Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 10, 2011

"She felt like a kid again."

I went with Leonard to Sunday supper at his family's house.  They do this every week.  They all get together at his grandparents house at around noon and just hang out, eat, and catch up with each other.  They're a pretty close family.

I've met Leonard's mom before...kind of.  She used to call me every weekend to see if he was with Andy and check up on him and make sure he was staying out of trouble...she was nice enough.  But the situation changed since the last time I saw her, and I'd never met any of his other I have to admit, I was a little worried over how they might react to me. 

It turns out that I had nothing to be nervous about at all.  Everybody was so nice.  It wasn't a minute after I walked through the door that I got bombarded with hugs and 'glad to finally meet you' from all directions.  There were A LOT of people...Leonard has a big extended family...and I was the new guy. I'm not always good with new people, but they made me feel right at home.  It was AMAZING! 

Leonard, his mom and I went outside to shuck corn for corn on the cob, first thing.  Then we peeled and cut up apples for pies.  The kitchen was a blizzard of different points, I think every person in the house was in the kitchen doing their part to get the food ready and to talk and laugh and tell stories.  I loved hearing all the different voices contributing to funny stories, it was like getting to be on the inside, remembering someone else's past right along with them as though it was my own.  Eventually, everyone got shuffled out of the kitchen, the various tasks done, besides the stirring and the timing of things in the oven...which Leonard's mom and grandma took care of.  

Leonard took me outside and we sat in the porch swing enjoying the beautiful weather and watching his nephews play catch.  Soon enough, we got called down off the porch to play tag with them, and off we went, running around the yard chasing down the kids till we all got called to eat. 

 Everybody took various positions on the back porch...Leonard and I sat on the steps, leaning against the porch rails...and we ate and I got to know this imperfect and beautiful family that helped to shape this man that I love so much.  And they were kindly interested in me...not bombarding me with questions, but asking, here and there, intermixed with the rest of the conversations, a little about me.  

And slowly, after everyone finished eating, plates were taken into the kitchen, and I wandered in too, finding Leonard's grandma filling the sink with hot, soapy dishwasher for her, it just wasn't her way.  I asked if I could help her and she smiled and said if I washed, she'd dry.  

I told her that I liked washing dishes, and she laughed a little.  It's true though, I told her.  When I was a kid, my family would go to my grandma's house and all the women would gather in the kitchen and it was like a privilege to get to help.  At holidays, when the relatives came in, all the girls would bicker over who got to wash dishes.  To this day, it's one of my secret quirks that I love to wash dishes...especially when someone else dries and puts them away.  She laughed again and said she might have to keep me.

I told her that a lot of things that happened today reminded me of the good parts of my childhood...there were a lot of bad parts, but there were good things too...and today made me feel like a happy little girl again.  All these memories flashed in my head and, as I washed dishes, I told her more about myself and the good pieces of growing up.  She could hardly believe that I lived the first twelve years of my life in a house with no running water and an outhouse...that's how she grew up...but there was several years difference between us...and when she asked why that was, I did the best I could to answer her...but, I told her, the outhouse never really bothered me, except in the winter...I grew up in Ohio...and it gets COLD there...and there's no heat in an outhouse.  She laughed and said she remembered that part too and she told me a little about herself, where she had grown up, and how she had met Leonard's grandpa.

It's one of my favorite things, listening to older people tell stories.  I think it might be a little odd for someone in my generation, but I do.  I love to hear someone narrate their own slice of history, to know what obscure details they remember, and to watch their faces...the eyes go off into the distance, a small smile creeps into the corners of their mouths as they remember the good times...and if I'm really lucky, they forget for a minute that I'm even there and it seems like they are reliving that happy memory again as they say it out loud...  And I was lucky today, when Leonard's grandma started telling me about how she met Leonard's granddad and all these sweet details that led to them getting married and spending their whole lives together...I got to watch her live those moments again.

Leonard and I left the way we came: in a barrage of hugs and 'glad to meet you' with a few 'see you next weeks' thrown in there.  It's been a long time since I got to be a part of something like today...when I was a kid at my grandma's, yes...but it's been a long time since she passed and she was the person that held everyone together.  Since then, my family consists of mom and my sisters and brother and their families...and even then, I don't get to see them very much.  But today was a really happy day, getting to feel like a part of a family again.

When we got to Leonard's house, we laid on the couch and watched old movies till it was time for bed.  I love old movies, for the same reason as old people's stories, I guess...because I get to see history...what people's lives were like.  I don't know why I'm so fascinated with other lives, but I am.

It seems to me that every choice we make must spin out in a million different unanticipated directions and that we have no idea what might have happened had we just done one thing differently.  Maybe that's why I like to know personal history so's like a fact finding mission...taking results and getting averages on what the outcome of a certain action was...if you do this, then this will happen...if you don't do this, then that will happen.  And maybe then I'll know how to make better choices...because I know how it turned out in other people's stories.

I don't's past my more philosophizing tonight.  I'm going to put on my pj's and crawl into bed and have the arms of someone who I love very much around me...maybe one day, somewhere in the distant future, I'll tell Leonard's and my story to some other girl who's trying to make her own good decisions.  It will be the best story ever.

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