With everyone scattered around the country, the family visits are fewer and far between. In the twelve years I’ve lived in this house my Uncle Bob and Aunt Esther’s first visit was this past week. It seems so odd to me after all of the family contact during my childhood, I never imagined that would just end with my grandparents’ generation of extended family. I guess I thought it would always be that way; that family just popped over whenever it suited them as we all seemed to do when I was a child.
Every Sunday after church and an early dinner, we piled into the car and spent the remainder of the day visiting one set of grandparents and the other the following Sunday, unless my father was working the night shift, then we were out of sync for a weekend or two. When we landed at my paternal grandparents’ home, it was not unusual for one of my father’s siblings and his/her family to show up as well, or to at least be calling on the phone. There would always be coffee, my grandmother’s bakery and sometimes an impromptu meal as well.
When we went to my mother’s parents’ home the spoken language was Slovak, very little English. There was no television. There were no computer games, cell phones or other distractions. We were not allowed to whine and say we were bored. Instead we sat there quietly, as children of the “children were meant to be seen and not heard” generation. Sometimes we walked around outside in the back yard, but otherwise just absorbed our family culture until Grandma offered us a little juice glass of ginger ale and maybe some pretzels.
Families are smaller these days. People seem to make appointments to see each other. Everyone is very busy trying to keep body and soul together, working and raising their children. Now my generation is grey and slowing as we become the grandparents. There are fewer family gatherings and some years we only meet in December to wish each other well for another segment of time – not everyone shows up.
A collage of faces ride
across my mind as I drive home
from a family birthday party.
My father’s youngest sister
turned 70 years of age today.
She is chagrined by her accumulation of years,
her daughter avoided saying the number,
calling it simply a milestone birthday.
Uncle Bob and Aunt Esther
came up from Georgia to help celebrate.
This is our first gathering since the winter holidays,
we are anxious to hear each other’s news,
to hug each other, take photographs of everyone, to
assure ourselves that the family is still in tact after
another hard Ohio winter.