This past Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my wife and I drove—south to north—up Interstate 35. We started in San Antonio and ended up in the beautiful village of Georgetown, Texas, my hometown and the place my father and stepmother live their idyllic lives as retirees.
Of course, there was food—they don’t refer to Thanksgiving as “turkey day” for nothing—so we ate it. And we drank. And we sat around long after the vittles had been consumed and were snaking through our digestive systems. And while we sat and let the nutrients do what nutrients do, we talked and laughed and reminisced and smiled at one another across the dining room table.
Off and on, between gorging ourselves in ways that distended our already distended bellies, we watched football and took discreet naps while sitting heavily on a couple of large L-shaped sofas.
We woke up Saturday morning and Janie, my stepmother, suggested that we drive up to Burnet, a town located in what Texans call “the Hill Country,” to visit Jacky, my dad’s youngest brother, and Johnnie, his wife and survivor of cancer, a disease that had caused her to lose her hair but none of her spunk. Everyone thought it was a great idea.
Everyone in the family knows and openly talks about how Jacky has become something of an eccentric. He doesn’t like to leave his house very often except to hunt and fish. He gets up at 4 a.m. every morning and is obsessively clean to the nth degree and beyond. In fact, he has a large workshop behind his house and those who’ve seen it jokingly say that a person could eat a meal off its concrete floor.
The result of all this was that I expected our visit to be somewhat awkward. This expectation was exacerbated by the fact that this would only be the second time I’d seen my aunt and uncle in the last twenty years. So I sort of knew what to expect but sort of didn’t too.
After an hour of driving, we found ourselves in a wooded area not far from Lake Buchanan. We parked in the driveway, were met by Jacky and Johnnie in the front yard, and then were escorted through the house and out the back door where we all took seats on a lovely screened back porch. I spotted a rustic rocking chair and made a beeline toward it. We all took our seats and then began to ooh and ah about our surroundings.
The backyard was huge with several large cottonwoods and oaks, all of them shedding leaves in the autumnal breeze. Johnnie said something about how this was their favorite place to sit and be still and quiet. She also mentioned how this was medicine for her psyche. She said they ate out here and even slept out here when the conditions were right. I understood how all this could be true as I felt myself decompressing and unwinding.
There was a large and melodious wind chime hanging next to me and I mentioned how pretty it sounded. Johnnie then told the story of how they’d come to own it. According to her, on the day they were coming home from her mother’s funeral, Jackie, knowing that his wife was feeling profoundly sad, stopped at a roadside market and bought it while she sat in the car. Upon returning to the vehicle, he handed it to his wife and said, “This is a little something from me. I hope you’ll think of your mother when you hear it.”
So, on the afternoon of our visit, we sat and listened to the chime while Johnnie told this story. One or two times, during her telling, she paused and wiped, using the back of her hand, a tear a two that had rolled down her cheeks.
It was a sad story but a beautiful day, made even more so by wonderful fellowship among kin and kindred spirits.