I don't attend high school reunions. Never ever have I been to a college reunion. Correspondence class reunions are best done by email anyway. There is, however one type of reunion I've been unable to avoid, the family reunion. Now most of the reunions of my own family are the dark little get togethers we call funerals. I say hello to those I remember, take a tally of who's dead and who the survivors are. In most cases, you can be done before the second verse of Amazing Grace or I Did It My Way, depending on the religious choices of the deceased. A few hugs later, invitations to visit, both given and received are concluded with all parties knowing they will never be honored. Time has gotten away from all of us. That's my family. My lovely wife, on the other hand, has family that expect you to show up when invited. Yankees have such quaint ideas.
Let me explain. Because I've been working pretty much nonstop this year, almost all of my accrued vacation time is still there. It must be used before the end of the year. Use it or lose it. Because my lovely one, who never took a day off she didn't like, has used up most of her vacation time, there was no way she was letting me vacation solo. "Book sales checks are coming in slower. You need a fresh, new title out to stir up interest and sales. This vacation may be yours, but the weekends are mine," she cooed. "You're going with me to my reunion. Be good, finish the new book and I'll make it worth your while." Translated that meant my week off nursing work would now be a writing sweatshop with a little hot tubbing thrown in if I appeased my slave driver wife. What choice did I have? I'm a sucker for hot tubs.
Things went pretty smoothly at first. The drive up went well with sunshine most of the way, at least until it turned dark. We're not known as the late Vaughn family for nothing. By the hour
we got to the hotel, there was only time to get checked in, order a pizza and collapse. No hot tubbing tonight! Fellows, if you make a deal with your wife, get it in writing. If it involves work on your part, burn both copies of the agreement after you collect your end. Just friendly advice from a man who has been there and done that. Breaking keto, by the way, with pizza would haunt me later.
I have to say, the reunion went well by my standards. Everyone flocked to trade tales with my lovely wife Pamela, their lovely cousin. Why are there so few uncles and aunts at reunions I attend?
Because I'm old and they're dead. Duh! Anyway, the food was good. Even though all of it was not keto
friendly, I managed to avoid the cornbread and cup cakes. One of the other men kidnapped by his wife for this little party was a fellow gun enthusiast, so there was good conversation of Colt Pythons, Uberti pistols and gun engraving. Besides, since neither of us knew most of the other attendees, reliving old family squabbles, legends and lies was out. Come to think of it, I'd rather argue about whether a Remington Model 700 in .30-06 caliber is an adequate round out to 500 yards for deer instead of topics such as who do you think Billy's daddy really was? We were having a good time discussing firearms, when I saw tubs and tubs of something being hauled into the dining hall. "Great," I thought, "More food. Maybe it'll be keto."
Well, it wasn't keto. It wasn't even food. It was photographs by the tub. Photographs by the pound. It never fails. You have a reunion and someone won't be happy until they have you crying over some 50 year old photo of dead Aunt Tilley lying in her coffin. Southern folks are like that. We want evidence that the dead are really dead. Nothing like a coffin shot for evidence. I suspect some relatives,
before modern undertaking slapped a smile on every stiff's face, were looking to see if Aunt Tilley left the earthly plane smiling at her vision of heaven or frowning on the hell she fell into. Again, southerners are like that. We live by faith, but we look for proof, because we care. Yankees only worry whether Aunt Tilley left them something. Boy, did she ever!
"Friends and family, said cousin Mortie, "These photos are duplicates from my collection. If you're in a photo or know someone who is, or just want one, help yourself." "Sweetie," we probably need to be heading out so we can get to the motel before dark," I coaxed my dear wife. "You're not getting out of here until every last photo is divvied up. These are priceless family history," Pamela replied, "I want my share." Dumping a pile of photos in front of me, she commanded, "If it's Dad, Mom, Randy, Tasha or me, grab it." There was no getting around it. I'd already been fed, so the only way to get on to the hot tubbing was to get the photograph sorting out of the way. Digging through my pile, I passed everything unwanted by my baby to one of a multitude of cousins to my left. There were sunrises, sunsets, umpteen thousand smiling babies interrupted by pix of various dogs, cats and other forgotten pets. Squirrels, bears and hogs were in the lot. Apparently, there once were some hunters in the wife's family. "I wonder if they kept any of the guns from all these photos?" I half muttered to myself. "Naw, came the voice of Mortie, "those old Colts, Winchesters and Smith & Wessons got gone years ago. I can get you a price on Granny's RG .22 short pistol if you're interested." "Thanks, but no," I said. "I couldn't make you part with a family heirloom like that." Just my luck, I thought. Then it happened.
Pulling an ancient brown envelope from the stack of photos, dumping the contents, I expected more smiling babies or squirrels. How wrong I was. Instead, I was shocked to find a very different type of baby, or should I say babe? Looking up from decades past was a smiling beach bunny in a bikini. Not just any bikini, mind you. She rocked one that bared enough skin to get into early issues of Playboy. Directing my attention from her stack to the other stack, photos I mean, I found several more bathing suit shots along with a single nude. From the letter I deduced the photos were the wartime treasure of Aunt Tilley's husband, Joe. Since I already had permission to take any photos I wanted, I pocketed these, letter and all. No need to embarass the family. All I can say is that Joe, a proud member of the greatest
generation, was a very lucky man indeed.
Later that night, hot tubbing with my own baby cakes, I showed her the contents of the envelope. "What I should do with the naked and nearly so photos of Aunt Tillie," I asked? "Burn them. Those photos were meant for Uncle Joe's eyes only. They should have stayed that way. It does get me thinking though. Isn't it time you expanded your personal collection?" Dropping her bathing suit, her body steaming in the tub, she tossed me my old school, noncloud era digital camera. "You know to erase them the minute we're done? Right baby?" Like every man alive since the dawn of photography, I lied. "Sure sweets, I'll be certain to delete them all." I only hope I'm dead before she finds the memory card stuffed with photos of some of our more intimate moments, or I will be dead for sure.
The ride home was filled with pain. Not so much from the thoughts of those left behind, nor from the burning of Aunt Tilley's wartime gift to Uncle Joe. Instead, the big toe of my left foot was on fire from a rapid onset of gout. I'm glad I got my hot tubbing in when I did.