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Monday · July 28 2003

After 4 days of taking things in rather than spitting them out...

Michael builds 1/5 scale model airplanes and he hangs them in flight from his living room rafters. They share the air space with the family portrait, drawings of cheetahs and a large dominating painting of Jesus. I could swear that Jesus was piloting the blue and yellow striped biplane dangling above my head. Closer inspection of a digital photograph reveals that Jesus was not at the helm, but a look-alike doll with flowing brown hair and a blue dress was the proxy.

First visits distort expectations. When I step away from home, I lose my frame of reference, become disoriented, and have to stretch a little to get comfortable again. I don't have to drive the bus this weekend, I can just ride along.

We make a stop at Aunt Jean and Uncle Arthur's place, down the road from Michael and Peggy's. Jean is making sandwiches and Arthur is laying down on the couch. We are unannounced guests, but empty chairs line the living room just the same. Around here, an inviting chair wins out over the clutter it causes any day. The thermometer reads 84 degrees, yet the space heater is glowing. Arthur needs the dry air. Jean and Arthur are 94 years old. The open door and the chairs lined up waiting to be filled tell me that Jean and Arthur aren't left out of anything. We can come back anytime.

Before seeing a new place for the first time and meeting the people who live there, I ask dozens of questions and try to get a clear picture of "what it's like". I attempt to prepare myself so that I can settle in immediately. I don't want to stick out and embarrass anyone, least of all myself.

The parlor fills up easily and I'm the only Chicagoan. No need to be that precise. I'm the sole visitor from north of Georgia, but that doesn't matter for much. I'm family here, I would have to be hardened to not feel that. I meet friends and family, shaking their hand and always getting a smile in return. My "Pleased to meet you" is betrayed by "Glad to know ya". They really are after all. Aunt Jean sorts out the complicated distant relations for us. I try to construct the family tree like sorting puzzle pieces, but the answers are relative to other answers, never absolute. To know how one piece fits, you have to know all the others and that's getting far ahead of myself.

Traffic comes to a standstill when a funeral parades through the hilly roads. Folks look on in respect and put their hurries aside for a minute. They have the time. The minute hand crawls on a saturday afternoon in Whitfield county.

In a weekend, I feel at home. I could drive through town without getting lost. I know some of the local cable channels. I even know that Hubert married Cornelia and Gordon married Lucy. That answered alot of the confusing family tree questions. I couldn't really tell you "what it's like". But I can tell you it wasn't what I expected.

What you had to say:
July 29 2003

That is a pretty true description of a Georgia funeral. Nice job.

July 29 2003

And it's nice to have you two back!

July 30 2003

Good story. Well written. Sounds like it was fun despite the underlying reason for going.

© 2003 Jason Keglovitz