I received a letter from a cousin of mine today and enclosed were a handful of old family photos that she had found going through some albums. There were several of my parents and aunts and uncles over the last several years of their lives, but the two on the bottom were the surprise. It was me at eleven years old, wearing a long dress, sitting on a stool in front of one of those big old radios -- remember those? It was taken on February 14, 1945 and on the back of the photo my mother had written that I was going to a valentine party that night at a little club I belonged to and that I was elected Queen of Hearts that night.
I wish I could say I remember the event vividly, but I actually have very few memories of my childhood. It wasn't a particularly happy time except for when the pilots, stationed at the air base near my hometown, and their wives lived with us during the war -- a time I wrote a post about not long ago. As it happened, the dress I'm wearing in the photo was the same one I wore when I was a member of the wedding of one of the pilots. That I remember vividly. Strange what memories stay tucked away in your mind, while others were lost somewhere along the way.
I hadn't seen any of my cousins in nearly forty years when we finally got together again a little over three years ago at my son's house in Dallas, Texas. There are only six of us left, one was unable to make it, but the other four came with wives and husbands from various parts of Texas. My son had just bought his house and I had told them that while it was a great house, he had no furniture to speak of. So, they all brought lawn chairs and coolers and photo albums. We spread out in his big empty den off the kitchen and proceeded to look back over the past forty years. It was marvelous fun!
When I married my children's father, whom as many of you know by now, is black, a couple of my aunts and uncles refused to have me in their house. Now it seemed the time had come to put all that stuff behind us and be the family we had once been. They were impressed with my son -- of course they would be! he's wonderful! We took pictures and laughed and looked old photo albums, ate pizza, toasted the day with a bottle of champagne and it was quite late before they left for their hotel.
We stay in very close touch these days -- of course, email makes that easy, but I'm so grateful we had that opportunity to reunite. Since then the husband of one of my cousins died the next year of pancreatic cancer. About the same time the cousin I use to spend every summer with at our grandmother's house was diagnosed with breast and liver cancer. She's holding on and is amazingly brave.
So, it's been a nostalgic evening, with good memories and sad ones, but the good ones, the lovely ones are the ones to hold on to and we'll all weather the sad ones. Times like these help to put things in perspective. Helps you to realize that the politics will come and go, the country will survive and it is up to each of us to make the very best of our lives, each hour and each day, to enjoy our chilren and families and to let them know just how much they are loved.
So, for tonight I shall push all the grim news of the day, the politics, the doubts, the fears for the future, into the space under the stairway, put on some music, look at the pictures again and remember and be grateful and toast my family with a glass of wine.
A dream painting commission
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