Family Ties

Every year my grandmother puts together what is called the “Barbour Family Breakfast”.  What started out with just a few relatives meeting for breakfast has now turned into 40+ relatives coming together for a few hours in the morning – some even bring their spouse & children, and they all catch up with each other, and also share those precious memories .. they hold on to, but also pass down to others .. like me.

I’ve only been to a few of these get togethers, but I’m grateful for each one I attend, as each year I feel like I can put together more of the puzzle, the family tree, that my grandmother has kept in tact all of these years.  All of these years, she tells me about the memories she has with her parents, and the stories her parents would tell her when they were young.  And then, she tells me about 2nd and 3rd cousins, and their spouses and children, and she updates me on each life, with just a snapshot she holds in her hand..and I suddenly feel like I’ve known them my entire life.

When I walked through Tom & Sues door Saturday morning, I was greeted by so many happy faces, and just knowing that I was somehow related to each one of them put a smile on my face!  Sue was an exceptional hostess, making Mexican hot chocolate as we entered into her DREAM kitchen!  I stood back for a moment, taking in all of the chitter-chatter, watching as each person exchanged hugs, smiles, laughter, and I thought about my own luck in being part of such a loving, caring and extraordinary group of people.

While I stand in line, trying to decide from the various dishes what to eat, Aunt Jean passes me by, she whispers in my ear, “Sandra said this is a Cinco De Mayo Celebration”. “Yes”, I tell her, “Isn’t this great.!” She looks at me, smiles.. walking away, she stops and says, “Wait, I’m not Mexican.”  I giggle softly to myself, and continue down the counter of delicious food .. taking a small spoonful of a few different breakfast casseroles, and some fresh fruit.  My husband has already fixed his plate of food and has saved me a seat next to him.  I catch up with Amy, whom is one of my many cousins, who I also met at the last breakfast, and have now become “facebook” friends, and now, we are visiting.. as if no time has gone by. I listen to Aunt Jean, who is entertaining our table of 8, telling us about a conversation she had with one of the guys who live in the same Assisted Living Community as her. “Well, I told him I was going to a party this morning..” She looks so innocent as she goes on with the conversation, “He asked if there would be male strippers there.”  I’m thinking to myself, “Are you kidding me, who in their right mind.. would ask someone of her age, such a question!” Aunt Jean goes on, “I told him, well gosh, I don’t know.. but I sure hope so!” We all are laughing, trying not choke on our food.. as she goes on with the “next” story, she is full of all sorts, and that is when I start to wonder.. is that where I get it from??  Nate always teases me about “my stories”

I take some time and walk around to the 4 other tables of people, listening to conversations.. rehashing old memories, stories of those who have passed on, grandchildren being born, going to college.. some grandchildren who have their own families.. I meet Brock, whom I remember my grandmother telling me about.  He is recently married and come to find out, he and I are both the “oldest” grandchildren in our own respective families.  Of course, he & I are related – and we try to figure it out .. but it’s okay, we are related and that’s all that matters.

I venture outside, Sue & Tom’s backyard is (literally) just as beautiful as a park, the yards landscaping is immaculate with tall trees, various colorful flowers, a walkway that leads you down to a cute little bridge with a shallow stream of water that runs through it.  I catch up with Holly, we talk about St. Bernards, her vacation in Cali and our upcoming vacation to Europe. Her son Jake leaps over the water, just barely making it with the tips of his heels touching the edge of the stream.  He goes again, telling us this time – he’ll jump farther, and he does.. the little girls are busy picking up flower petals from the ground, bringing them down to float in the water.. they are enamored by how quickly the stream carries each petal away .. and they continue to gather more to throw into the water.

It is almost noon, and I’ve lost track of time, wishing for just this moment, time could stand still and I could spend just a little while longer.  I know it will be probably at least another year before I’ll see everyone again, and there will be new stories to be told, mixed in with the favorite old stories as well.  I walk back up to Sue & Tom’s home, snatch both my Aunt Barb & Aunt Dina for a quick picture together.  We walk back inside only to take yet more pictures together with my granny, my aunt patsy .. these are the memories I’ll keep with me.. These are the relatives I will continue to build relationships with.. these are my Family Ties.


A Thousand Words

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few Of My Favorite Things.  I chose to write about a black and white picture of my Aunt Dina and I.  I had only seen part of this picture in my baby book, and I had always wanted to know just who had been on the other side.  It was such a mystery to me and one that I never thought I would solve.  Thankfully, my great Aunt just happened to have a copy of this picture.  I will never let this picture escape me again, and so it sits on the top of my dresser among good company of a few other cherished photos. This picture, a part of my past, in ONE piece, is definitely one of my favorite things.

The picture was titled,”Heather at 3 Years old”.  The email message, short and sweet: “Heather, I was scanning some old pictures and found this one. Enjoy! Love, Mom.” I clicked on the black and white picture, a part of my past but only half the picture remained, I wondered who was cut out of my childhood.  She was notorious for cutting people out of her life. Our family photo album slowly diminishing..forgotten by her and her favorite pair of scissors.

The picture was titled, “Heather Isabel & Aunt Dina”.  The letter, nothing but sentimental: “Heather, she loved and still loves you so much, you guys were attached at the hip! Love, Aunt Patsy.” I held this picture, my past, in my hand..I was HER ballerina girl.  She let me play make-believe, held me in her arms,  counted stars with me, and showed me how to tell time.  She braided my hair, sewed matching dresses for me and my “Really Baby” named Lisa Marie, and watched and sang along to Annie with me. She was my stability..  taken away from me.

