Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Carpool Lane?

I ask myself Why on a Saturday? and Why in the middle of the afternoon? as I pry myself away from The Kid On the Lawnmower and The Overworked Husband and The Babysitting Teenager and The Newborn Puppymania and climb into the car. I am late and I do not want to go and I get in the car anyway, all by myself, because it’s the right thing to do. 
I call my dad one more time. Are you sure they’re still going to hold this thing in the rain? I ask, secretly hoping it’s been rescheduled. What? he asks, just slightly annoyed. “It’s pouring rain,” I say. “Well it’s sunny up here,” he replies. “Where are you?” I ask. “In Bountiful.” Oh my gosh, he’s already there. I don’t want him to know I’m just getting in my car.  I balance an onion bagel on my knee as I back down the driveway.  Because 62 miles sounds like a long way to go on no lunch. 
As I enter the freeway and pray for no construction today I try to push the leftover laundry and nagging, unmopped floors out of my head, to no avail. Outside, the storm clouds follow me. It’s like a race. Sometimes I can stay just ahead of the rain. Sometimes it catches up to me. 
I push the iPhone connector into its jack and Pandora defaults to Earth Wind and Fire. I’m not sure 70s funk is exactly the mood I’m in, but I’m whizzing down the freeway at breakneck speed, and not quite reckless enough to look for another station.  In minutes, without even realizing it, I’m singing my heart out to “September” (one of our favorites) and suddenly I see our whole family standing at the Hollywood Bowl, swaying and cheering and smiling and having the time of our lives as fireworks literally fill the sky overhead. It was a spur-of-the moment roadtrip last summer that ended up being one of our family’s favorite memories. I think of how Josh still texts me out of the blue to say, “Thanks for taking me on that roadtrip to see Earth Wind and Fire!”  --Something we did that was NOT a mistake! (yay!

I remind myself, Family is EVERYTHING! 
I can see downtown Salt Lake creeping up on my right, in the distance. On the hill behind Temple Square is the Capitol Building, where my grandpa worked. I think of how he walked home every single day so he could have lunch with his sweetheart, my Mrs. Santa Claus grandma. (Who wouldn’t?) Suddenly I’m reminded that it’s BECAUSE OF HER that I’m doing this, that I’m driving to far-off Bountiful to see the plaque erected in honor of her parents. I think about how she taught us in a million different ways that family is EVERYTHING! How this event would be her absolute top priority if she were still here. How happy she’d be that I’m going. Suddenly I’m flooded with tears. She would LOVE this reunion. The sun pops up from behind the clouds as if to underscore my thoughts, buoying me with a stronger sense of purpose.
I focus on the yellow lines in the center of the highway as the signs whiz by...I-80, Ogden, Beck Street. As I approach the park where the reunion takes place, the rain returns, streaking the windshield as the tears streak my face all the way to Bountiful. 

Oh my gosh, THIS is the park? These beautiful acres of lawn and trees in the center of the city, with a rec center and a pavilion and...my great-grandparents' fields and orchards provided this sanctuary.

The clouds are still heavy, the sky wet, and I slosh across the lawn under my polka-dot umbrella toward the picnic area where people are gathering. I see my first piano teacher, still so elegant...Dad's first cousin. Another of Dad's cousins, Jim, is there with his wife Betty, who has unforgettable deep blue eyes. I remember riding their horses in Heber when I was a kid. My aunt is setting up bushels of fresh peaches for centerpieces, old people are shuffling around, trying to get the sound system to work. (It doesn't.)  My dad is the youngest, but he is becoming one of the Old People. I am so proud of him. One cousin circulates platters of all the fresh fruits and vegetables our great-grandparents grew. Pieces of our family history. A beautiful gesture. We gather and sing as rain patters on the roof. What is happening here is, to steal some words from my friend Heather, both ordinary and extraordinary.

This whole thing is bigger than I am. Bigger than football practice and yardwork and chores. Bigger than a hundred Saturdays. Bigger than any of us realize. I feel eternity stretched out like the handstitched quilt on her old hand-carved oak bed, wrapping me in its linked-together pieces, simultaneously adding to and wiping away my tears. I feel HER, and all those linked to her. I feel as though I picked up my grandmother way back at that point along the freeway and carried her all the way to this reunion, this honoring-place, to be with the people she loves most. I am grateful she did not want me to go there alone.

This is me with my grandma. This photo appeared on the cover of the Salt Lake Tribune on Thanksgiving Day a long, long time ago. :)

This post is inspired by  Just Write, an exercise in free writing{Please see the details here.} 


Kristina P. said...

That picture is so warm! Love it.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

That is the best picture EVER. And I love it when you "just write." I owe you an email. Give me 10 minutes.

Dedee said...

Beautiful, my friend. And I needed to read this reminder this morning. I am slipping away from my family a little and I need to get myself back there.

Thanks and love to you!

Luisa Perkins said...

Vivid and lovely, as always. That photo is beyond priceless.

LisAway said...

Family IS everything. And it IS eternity stretched out around you, whether you are in your own home, in the fields of your forefathers or at a family reunion, surrounded by the people you are bound to.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I love this picture at so many different levels.

Sarah said...

What a beautiful picture (both the one published in the Tribune and the one published in words).

Becca said...

See? THAT is the kind of family history I can get my fingers around. Hooray for fruit-growing grandmas.

DeNae said...

You take my breath away, every time you sit down to write. And that picture is the stuff that defines generations.

Simply. Breathtaking.

Kazzy said...

What a great reason to brave a storm. Love you tons!

Heather EO said...

Oh lady, this is so moving. I get it. I love it. Thank you for joining me. :)

slcmomof5 said...

Love you, love her! Glad you brought her with you to Bountiful that day. It was a gray, busy day, that I was dreading until I got there and felt the love and peace of family. Thanks for picking Grandma up on the way. I too felt I should be there because that is where she would be that day... and it was too important to miss.