This summer has been full of reunions. We’ve had two gatherings for my mother’s 80th birthday, a reunion with my husband’s father’s family and another with my mother’s father’s family where I saw old photos of people who have passed, and whom I loved. At this particular reunion was a cousin, aged 99.
I do not have a photo because she left early and I neglected to take a picture, but it was really wonderful to see her, since she made my mother’s wedding dress as well as mine. My cousin Mae, raised on a farm near Lansing NC, was a born seamstress. I don’t believe she ever went to art school, however she had such a natural talent for sewing that she made a long career of sewing for brides and bridesmaids, in addition to redecorating homes, some of them the homes of affluent people in our area, such as homes that belonged to the DuPont family.
How she did this I don’t know. She went into a home with a measuring tape, paper and pencil and some chalk, took measurements, went home and sewed the drapes and slipcovers, took them back to the home and, well, that was pretty much it. They usually fit perfectly.
I, though I inherited a similar sort of talent from my own grandmother, could never have done such a thing. I made slipcovers once. And once was enough. I had to fit the darn things at least twenty times, and I felt like pulling out my hair. I have vowed never to make another slipcover, though I will, if pressed, sew a curtain.
At this time in my life, I am making the effort to go to as many family gatherings as I can. I appreciate being able to see and talk to people, whether they be close family or distant cousins. These days it seems that we only see distant family and friends at funerals, which is a very sad thing, but inevitable, so I like to meet with my living loved ones while I still can.
Another such reunion took place Wednesday. This was small gathering of my father’s family at the cemetery where numerous family members, including my father, have been laid to rest.
Now people might think a cemetery is a rather strange place for a visit, but we have taken to trying to meet there at least once a year. In addition to my father, the other graves we visited included my aunt and Godmother, Gloria, who always made the Easter Bread, my Aunt Mary and Uncle Sam and their son, Bill. Bill died of cancer in the early 1980’s at age twenty-five. My father loved Bill, and treated him almost like his own little boy. Bill helped my father in the mushroom houses back in the late 1960’s. I have a vague memory of my father and Bill, standing on top of a huge manure pile on the wharf next to the back double, watering it with hoses. Bill was also my daughter’s Godfather.
In addition to these beloved family members, we also visited the graves of my father’s parents, Marco and Colomba, who immigrated from Italy to America in the early 20th century. There are also graves of various children, who would’ve been my fathers brothers and sisters, who died young, and that of my dad’s brother, Albert, who was the first of the five siblings to live to adulthood to pass away.
While we chatted at the cemetery, I found out something surprising. My uncle Dino, informed me that he had read both of my books, and is eagerly awaiting the third! He said he was hoping I would show up at the cemetery, because he had never had the chance to talk to an author in person about their books. I was so happy that he enjoyed my books. Dino asked if any of the people in the cemetery had inspired some of the characters in my books. He had a suspicion that they did, which I confirmed.
I told Uncle Dino about the character Lori Ann being based on my real sister, who died at age three. My mother tends her grave with love. Dino wanted to know if the main characters were inspired by any real people. I told him, no, they were not; they are strictly figments of my imagination. (Uncle Dino was happy to hear that the villains in my books are not based on any family members).
I didn’t tell Uncle Dino this because we stopped chatting about my work so we could visit with everyone else, but the above grave inspired the character of Jason and Michelle’s baby, the little boy whom they didn’t name.
It was a very lovely day, and perfect for visiting. My cousin Joan and her husband were visiting her parents, Annie and Dino, from their home in Atlanta. We rarely see each other. It was great to catch up on family news. Joan and my sister Amy and I were very glad to be able to visit.
As we three “girls” were talking we were sort of shocked to realize how old we actually are. None of us is younger than fifty anymore. Still, it’s either grow old gracefully or end up in the place we happened to be strolling around, so, ok, whatever. Fifty is the new forty, right?
After we finished praying and the flowers were all planted and watered, we had lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, where we talked some more about old times. Aunt Annie spoke of the “back kitchen” in my grandparents home. It was a small room right off the back porch, sort of an anteroom, with a washing machine and laundry sink (no dryer) a cabinet and a pasta table. The big kitchen was through a wide hallway and to the left.
She asked if I remembered the table, and I said yes, very vaguely. My MomMom died when I was a child, but I do have a few memories of pasta being made in that kitchen. This family ate homemade pasta almost every day of their lives. It sounds really good to me, but my father grew up to hate pasta of all kinds, simply because he was forced to eat it every day as a child.
There were other remembrances at the lunch. We had a very nice day. I hope we do it again soon and I hope more cousins come next time. It’s good to reunite.