Location: marengo, il, United States

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Unraveling

The idea of a family reunion caught fire with Douglas Jennings. He is a most-delightfully kind and cheerful person, this brother-in-law of mine. He was born the fifth of six children, and aptly called the Last One during the first few years of his life. That allegation suited everyone until an unscheduled smaller brother came along. The new baby then became known as the Very Last One.

Douglas has been married now for a respectable number of years, and works steady as a commercial artist. He and his beautiful wife have produced two fine daughters together. Both girls are meticulous and brilliant like their mother, and yet each one is as pleasant and gentle as their father is. This lovely family of four now resides near-by in a new home they just recently purchased. His family and mine are close, and we all stay in touch.

Douglas slowed down to take a breather during their hectic moving-in stage. He then looked around his up-dated space while wondering, I have plenty of room now; what if we held that over-due Jennings family reunion here?

He quietly proposed the notion to his wife as they worked outside one weekend, planting new shrubs and spring flowers. She then thought out loud to her husband, “Why, we could rent a large tent and set it up by those trees over there. The table for the food would be in the shade, and everyone could enjoy the nice weather. But we are going to need lots of lawn chairs, and some of those large umbrellas.” Soon her dark eyes started to dance and sparkle as the fire the couple so affectionately kindled began to grow vigorously.

Within days a wild inferno had spread itself halfway across the country, reaching as far away as the deserts of Arizona. There, a young pair of over-heated inhabitants quickly invested cold cash for two air fares. Then the flame lit and ignited in two separate places up in Michigan. Schedules from that state seemed to feed the blaze as more arrangements were made, and so the conflagration increased.

Sparks jumped next down to the southern end of Illinois where hot whirlwinds began to twirl and twist about. Before the week was done, parts of Florida heard the news and wanted in.

While his wife placed telephone calls to local rental centers and caterers, but before any shopping excursions could take place, Douglas pulled out a calculator to recheck the math. He then shared this remarkable piece of information with his wife. They both carefully studied the total amount before deciding on a specific portion. Next, they allowed each of the far-flung family to know of this sum and how each person could help defray costs. This minor fee (major prudence on their part), they both agreed, would keep the hosts solvent only if everyone in the clan kept to the main road, finance-wise.

Ruination then came storming out of the woods, dressed as a cheap twenty-dollar bill.

One of the sons had planned on driving a van filled with little Jennings all the way from southern Illinois to the big meet. But after he counted heads to be transported and did the multiplication, he changed his mind. When Arizona found out, dominos began to topple as flight plans crashed. Michigan slammed its doors next while Florida went silent. Only a faint trace of dust now floats above the old homestead in down-state Illinois.

Douglas sounded almost relieved as he relayed the news to us over the phone.

“You guys want to come over next weekend? Just bring a few chairs and maybe a small salad.”


Anonymous Ned said...

It might just be me, but it sounds like an excellent way to avoid having too many family reunions - just plan 'em big and send everyone a bill.

I do actually like the occasional family get-together, kinda catch up and reconnect and then, in a mad grasp for sanity, run straight back home and ignore them again for a while.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Did I mention how smart Doug is?

Ned, I guess I saw way too many TV shows depicting bad family reunions. The last time I went to one (the kind where kin brought their own recipes so they could experiment on us others), I could barely raise up on my tiptoes high enough to see what sort of fare laid on the food tables. I spied a plate-full of halved boiled eggs, smeared on top with some devilish concoction, but no one saw me watching those eggs. Later, in a quiet spot under a large oak, I ate every one.

Last month, and over a century later, I had a sudden urge to eat more again. They tasted pretty good, too.

7:39 PM  

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