My earliest memories include family reunions ... noisy gatherings, it seemed to me, as people hugged, slapped each other on the back, stood around trading stories ... then there was the food, acres of it, it seemed ... and the bees or yellowjackets who always seemed to know where to find us.
I was puzzled in those early years. I couldn't understand how all these people ... most of them absolute strangers to me ... could possibly know each other ... how they could all be part of the same family.
With time, an understanding of that came. I also came to know ... and need ... that annual gathering of family ... that renewal of links to others ... the mending of neglected fences ... the promises of "same time next year."
Unfortunately, some were destined not to make it to the next reunion ... but they would be remembered as remaining members of the family gathered once more.
I don't know if families still maintain the "reunion" practice. I hope they do.
In my case, though, I've become a dropout, of necessity, since my driving ... all kind of travel, in fact ... is almost entirely local.
But I have my memories of those gatherings ... kept like pressed flowers in the pages of a favorite book. I look at them, one by one, on occasion, and remember ... oh, how I remember ...
Like worn pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,
we came back together, sliding
into place at that agreed-upon time
in the room provided for us, drawn
by the prospect of a field-hands meal,
the sound of children pattering
and laughing, the clatter and fury
of games, hum of quiet conversations,
memories burnished by renewed handling,
but mostly drawn back to this place
by that strongest pull, family.
It was not as easy as it once was,
this coming back together, but we did
come back from our scattered places
to be near that place where we began
our journeys along a single path,
then diverged as circumstances and
choices led us away, coming back now
to cross paths for this day, at least.
It was a day for remembering those
pieces missing from the puzzle, a day
for savoring the picture we still make
by our presence, a day for a few tears
as we touched scars of old wounds,
a day given over to hugs and handshakes,
welcomings and lingering farewells,
a bittersweet, pressed-flower day,
this coming home, this healing.
(from Wood Smoke, my third collection of poems, published by Finishing Line Press in 2008)
Today's word: remembering