The memories are vivid yet totally random. Aunt Cora leading us through the dusty trails behind the Bessemer quarries. We were looking for fossils and spotted a "bear" - a big black garbage bag. A visit to their old Toronto house, the one with the awesome pool patio. Parts of this memory are so clear I can almost feel the cool linoleum against my feet in the book-packed basement that was my bedroom during that stay. Pretty sure it was the visit launched "The Mickler News," the short-lived family newsletter, copied for distribution by my dad at the steel mill.
I remember the trip to Houston to see the Marcums when I was in, I think, 8th grade. The air pressure on the airplane messed with my ears so badly that I couldn't hear right for two days. I read a book at the Astros game that Uncle Steve had so sweetly planned for us. I hated baseball. It was during my total-asshole period. And another trip to Houston, many years later, for Liz's high school graduation. The girl cousins went shopping. The boy cousins got shirts that said "security" and wore them for the party. There was plenty of pool time. We mostly all drank too much. I'd gotten the flight on Priceline at the very last minute. Fuck the budget. Family trumped finances. It was so worth it.
Still today, I can hear Aunt Mini rapping brilliant nonsense on a kid microphone in my mom and dad's basement after Angelo's high-school graduation in 1996. Hanging with Uncle John and Aunt Mini at the Johnson Club after Teta's funeral more than a decade ago. Mini was wearing my grandmother's fur coat (the one no one could bear to donate after she died) and a Rastafarian wig hat with dreads. Costumes, on this side of this fam, are a theme.
UB is always in costume—so I'm not sure why anyone was really surprised when a werewolf turned at Liz's wedding this past weekend, mid-reception. There are so many UB memories, new and old. In addition to costumes, most involve aggressive driving, chocolate, wine, dapper attire, gourmet food, relaxing jazz, runs and coffee. (In no particular order). Many involve surprise appearances. All involve multimedia recording devices. He's the family paparazzo. And the bon vivant. He's also the one with the crazy eyes—and the coffees—pictured up above with Aunt Mini.
Except for my Uncle John/Aunt Janet/Cousin Sam, the members of my mom's immediate family have always been at least a six-hours drive away. Yet my connections with this crew are incredibly close. Is it effort? (Probably not - I'm not that good at keeping up, honestly. UB gets the award for effort. Sister Kate comes in a close second). Must something else, like, we all got big chunks of the same DNA. Or something. I wonder. For a bunch of people who grew up on all different corners of the country, we seem to share a lot in common: there are a bunch of talented musicians (I am not one of them) and another group of people who work in helping fields (nurses, therapists, etc.). There's sizeable group of loud, like-to-dance types (I fit in there). Overall, we're an emotional bunch. Maybe that's it. I just don't know. But we really, really like each other—or so it seems to me.
Maybe we're just lucky.