marked “String Too Short To Save.” That box was a treasure we rescued from great-Grams house when she passed on.
But back to what I had come for.
I gather the half-dozen vintage hats in my arms and carry them back to the porch. A round of laughter greets me when my siblings catch sight of them. I am surrounded and my burden relieved. Now we really have some pictures to take.
It starts with the kids, trying to get them to do the things we used to do. Then something happens. As we try to show them the poses, we find ourselves having too much fun to give up the hats.
My sisters dance together. My younger brother tips the hat over his eyes and we stand back-to-back with fingers shaped like guns.
It isn’t long before Mom and Dad join the fray. We laugh when Dad puts a hat over his heart and sings opera (or so he tries). Mom shrugs her shoulders innocently as she turns her head to look at the camera.
Then Gramps borrows two of the hats. He puts one on and the other on Grams’ head. Sitting beside her on the bench under the rose arbor, he takes her hand and proposes. We clap and whistle when she says yes.
Laughter fills the small voids of space as we settle in to watch the sun go down. Beth says she took around three hundred photos. But that’s nothing compared to the memories we relived today.
At its core, nothing in this family has changed at all.