Also this summer
We did another underwater photo shoot with different wardrobe. We ran through some of our usual “up in Michigan” activities—climbing the Big Dune, biking around the bay. But in between heat waves, car repairs, and mysterious illnesses, my aunt collapsed and died.
My mom rushed to Nebraska help her niece and nephew manage the details, and we took care of the pets and otherwise held down the fort at the house their grandfather built. My mom had left behind a photo album, and I told my kids stories about being at the lake with my grandparents and showed them pictures—these in black and white of different sand babies on the same shore, kids bundled up after swimming on the same front porch (now with big trees!) hamming the same ham for whatever relative was holding the camera.
These trips were not entirely easy. The overlapping households were run by smart women whose only venue for the exercise of power was the house, and their ideas of appropriate behavior–on vacation or otherwise–and effective management often clashed. That house is where I learned to make a bed with hospital corners. My grandfather would go fishing–notoriously bringing back nothing no matter where or when he went–and as an adult, my mother discovered that he never took bait on these escapes from the house. It was a template for the complexity and ambivalence of relationships. When my cousins say I remind them of my grandmother, the in-law, do they mean the world traveler and adventurous chef, or the controlling blueblood who could turn dinner into a screaming match over the choice of serving dish for the green beans? My mother had that ambivalence now. Her last phone call with her sister had turned into a shout fest. But she’d also helped put together their family vacation.
The cottage was as good a place as any to be while we waited for news and my kids pieced together the family tree. Finally my mom returned, some plans were made. We did some more swimming and biking. Because I got so sick, we overlapped with the next round of cousins, who were up to get ready for their wedding the following weekend. More kids played on the beach. And then we drove back to the Missouri drought to settle in to the new eras: in school for my kids, and for my mom, once the youngest and now the only.Tweet