Monday, May 28, 2007

In praise of cousins

We just got back from my niece's wedding in Minneapolis. The event was beautiful, and it was great catching up with my siblings--the five of us hadn't gathered in the same place since 2003. The best part, though, was watching my sons getting reacquainted with long-distance cousins. Look at the warmth in this moment (John & Joey with their Indiana cousin, Amy).

Amy was about 10 when John came along, and she loved holding each of the babies every chance she got. Now she's a mom, and the boys are enchanted by Amy's infant daughter, Haley. These too-infrequent reunions spark in me a primal longing for the old, old days when extended families stuck together. It would have been nice to have the cousins, and aunts, and uncles, and grandparents nearby when our kids were little. We have friends who function as family, in that they are witness to kids' birthdays, graduations, marriages, and other milestones. I'm so grateful for that. But blood really is thicker than water, and cousins help kids know they belong to something biologically and emotionally permanent and true.

My cousin Jane lives in Virginia, and our childhood reunions were dismally few. But, mysteriously, we still connect, as our mothers did, in the sweet spot of family, the place that knows and accepts everything.

What are your cousin stories?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Caught in a time warp. Don't send help.

A flock of geese and a handful of mallard ducks summer at Crystal Lake, a little pond in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, the town where I grew up. We used to ride our bike to the lake with bags of bread to feed the birds. My mom always issued the same admonition: "Those geese are mean."

As my husband and I arrived at the Shawnee Mission Park marina yesterday, we passed about 75 Canadian geese scrounging for food in the grass. They didn't look too vicious, but I locked the car doors, just in case.

About twenty yards from the geese stood a three-year-old boy in denim overalls. He was holding a dime store pinwheel, its blades spinning wildly in the wind. The child's sneaker toes extended over the curb as he watched the pinwheel, unaware of geese or burgers cooking or his father approaching from the picnic ground behind him.

We slowed way down to smile and wave, and the boy's dad encouraged him to wave back.

So much innocence in that moment: the little boy perfectly contented with a simple pinwheel, a family picnic in the park on a Saturday afternoon, a dad who, instead of calling 9-1-1, smiled at us and allowed his son to wave at two empty nesters on a joy ride.

(The geese were probably innocent, too. innocent as geese can be.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

I love this picture of my little sister on her first day of kindergarten in 1962. Of course, in those days, a mom could put the kids on the bus and go home feeling reasonably sure that school was a safe place,

Last night, my sons fixed Mother's Day with cilantro sauce, parmesan-garlic risotto, and a flaming strawberry sauce over ice cream for dessert. The boys all learned from their dad, who has a fantastic knack for doing the right thing.

I have a Mother's Day sore throat and potentially nasty cold. Oddly enough, it reminds me of some of my best memories of my mom. When I was a kid I'd sometimes fake a sore throat in the morning so I could have Mom's attention all to myself on a school day. We'd watch "Concentration" and "As the World Turns," and if I was lucky, we'd have lunch at Merwin Drug's lunch counter. She didn't get that much one-on-one time with any of us, and I think she enjoyed it, too.

I miss her a lot--she died of lung disease four years ago. John, my eldest, came in the door with a giant hibiscus plant today, and I'm sure Mom guided him in that direction. She loved hibiscus ever since she and my dad had their second honeymoon in Hawaii. She'd put half a dozen hibiscus out in the back yard all summer long, then bring them into the "dead plant closet" for the long Minnesota winter.

Love you, Mom. Love you, Lisa. Love you, kids. Love you, Steve.

Thanks for every sweet thing you've ever done.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Keith Olbermann is the new Johnny Depp.

Smart, fearless, dapper, intense, funny. I forgive him for not being a pirate.