To begin with, the women in my gene pool arenâ€™t exactly what youâ€™d call â€œnight owls.â€ AuntJ looked like sheâ€™d just spent a month with colicky infants when we met at the airport â€“ at the midnight witching hour of 10 p.m. (Granted, that is my bedtime too.)
My primary preparation project was the photomontage. I was to be given a bucket-load of photos featuring G.G. that spanned the past 87 years. As you can imagine, the majority of these gems had not yet been introduced to the digital age. No matter! This slideshow was to be a critical part of our remembrances. So Mom and AuntJ pushed forth into the living room at 11 p.m. ready to select their favorite Kodak moments. (Yup, I went there with the Kodak reference in my funeral post.)
Moments later the shrieking laughter began. â€œGood god! Grandma Welker is wearing a bucket on her head. Itâ€™s a bucket! Millinery you can then mop your floor with.â€
â€œWho the hell is this?â€ my mother asked her decade younger sister of the 1930s black and white pin-up beach photos. (Apparently my grandmother and her girlfriends fancied themselves synchronized Esther Williamsâ€™.) â€œWhere are all the labels? You know â€“ all those little typed notes that kept falling out every time you cracked a page.â€
And then our evening went to a very dark place.
â€œLetâ€™s do the math,â€ suggested AuntJ. She was helpfully noting we might need to know how many memories we needed. But clearly this was part of AuntJâ€™s grieving process â€“ Iâ€™m still debating denial or bargaining. So thereâ€™s 4 songs, at around 3 minutes each. 3-5 seconds per photo. Divided by 15, no wait. 20? 130? I thought 180.
How many post-graduate educated women does it take to solve a third-grade level math word problem? If you’re my family, I couldn’t tell you â€“ as that would involve more math… Twelve hours later, weâ€™re still mumbling numbers to herself and none of us got the answer right anyway. (152 slideshow photos.)
Approximately every third memory, someone would pause. â€œOh good grief! Weâ€™re gonna have to chop *her* out. <scissoring motion>â€ I made brief mention of the fantastic digital altering tools at our disposal. (Wasnâ€™t that the whole point of this exercise?) AuntJ eyed me suspiciously. â€œYou know, some of us live in a world of paper, scissors and tape. And we are HAPPY in our paper, scissors and tape world. Be gone with your gizmos.â€
Since the numbers game wasnâ€™t winning me any points, I tried to make myself a bit more helpful with song selection. I suggested â€œGrandma Got Run over by a Reindeer.â€ (It WAS her favorite Christmas carol.) But my family just looked at me like I was slightly off-kilter. Hey â€“ these are your genes people. Anyone suggest we put streamers on the urn hearse? (Youâ€™re welcome Abe.)
The urn hearse? Well, yes. But technically no. You see, the mortuary decreed that a vehicle must transport the deceasedâ€™s ashes to church. We all know Grandma far to well to allow any part of her near a hearse. So the ashes are arriving in a Buick. I am not making this up.
Grandma would still be mortified. I can hear her now. â€œOh, good grief! Put me in the back of the Honda and letâ€™s go!â€
Then AuntJ helpfully pointed out that we donâ€™t even know for certain that itâ€™s her ashes in the Buick chauffeured urn. But, itâ€™s the thought that counts. In any case, AuntJ quickly reminded us that when her time comes, she expects a sandwich-baggied trans-Pacific flight to Kauai, where she shall be scattered among the trails. (Sunny side only, please. None of this wash-away-with-the-rain for eternity crap.)
We were tired, the cell phone reception sucked (can you hear me now?), no one we were calling seemed to speak English â€“ except Uncle John who is deaf. This was going very well.
We were also hungry. Now, in the unexpected event you actually find food at my parentsâ€™ house, (my mother subscribes to the gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, sodium-free, taste-free variety of vittles) I HIGHLY encourage you to verify expiration dates before ingesting anything. (I think thereâ€™s some ice cream in the fridge that I bought on my first Christmas home from college.)
For example, as discovered when attempting to procure a plateful, did you know that Craisins do, in fact, expire? If the bag says, â€œBest By January 2011,â€ and it is presently January 2012 â€“ them dried cranberries are potpourri.
Finally, I found a container of what appeared to be dark-chocolate covered somethings. Chocolate. Covered. Soy beans. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
Aunt J took one look at my horrified expression and announced, â€œI got you covered girl. I smuggled in Health Bars. You need one.â€
An hour later, Uncle Mark arrived bearing a box of Seeâ€™s. Itâ€™s good to know familyâ€™s got your back in times like these.