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familiar familia

April 10, 2007

Back in the post-Spring break grind (emphasis on the post-Spring part, has anyone else seen the weather forecast for Chicago?), today was an easier re-entry day in part because I didn’t have that much to do work wise.

However the real reason I am putting together this post is to talk about this past weekend. In a desperate attempt to see my cousin Laura’s newborn baby before baby becomes toddler (plus the chance to see grandmas) I got my family to agree to a 3 day trip to PA. This was not a 3 day trip in the sense of 3 days there, more like 1 day driving there, 1 day there, and then 1 day driving home. But it was worth it. Laura’s baby was beautiful and despite her determination to sleep during our few hours at the cafe, I think I developed a pretty strong baby crush. That girl can wrinkle her forehead like no other.

But the other big part of weekend was spending time with the grandparents and the family. Seeing as everyone but my younger brother managed to make it along on the trip, it was some intense family time. Plus I had my roommate, Jess, along in the car because we dropped her off to visit her friend in Harrisburg, so it was a full car load. Our primary visiting time was split between my two remaining grandparents, the mas. Both of which are conservative Mennonites, who still wear coverings, buy cardigans from Re-Use-It stores and interestingly enough are both named Mary*. These visits were both good because for various reasons (new meds, more energy) both of my grandmas seem to be doing well and I felt like I had one of my better visits with each of them. I think part of it comes from me being willing to accept the idea that my grandma (the mom’s mom) will probably not be around that much longer. While obviously this doesn’t make me happy, I also don’t have any great desire to see her live for many more years in her current state of decline. I am just glad that I have been able to share a portion of my life with the woman who gave birth to 11 children, 36 grandchildren and countless great-grandchildren; the woman who despite those large numbers made me feel like a special grandchild; who always had cookies ready for us when we visited; who hosted a sleepover for me and my 2 closest girl cousins; who comforted my mother when she experienced gender discrimination in the church; who taught my sunday school class and helped me memorize bible verses; and most importantly started the great water fight at one of our summer family reunions by dumping a bucket of water on one of my uncles.

Spending time with Grammy (the dad’s mom) was also really special, for many years she seemed to always be in the shadow of my formidable, story telling, loud-laughing Pappy. Now 2 years after he passed away, when we visit it is Grammy who tells the stories. My dad helps out some, but between the two of them they bring up memories from long ago and even rumors of our past family. For example the big fuss this weekend was about the term “Mikeys”. Apparently the descendants of my great great grandfather Michael Kauffman (who fathered a brood of 13 children with the help of another woman named Mary who lived to be 97 years old) managed to gain themselves this nickname and the reputation for long life and for making fun of other people. When this was revealed, my brother and I looked at each other and laughed, because this obviously explained our inclinations to be smart-asses. However when my Dad asked my great aunts for more information they clammed up and got rather defensive about how that was just one part of the family who obviously hadn’t been raised properly. There seemed to be a lot of pent up emotion about this. In fact my great aunt (a widow who has lived for many years with her two single sisters who are now in their mid 90s) recalled rather bitterly the teasing that she heard towards her own sisters for both their life-long singleness.

I think one of the most interesting parts was when we were getting ready to leave, the great aunt who tends to be rather quiet, drew me aside and told me that she hoped that I find a companion for my life, but that life was good whatever happens. A rather interesting peice of advice coming from my 89 year old single great aunt. I will probably try to post more about this later, but lets just say it did get me thinking.

*Which was the name I was almost given, but apparently my parents liked Abigail more, so I got Marie as a middle name instead. I was actually slightly disappointed by this when I was younger, because then Laura and I could have been Mary and Laura (just like those Ingalls girls from Little House on the Prairie (the book series not the television show)).

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