Wednesday, January 7, 2015

outside the box

We spent this past New Year's Eve at my parent's house. We had dinner. We talked. We had an indoor snowball fight. And then my aunt and my grandma FaceTimed us from Ohio.

I grew up in Ohio. But for some reason, or reasons, I'm sure there was more than one, we were never very close with my dad's family. We'd see them on holidays, there were a couple grandparent's days at school, and I remember one summer and my grandma's house with the green carpet, steep attic steps, and her neighbor's pool. So they were there. And I knew they existed, but if my childhood were a story, they were flat characters.

For that very reason, when they called on New Year's Eve, I planned on listening whilst my dad did the talking. But the audio moved to speaker just in time for all of us to hear "BILLLLLLLY!!!" And I had to laugh. Only a very exclusive few greet him with that name.

So they spent the next couple of minutes talking. It was mostly my aunt, regaling him (and all of us, really) with stories of my grandma's health. The doctors, the nurses, the couch cushions she used instead of pillows, the liters of oxygen. But it was hilarious. My aunt makes things hilarious.

So my sisters and I, who had been hanging around the fringe of the Facetime, canon-balled into the conversation.  And as soon as our faces made the screen we heard my Grandma exclaim, with her almost Brooklyn-ish accent "Ohhh. You're beauuuutiful! All of youuuu!" Words can't describe how classic it actually was. That kind of classic that makes your soul smile.

And then my aunt regaled us with more stories. Her children's love interests. Their eighteen million dollar father. Future career plans. The new color on her walls. Her ceiling. A recent wedding in the family, and the accompanying brand new step-daughter-in-law. She told us how this new daughter of hers was so darling. And how, after hearing the happy news, she'd tried to get her address to send her something! Candles! Flowers!

"But then," described my aunt "I don't think she was prepared for my (dramatic pause) ...overwhelming personality."

I laughed out loud. Because at this point in the conversation, my mind had begun flying through so many of the circumstances, friendships, experiences and situations I have found myself in at different times... and things started making sense. Of course, it's slightly different than my aunt's... but it felt good to put a name to my own "overwhelming personality."

When they heard us laughing, my pirates came over. The conversation had moved to the "German Efficiency" we all seem to have in common. (In one conversation, my aunt managed to define and name two of our shared genetic traits. Two aha! moments, back to back.) Robs and Erik both talked about how they were pretty sure they had these same genetics, and then moved to talking about Harry Potter. Which, as we discovered, is one of my aunt's favorite subjects. "I am your favorite aunt. Great-aunt" she told them, "and I love you already!" (She met Robs when she was a couple months old, but hasn't yet met any of my other pirates. I hope to change that.)

The conversation was just what I needed, but didn't know I was missing.

People are so great. We all have our crazy sides. Our weaknesses. Our grumpy or mean moments. And those don't make us proud. But then we get flashes of brilliance. Or FaceTimes of hilarity. And we realize that our family tree, however it actually pans out to be, is still ours. Because now, at least, my pirates know that in addition to the plethora of family here, they have a Great (for all her own reasons) aunt who loves them. In Ohio. Even though they've never been to Ohio.


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