My aunt Carol died last night. Her husband Jimmy, my mother’s brother, died a few years ago and his sister, my Aunt Dorothy, died not long after he did.
Leonard and Trixie Bodnum, Jimmy and Dorothy’s parents and my grandparents, have been gone for over half my lifetime now. My dad’s death happened almost as long ago as that. All that is left now from the generation preceding mine is my mom, Rosemary.
When I was growing up, this is the family that surrounded me. These people and their children were the core of my world. Sure friends and neighbors and school were all part of my life, but these were the people most closely connected with me. The ones I trusted to put up with my self-absorbed tantrums and to be there at my birthday parties despite that. To share in my successes and at the same time remind me not to get too big for my britches.
I wrote a short essay once, Grandma’s Pennies, that was recently published in Fundamentally Female. It gives only a small glimpse of the joy my cousins and I experienced on Sundays at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I could write a whole book about it, and maybe I will someday. But today it hurts to remember those times. Because they are gone, and with the passing of each loved one that remembers them, the memory of them will also soon be gone. My cousins and I will be the only ones left. When we leave, those experiences die with us.
And I don’t want them gone. I want to relive them again, go back in time and pretend to be horses running across the grassy back yard under the apple tree. I’m not asking to stay there. No way do I want to start my life at five years old and do it all over again. But I want a time machine, a DeLorian, that allows me to pick a day and time and visit once again, in reality, not just memories.
I would always go back on a Sunday, though the time of day might vary. Sometimes I want to go back at lunch time and have grindy sandwiches and potato salad and red Jello with bananas around the huge kitchen table. Another time I’d like to be there right about sunset on a summer evening, chasing fireflies. Or maybe in winter we could build a snow fort under the branches of the Bridal Wreath bushes by the front porch.
But no matter what time or season I pick, I want everyone to be there. Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Jack, Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol, Aunt Dorothy. Mom and Dad. My cousin Joe and I could argue over who gets the best spot on the floor to watch The Wonderful World of Disney. Carol could wait patiently on her stomach, heels in the air as she sings along to the show’s theme song. Donna and JB could sit on their mom’s laps and start getting sleepy.
Can you hear it now? “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”