Maps and Toll Roads

The last time I saw my mother’s sisters, together, was over 25 years ago.

I’m a terrible relative.

I actually saw my mother’s younger sister 18 years ago at my wedding.  I remember her daughter, my cousin Ginevra and how lovely she is (not was…is!).  However, I am ashamed to admit that I don’t remember Aunt Kristin or her husband, my uncle Jack.

The last time I saw the entire Illinois half of my family, though, was at Thanksgiving in 1991.

Geez..I really am a terrible person.

I also have to confess that I never sent out thank you notes for my wedding gifts.

I really am a terrible person.

I didn’t mean to allow time and distance to carve out such a gap between my family and me.  Given that shortly after I married my career took off and then, two years later, I gave birth to my son, I really fell short of time.

And then I have to admit I was ashamed that I had never written the thank you cards for my wedding gifts.

I wasn’t trying to be remiss or rude.  I was being a forgetful, exhausted idiot who felt so embarrassed about being a forgetful, exhausted idiot that I thought hiding would make things better.

Hiding didn’t improve a damn thing.

Fortunately, I have a forgiving family who overlooked my idiocy and loved me for my idiocy.

Several years ago, I realized that I hadn’t seen my family members in decades.  And after the flush of a renewed round of embarrassment, I decided that it was time to make an Odyssey out west and start fixing all the mistakes I had made.

I still haven’t written the thank you cards for my wedding gifts.  But maybe I can find another way to write thank you cards.

It took me a while to find my courage, but I did.  I grabbed it in both hands and shoved it in my pockets and used my phone to look up my aunt and found her name and a phone number that I thought belonged to her.

I had to google my own family because I had allowed time and distance to create too large of a gap for me to leap.

I forced myself to overcome my phone anxiety and called a random phone number that may or may not belong to my aunt.  I walked across a parking lot and pretended that I looked completely normal while I had a terrific anxiety attack and listened to the phone in the middle of the United States of America ring.

I think I left a message.  I likely stumbled my way through words that fell out of my dignity and left a staining impression of the woman I am always and never want to be.

Within a minute, my phone rang and I could hear my aunt’s voice calling over time and distance but, in reality, I also heard my mother, my beautiful wonderful mid-western accented mother who, in spite of her perfect German, still sounds like she lives in Chicago.

I walked through the grocery store, likely talking way too loudly, but in minutes the reconnection started.



They all broke apart and the gap I thought yawning between us was never there except for in my own broken imagination.

I walked through a grocery store and bought soft sugar cookies and snacks and I have no idea of what else but I just kept on walking up and down aisles as I forgot what anxiety meant but still couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing soft sugar cookies would be to calm my trembling nerves.

In five days, I will be driving to the Chicago area and stay with my aunts.  I will find the yellow brick road of memories and dance.

I will collect stories.

I will go back to the zoo where my love for dolphins was ignited.

I will go to my grandparents’ graves and say good-bye one more time.

I will take my daughter to meet her family for the first time.  She is 13 years-old and has never met most of my family.

Fortunately, the family tree’s roots are strong.

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