Monday, July 07, 2008

Reunion

Every four years, during the year of the presidential election, my mom's family has a reunion over the Fourth of July weekend. We always gather in the tiny cranberry-growing community of Grayland out on the Washington coast.

In the early 1900s, my mom's grandparents, who were itinerant ministers, settled in Grayland. As their family grew, three of their four sons and their one daughter moved away. My mom and her family lived there until the early 1960s, when my grandfather got a job with the US Postal Service in Seattle. Her Uncle Walt, now in his 80s, still lives there, but his two sons David and Francis have taken over his cranberry farm.

When I was little, we used to spend Thanksgivings with Uncle Walt, Aunt Chris, David, Francis, their sister Anne, and lots of other family and friends who gathered in their home. As the oldest in my family, I got the special privilege of riding down with my grandfather and grandmother the night before in their station wagon with the fake wood paneling on the sides. Sometimes (if I had been extra well-behaved) we would stop at McDonald's in Aberdeen for milkshakes.

Grayland was always a magical place for me. Lying awake in Anne's bedroom, hearing the muffled roar of the surf pounding the shore a mile away, I was in another world. Part of it was getting away by myself, part of it was the holiday excitement, but mostly it was the ocean. I enjoyed dinner, visiting with cousins, playing on a zipline in the woods behind the house, but always in the back of my mind, I was waiting for the ocean. Usually we'd bundle up and drive to the beach after we were full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and Aunt Chris's wonderful pies. My parents would turn the five of us loose to run off all our pent up energy looking for sand dollars, moonstones, and glass fishing floats, before herding us into the car for the long drive back to Seattle. It was like heaven, wandering between the gray sky and the gray sand, with the wind and sometimes rain cutting through my coat. It never bothered me; I combed sandy expanses, loaded my pockets with exotic finds to spirit back home.

I think Grayland was the place that made me love the ocean, and I've secretly felt I could never stand to live more than a day's drive from it. Something about it goes down to my core, makes me feel more powerful, alive, wild. When I was landlocked during college in Utah, I always felt vaguely unsettled. Especially when I learned to scuba dive in a small municipal pool; that felt wrong on so many levels.

Last Friday morning Jim and I wrestled our own (much smaller) herd into the car and headed to Grayland. It was wonderful seeing my parents and siblings, as well as reconnecting with extended family who I hadn't seen since the last reunion, when Jimmy was just a toddler. But one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend? The last afternoon, right before we left, as I watched Jimmy discover the ocean for himself. When I asked him if he liked the ocean while we were beachcombing, he got a huge grin and a distinct twinkle in his eyes as he enthused, "Oh, yeah!"

2 comments:

Kim said...

Oh, I love and so much prefer the beach in winter! We'd go to Moclips for my mom's birthday in late October, and our Aberdeen pit stop of choice was Duffy's Restaurant, with its shamrock-and-leprechaun theme. ;)

I am embarrassed to admit that, until I was in college and booking my own spring break trip, I never realized that we didn't go to the coast in winter because it was cool; we went then because it was CHEAP. Total revelation!

aubrey said...

beautiful. i loved reading this about you. my favorite part:

It was like heaven, wandering between the gray sky and the gray sand, with the wind and sometimes rain cutting through my coat. It never bothered me; I combed sandy expanses, loaded my pockets with exotic finds to spirit back home.

i keep reading it over and over again. i love your writing!

i'm glad you had a nice vacation and reunion with your family!