Too far down the road to St. Louis to turn back, my husband and I remembered our camera sitting on the desk at home. Not the best way to begin a trip to see our six children and their families, my Indiana cousin and sister-in-love, my New York aunt and sister before reaching our ultimate goal: My brother’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration.
So many people we see so infrequently and so dumb to have forgotten the camera.
I bought a small digital camera.
Equipped and ready, we took three pre-schoolers to sample doughnuts. My husband soon had the littlest grandchild eating out of his hands while the other two reached over each other for doughnuts shaped like snowmen and others with sprinkles, nuts or chocolate. Sticky faces and sticky fingers washed off all evidence of our outing, but the camera retained their mischievous grins and satisfied smiles. Back at the house, the grandbaby cuddled down with his grandpa and gave the camera a toothless grin.
I aimed the camera at his mom and aunt working in the kitchen. They laughed knowingly, “these pictures will end up on next year’s family calendar.” Possibly – along with shots of their husbands swapping stories and the four-year-old sporting his funny hat.
Our only failure to photograph, happened the next day at my husband’s sister house. Having a cozy chat in their living room on a cold wintry night, we did not venture back outside to retrieve the camera. We left instead with mental snapshots of a pending adoption, her son’s new job and their recent remodeling projects.
Mid-morning, my cousin rushed out to welcome us, eager to share family mementos and to re-connect. My husband clicked a couple shots of me with her. We both left knowing each better than we had through our e-mails.
We ended the evening in Elkhart, Ind., laughing and munching holiday goodies with 10 other members of the clan. The two-year-old danced joyfully, the infant refused to be wakened from his deep sleep, the adults exercised or laid plans for their proposed post-holiday resolution to lose weight and I added pictures to my photo card.
Our son in the Detroit area wanted help installing a ceiling fan. My husband had packed tools for that purpose. I twiddled my thumbs between shots of them working together and later took a couple of my son catching a lobster at the meat market before we headed south to Pennsylvania.
The next morning the grandson showed off his skills bouncing on a ball, his sister showed me the T-shirt she had elaborately altered and the little sisters assembled my husband’s craft of the day – wooden 3-D puzzles – in the blink of an eye. When I asked for a group family shot, I saw energetic Hershbergers exploding all over the couch. I kind of like that pose and its contrast with my New York sister’s quiet perch in her lounge chair. Across the room, her house cat also lounged deep in the presents.
At my nephew’s house, I could not decide whether to watch my sister make cookies with her grandchildren or visit with my nephew and his wife. I did both and continued clicking. Then the children borrowed my camera and added their viewpoint of our day. Our visit ended with shots of the little ones playing their small violins and cello. The next day, the other nephew’s daughter joined us and sang out strong and clear the song she had performed for the church program.
While we waited for that evening’s gathering, my sister pulled out a jigsaw puzzle to my husband’s great pleasure. He fitted pieces while my sister pulled out a lap quilt so she and I could maintain our tradition of working on a quilt every time we meet.
Too soon, the our journey drew to a close at my brother’s anniversary party. My aunt met us at the door and together we visited with my niece, nephews and their families.
After a night at my aunt’s house we headed home to make plans to go south to catch-up with three more granddaughters and take them shopping with the cash gifts family members had sent with us. They loaded up with clearance sale items marked 50 and 75 percent off. At the end of the day they posed with their arms loaded and hands stuck out asking for more from my husband who pulled out his pockets to show he had nothing left.
By time it was all over, we had collected another 500 family pictures – a truly grand way to break in a new camera and start a new year.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)