August seems to be a favorite month for families to reunite. Years ago, I remember
multiple Italian relatives who had come from the same village in Italy, descending
on my grandfather’s modest farm in Naperville, Illinois. Baseball games, card games
going on late into the night, Neapolitan dialect flying above my head like exotic
My African American friends often took the bus or the train south from Chicago, and
stayed a month or more with the ‘grans’ and the aunts, and the uncles who had not
chosen to migrate north. They returned with stories of farm life and delicious food
and family togetherness.
There are so many ways for re-unions to happen. Sometimes these meetings are
joyous because years of separation—through war or death or disappearance—
have kept people apart. I think of the Jewish communities after World War II,
when reunions with family members were almost miraculous, or the reunion of an
adopted child with a birth parent, which might bring unexpected happiness, or a
decision not to continue the relationship.
When you are relaxing and sipping a cool drink during these “dog days” of August,
what are your reunion memories, sweet and bittersweet? What do you think about
re-unions in general? With old friends, with distant family, with groups that have
meant a lot to you such as service groups or sororities?
Here are two poems, both about Aunts, that raised thoughts of reunions for me.
By Al Young
She talks too loud, her face
a blur of wrinkles & sunshine
where her hard hair shivers
from laughter like a pine tree
stiff with oil & hotcombing
O & her anger realer than gasoline
slung into fire or lighted mohair
She’s a clothes lover from way back
but her body’s too big to be chic
or on cue so she wear what she want
People just gotta stand back &
take it like they do Easter Sunday when
the rainbow she travels is dry-cleaned
She laughs more than ever in spring
stomping the downtowns, Saturday past
work, looking into JC Penney’s checking
out Sears & bragging about how when she
feel like it she gon lose weight &
give up smoking one of these sorry days
Her eyes are diamonds of pure dark space
& the air flying out of them as you look
close is only the essence of living
to tell, a full-length woman, an aunt
brown & red with stalking the years
Don’t say a word, but they look at each other
As down from the hill comes Jill, comes Jack.
The children are back. The children are back.
I like it when they get together
and talk in voices that sound
like apple trees and grape vines,
and some of them wear hats
and go to Arizona in the winter,
and they all like to play cards.
They will always be the ones
who say “It is time to go now,”
even as we linger at the door,
or stand by the waiting cars, they
remember someone—an uncle we
never knew—and sigh, all
of them together, like wind
in the oak trees behind the farm
where they grew up—a place
the hen house and the soft
clucking that filled the sunlit yard.
2010, First Words