I should have started this weeks ago at the beginning of my trip, but alas, I didn’t even think of it. I took a video camera, thinking I would create a visual document of my journey across the country and back, but frankly that was never going to happen. I’m a word person - not an image person.So here I am, nearing the end of this journey. For me, a fabulous, life-changing journey — though to others it might look quite ordinary.
Tonight, Thursday, July 13, I am in Overland Park, Kansas, a satellite of Kansas City. It’s a sweet looking village. The yards are big, each house individualized. That’s one way I judge neighborhoods — do the houses have their own look, their own style. They don’t have to be McMansions. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t. And I’m always curious about the way other people live.
I am staying at my cousin’s house. That feels so cool to say: “my cousin’s house.” As if I’m the sort of person who has extended family, a clan, my people. Is there really anything more valuable?? I think not. You who have many cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents in your life — you have no idea what treasure you possess. Or maybe you do. All I know is that it makes me incredibly elated to sit at the dinner table with this man I haven’t seen since I was nine years old, and just by looking in his face I know him deeply — on a blood level.
We both remember that summer when I was nine (or maybe 8) and he was 12 (or maybe 13). There were fireflies. And it was summer. And we were all in Connecticut. And the children played hide and go seek in the twilight. “It was the best summer of my childhood,” I tell him. And he agrees. We were children, running wild in an amorphous pack much like the four small dogs now running in his house, barking madly at someone walking along the street. (James Franco is just delighted to be running with this pack of bitches!)
“We let the clan go,” he said sadly when we were downstairs on the patio watching the dogs romp through the yard. “It’s so easy,” I agree, “to move away, to lose touch, to forget…”
“But it’s not too late,” he says. “No, it’s not,” I say. And we decide there will be a reunion. My brothers. His sister and brother. A nephew. A niece. Sons. Daughters.
We talk and talk and talk. My cousin, his delightful wife, and I. We eat salmon, cilantro rice, and salad. And we polish off two bottles of wine. The police chief (him) and the former criminal (me) and the wise woman (his wife). And we find we agree about everything. Trump is an incompetent idiot. Police officers’ jobs are to serve and protect. Marijuana laws are STUPID. And pedophiles — one of which he is currently dealing with — are sad and sick. And why don’t we have places for the mentally ill anymore? And we confess everything. In just a few hours we’ve covered the personal failures, the mistakes, the serendipitous paths we took to lead us here, where it is all somehow okay.
I see my uncles in his face. I see my history. Thousands of years of English, Irish, Norman, and Welsh. And here we are in the 21st Century, for God’s sake, living our lives. Rich in love. At least for right now.