Familiarity

Twice a year my mother, my father and I

put clothes in suitcases. We clean the house,

turn off all the lights,

and don’t forget to leave a note for the cat sitter.

Then we get in the car and drive to San Francisco,

where we get on an airplane

and sit for a while.

We get off the airplane,

hurry to our gate, and wait.

We get on another plane. Sit for a while.

Next we walk down the metal tube

called a jet way

into a small airport with fountains,

and yellow and green, and cheese.

Lots of cheese.

We used to see my grandparents waving

when we got off the plane

but then someone decided to fly a plane

into a building.

After that, they waited outside security.

Now, they don’t meet us at all, because

they are getting older.

So we take ourselves and our luggage

to the counter, and are handed some keys.

We put our luggage in the car,

and then my mom decides it won’t fit.

So we get another set of keys, and another car.

And we drive. We drive along

the two-lane highway that I’ve seen

a thousand times. Past the Packerland sign

and the Shell gas station where I heard

Barbara Streisand on the radio last Christmas

and the little strip of trees that I always forget

to point out to my mom.

I call my Gram and tell her we’re here,

and she tells me that my cousin

has been waiting at her house all day,

and asks what we want for dinner.

In the winter, we watch the houses

and count all the ones with Christmas lights

and I lose my mittens under the seat

and we listen to the same radio station

I heard in the background when I talked to Gram.

We go up a small hill, through a downtown,

and off the freeway. Then it’s another road.

Houses on the right, with no fences between them.

Open space on the left, so you can see for miles.

Past the high school, and we turn.

Past the church, the garden, the school.

The tennis courts. The other school.

And then we pull into the driveway, and go inside

and everything is just like I remember it.

I hug my grandparents,

and my cousin and I are disappointed

because we both thought we’d grown

more than the other.

And we crowd into the kitchen

and open all the bags of food,

and talk, and eat.

This uncle or that aunt will come at some point

and say they’re not hungry

as they finish off the chips

and the grapes

and my mom will agree, as she

eats a pickle and baloney sandwich.

Grandpa tells a story about

a plumber who fell off the roof twice.

My other cousin shows up

and shows us his new phone.

Sometimes the dog will come over

and race around and jump

and lick everyone.

I make plans to walk downtown tomorrow

and get ice cream, which I know will stain my shoes.

And everyone is happy.

We’re all full, and tired,

and we have three weeks of summer ahead of us.

Though it will not last forever, it seems endless now:

and that is what matters.





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