“…There were moments of gold
And there were flashes of light
There were things I’d never do again
But then they’d always seemed right…”

Social scientists may wonder why the wife and I married. No one, however, has ever debated my blend with her family. I love them.

We first met four decades ago in a Stamford backyard. Virginal, collegiate, a fish out of water, I was introduced to a people that would grapple me to its soul and hold tight long after the gavel of a judge lent exit strategy. As such, with traffic at a standstill, ‘twas no wonder that trudging to Connecticut, each passing brick train depot brought me warmth, (and in an odd way), home.

Numbers didn’t lie: Forty years after college…teasing twenty post-divorce. That’s a boatload of time. Heck, the aunt and uncle we travelled to honor were wed less time when I’d met them than The Jersey Girl and I ultimately strung together.

And with every sign post passed, every hand shake, every hug this weekend, I not only smiled for today, but remembered…

Uncle Ernie’s older now, and Aunt Lee. He still asks about my practice; she still asks about the kids. With Uncle “Mush”, these are the last folks standing from the peak of strong family tree. My in-laws, their siblings, all of blessed, blessed memory, would have loved this conclave.

We sat in the family room—the one generation above me melding with two below.

“Bruce, did you see your picture in Eric’s Bar Mitzvah album?”
“That’s ok” I said, having no desire. (I know I’ve aged).
“Here!” shried a well-meaning relative, thrusting the volume in my lap.
(I had to look).

There were her parents, so young. My father-in-law was a prince. Had he been stashed in that traffic jam Saturday he’d never have complained. The man was swept with acceptance…gentility. Closing my eyes I still hear his answer to any adversity: “Everything’s all right in America,” he’d proclaim, (except, of course, if the Yankees won—he HATED Steinbrenner).

And there, in a pic of ‘70’s cousins, was Howard. The clan’s “it” person back then, we’d shared a room that weekend. I remember thinking, even then, that our rooming put me on the family map.

Most pictures, of course, were mental.

The motel was gone, but I recalled how we all stayed at one of those places where the rooms opened to the outdoors…and that somehow I’d locked a teenaged Jackie, (bra and panties), outside on the terrace.

And ‘though her mom was gone, there was Judy. Had she not heard the story? Long ago, Manhattan. I’d known my future Aunt Honey perhaps a half hour when suddenly, without warning, the lady pulled me aside in Brentano’s, bought me a book and, shall we say…. ”encouraged me” to wed her niece.

And there was Hindy—the last living person to voluntarily sleep at Aunt Helen’s house (Michael’s Bar Mitzvah). My cousin still has a coat there, in the closet. I should pick it up one of these Fridays.

The past, of course, is only valued with a future. And so it was that at the house I met Ben. California-bred, he’ll be marrying in next summer. Common ground came quickly. We spoke football, some baseball, and baskets: the Kobe-Shaq thing, the Dodgers…. It struck me that I’d this movie before. The last time, though, I was the new blood; it was me breaking in…talking to Uncle Willie…about football, and baseball…

The most beautiful part of the weekend, though, was perhaps the simplest. Toasts concluded, Aunt Lee asked we all join in the Shehecheyanu, our traditional prayer of thanks.

I have a lot to be thankful for, and I know it.

Especially family.

“I can barely recall
But it’s all coming back to me now.”

                         Celine Dion


  1. Jackie says:

    It was great being with you this weekend…you rock 🙂

  2. Stacy says:

    So sad I wasn’t there!

  3. Joel says:

    Ah yes…The Roger Smith Hotel I believe. Before chains, it seemed every relative had a memorable local hotel (the Shenango Inn in Farrell, The Ruby Foo in Montreal, and the HoJo’s (OK, so that was a chain) in Clifton).

    Growing up, vacations/trips were not about getting away but about getting together. Most of my childhood memories seem to be visions of family visits and occasions (e.g. watching the Expos at Jarry Park, Nathan Brothers and the Eagles for steak, my first Whopper in Columbus, Arlene’s wedding in the snow, and even Alan’s Ufruf).

  4. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Joel, you are so right. It wasn’t getting away as much as getting together. Your phrase captures so well the magnetic love between the extended family your parents provided. Great seeing you all this weekend. bb

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