It’s almost magical how those giants whose knees and navels composed your entire Lilliputian world when you were a child seem suddenly shrunk to normal proportions while the kids you used to play with emerge from the fog of years as tall people with grown-up faces and a train of their own offspring trailing sweetly behind them.
We just returned from a week in Michigan, where family blew in from across the country to be together, and the kids met more aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and third cousins than they knew existed. My sister, my brother’s family, and my parents were all there, and we spent most of the week with our first cousins and their children. There was no shortage of fun to be had, either; sidewalk chalk, foam rockets, bubbles, sprinkler games, and squirt gun wars kept the buzzing, undulating cloud of children busy for hours while the adults played cards and dominoes, read books, and caught up on years worth of family news and events.
My mom and her sisters, especially Aunt Linette (whose home was Reunion Ground Zero) performed a series of small miracles called Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner every day, feeding the masses to satiety on a variety of delicious foods that they conjured out of midair. Uncle Ron (who generously shared his big boy toys) and the other men found themselves equally enslaved in giving round-the-clock four-wheeler rides to a host of eager young children, much to their delight*.
One highlight of the week was a trip up to Cass City, where an even bigger reunion of even more extended family brought back sweet memories of similar gatherings from my childhood. We met for a barbecue picnic at the same church building and played basketball in the same gym where four and six and eight year-old me had played with a colorful array of cousins on other, similar Saturdays. As my children joined in the fray, I played the game, along with everyone else, of trying to figure out which children went with which familiar face. In some cases, it was difficult, but in others, the family resemblance was too strong to mistake, and déjà vu would wash over me in waves as a smirk, a ringing laugh, a tilt of the eyebrow marked out this cousin or that as the progeny of someone long known to me.
Of course, in the way of such things, our week of relaxation and reminiscing was over before it had well begun, and we made all the usual promises of keeping in touch and coming back together soon. I hope we do. Time is a funny thing, a constant wind that relentlessly pulls back the pages of year after year, and it tends to get away from us. Our only hope is to tack it down with memories, staking out a moment here and a moment there so that when we look back at it, we have something onto which we can hold.I think we planted a lot of stakes this week.
*Caleb’s training as my future Rollercoaster Riding Buddy is firmly underway, and was quite notably advanced by a rigorous program of rides on the four-wheeler, throughout which he could be heard screaming with laughter before shouting, at the end, “Again, Daddy! Again!”