Carrie and Gabe arrived Friday night for a short visit that lasted until mid-day Sunday. I was regalled with gifts for Christmas and Mother's day, as well as some presents for the dogs. We had a very nice time talking and playing a board game called "Therapy," which they had brought with them. We cooked a wonderful meal for dinner and Gabe made French toast and ham for breakfast Sunday morning. I showed them the new gallery space and we took a ride around Eastport to re-acquaint them with the town.
I had asked Carrie to bring along the photo albums that Phil and I kept as the kids grew up. I've wanted to look at them again for some time since Phil took them when we broke up the house on Parkview Ave. Eventually he gave them to Carrie. I felt that they really belonged to us, as parents, and then to me once he gave them up. Then they will go to Carrie and Jesse, either because I die or because I want them to have them sooner. I guess I thought it was the "way things are done," in the proper sequence. I got my baby album along with the older family albums after Jeannette died. Before that I often looked at them when I visited her, which seemed like the place to do it. In any case, Carrie turned them over to me, willingly if I am to believe her.
Late Saturday night Carrie and I took a brief look at the albums together. Amazingly, I didn't find myself feeling sentimental about by-gone days. I wasn't even slightly nostalgic. The pictures brought me very happy memories of that time of my life, and no thoughts of any of the turmoil. Time seems to have erased the big and little frustrations, the conflict in our marriage, the problems I experienced as a stay-at-home mother. Our time as a nuclear family has become the record we have of it, full of birthday parties and trips, horseback rides, school plays and elementary grade music concerts. There we are on Christmases with my parents, smiling over gifts and turkey dinners. There we are, including my parents and Faith and Ray, watching Carrie and Jesse blowing out candles on cake after elaborately decorated cake. There we are with Mike in Florida, first with Fran and Amber, and later without them. There we are camping, going to museums, taking boat rides. There we are at Disneyland with Phil's mother, visiting with Phil's father and his various wives. There are first days of school, parades, Brownie and Cub Scout uniforms. There are first smiles, first sitting ups, first standing, walking, tricycles, bicycles, best friends. There are caps and gowns. There are art shows and prize ribbons. All of the houses we lived in are documented from day of purchase on. There are gardens, newly decorated rooms, various cars. There are cats and dogs we loved. There are school pictures of the kids wearing clothes I made for them, trees we decorated, presents we wrapped, meals we cooked. The albums are the story of our lives when we shared a life together under the same roof and the story is pretty, typically middle-class America of that time in history. The story recorded is that of a happy family.
We were a happy family when all things are considered. Despite how this family came apart, splintered, and flung us all out on our own to fend for ourselves, we all did pretty well. I'm sure we can attribute much of our success to that background we shared. For a period it was solid and dependable, predictable and comforting. The undercurent of trouble bubbled and often came to the surface, but we pushed it down successfully enough to make it through those years when we all needed each other to fulfill the dream we had.
Now we have other lives and other dreams. I love my life now, but I'm so thankful for that other life, and for the fact that I can remember it with such fondness.