A friend of mine recently arranged a reunion for her family. She is in her 50’s and has not seen some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins since childhood. My own story is similar. I went to college, got married, and moved away. Funerals were the only time we got together, one aunt remarked. So she took it upon herself to plan a reunion, a cook-out at the state park. Now, before you read what happened and get all judgy, I’d like to make two statements in my own defense: At the time, I was slightly nearsighted (20/30, or maybe 20/40) and I was not wearing my glasses. Also, the pavilion where ‘my people’ were located wasn’t one of the ones readily visible from the parking lot. So, here goes:
THE BEAN SALAD PEOPLE
We hadn’t gotten together in years
unless funerals count,
so we made plans for a family reunion
at the state park.
Nobody under the picnic pavilions
looked familiar to me,
but we had been away a long time
and people change.
I spotted my mom tending the grill,
her backside anyway—
wispy brown hair, polyester shorts
that came to her knees.
I grabbed the bean salad I’d made
and on the way over,
my husband and I were intercepted
by a fat, jolly lady.
She took the bean salad from me.
“This looks delicious!”
she gushed, setting it on the table.
She pulled us into a hug.
I couldn’t place her… a great-aunt?
One I’d never met?
She said to load up our plates and
make ourselves at home.
I walked toward the grill instead
to say hello to mom,
but it wasn’t mom, just some lady
shooing flies with her spatula.
I knew the answer to my question
before I even asked it.
“Is this the Nieset family reunion?”
She shook her head.
Hubby’s bemused glare said it all:
Jesus H. Christ, Joan,
you don’t even know your own family?
WHAT? THE? HELL?
I went back to get the bean salad.
A few scoops were missing.
“Leaving so soon? You just got here!”
The jolly lady again.
“I goofed,” I said, my cheeks burning.
“Couldn’t you at least stay for a photo?”
She was persistent.
Dumbfounded, we agreed, and they
gathered around us,
everyone smiling and saying “cheese”
as the camera flashed.
After she’s gone, Jolly Lady’s children
will peruse her albums,
wondering who we are and how the heck
we ended up in their photo.
They’ll check the scrawled notation
on the reverse side and
where our names should be, it will say
The Bean Salad People.
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