It’s my wedding day today and I know she’s not coming.  This is the picture, I wanted to cry because I missed her only for that moment. I wished she could see her daughter in this dress, getting married.  The photographer sensed my sadness and forced smile, “That veil, it must have been expensive..”, he says to me.  I remember my grandmother saying to me, “I want to pay for your wedding dress and veil, it would mean so much to me!” Today, she will stand before us and talk about Family.   She will remind me that family is aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, great uncles.  She will light the same candle that’s used to light up our Unity Candle.  She sat quietly in the very last row of her own daughter’s wedding.  She was barely seen or heard, but those were my mother’s wishes. “Yes”, I tell him, “My grandmother got it for me!”  I look out the window, knowing she will not be there, those who love me are waiting to share this special day with me.  I smile, knowing this moment of sadness is gone.

She was there when I stepped off the plane, waiting for me at the gate, no longer a little girl but a young woman, trying (once again) to find her way.  She showed me how to stand up for myself, set some needed boundaries,  and that I’m more than just a pawn in someone elses game.  I’m a person who deserves to love and be loved. She was there when I chose my wedding dress, when I walked down the aisle, when I said “I Do”, and when I moved into my very first home. She was there when I needed someone to tell me, “It’s okay, in her heart, she does love you..she just has an odd way of showing it.” 30 years have passed since the snapshot reunion of a little girl and her long lost aunt.  Parts of my childhood might have been torn into mysterious pieces, but that does not mean those I’ve loved were ever truly cut out of my life.

After the wedding ceremony, Her daughter tells me, “You were so pretty today Heather, you made my mom cry.”  This time, they are not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and love… A love that is never lost or forgotten, regardless of the missing years in between.

Heather Decker


The List


His  “To Do” List
Take girlfriend to the Boise airport 7AM
Make the bed
Wash the dishes
Reserve party of 3 for dinner tonight

Her “To Do” List
Stop at nearest coffee stand for a latte
Meet Grandma at the Portland airport
Drive new car with Grandma back to Boise to meet boyfriend
Call Russ and remind him of his “To Do” List

An Unfinished “To Do” List
Bed in disarray
scattered dirty dishes cover the kitchen counter
“Reservations?” A declined credit card…
Grandma pays for dinner

Grandma’s “To Do” List to me
Buy Rope for car
Stock trunk with bottled water
Granola bars, don’t forget the blanket
Break up with Russ

I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I remember my grandmother taking out a pen and a piece of paper and telling me, “Heather, write down this “To Do” list” I paused for a moment as she said “Break up with Russ”, shocked, at her honesty.  She could see my hesitancy and so she said ,”Go on, write it down”, as if this list was just something ordinary.  So, I wrote it down, “Break up with Russ” She was truly sincere about the feelings she had toward him.  For some reason, I didn’t take offense to what she said, like I had all the other times my own mother criticized him.  Maybe it was because I genuinely cared about what my grandmother thought and valued her opinion.  I knew she loved me and she wanted the best for me.  She knew I could do better.  Shortly after our visit, I finished that To Do list, and I broke up with my boyfriend. That was just the start though – I realized (soon after that) I wanted so much more out of my life.  I wanted to finish school, I wanted to  reconnect with my father and a family I had been taken away from for more years than I want to account for.. I wanted a NEW LIFE .. A NEW TO DO LIST!

Taking control of my life and making decisions for myself was one of the first “To Do’s” on my list. During a 15 minute break, I called my aunt barb and told her I wanted to change my life, and maybe I would take some classes at BSU part-time and keep my job at Alaska Airlines. I’ll never forget what she told me, “You need to go to college full-time if you want your life to change.” She told me I shouldn’t limit myself to just Idaho, that I should come to Washington and look at schools in that area too, and she would help me.. she would set up all of the visits and all I had to do was come to Seattle for the weekend.  I remember getting off the phone, going back to my desk…looking at my co-worker Dustin and saying, “My life is about to change.”  I was so scared to leave it all behind.  Moving to a city much bigger than Boise, making new friends, living in a new home with my Aunt Dina & Uncle Nick and cousins, working at the SEA-TAC airport until school started in the fall, so much change in such a small amount of time.  I was able to spend some quality time with my dad, as he flew down to Boise, helped me pack all my stuff up and drive me to Seattle.  It was a great drive, getting to know him, and sharing stories back and forth.  I remember feeling a little sad and helpless as he brought up the last box, telling me goodbye.. this was my first night in Seattle, staring at my new room full of unopened boxes, I was a little unsure of what had just happened. I remember wondering and hoping that I had made the right decision to leave Boise.  The next morning, my Aunt Barb took me to breakfast at the Varsity (which would become one of my favorite places to have breakfasts with my family), she reassured me that this was the right decision and my life was going to change, and to enjoy every minute of it, because once college started – it would go by quicker than I ever imagined.  And, she was right, it did! I already had a good friend (Ormond) who had transferred from Boise to SEA-TAC and he was my familiar face at Alaska Airlines, and he introduced me to so many more people – we had some great times out together.  I did get lost a few times, learning my way around Seattle (This was before GPS), my Aunt Dina helped me remember where I was going .. with some “creative” songs & stories, I still remember a few of them today.   I absolutely loved living with my Aunt Dina, Uncle Nick and the girls.  They were like the family I always wished I had, they all  love each other and take care of each other.  I’m so glad to have spent that time with them before going to school.

College changed my life in more ways than I ever thought possible.  This is where I met my husband, just as my aunts said that I would.  And, to their own doing, we met at a football game that I didn’t even want to attend, but my Aunt Dina signed me up and told me I was going.  He is my best friend, the love of my life, my prince charming. We’ve been married for almost three years now, and this weekend will be the first weekend that my grandmother will be coming over to see our first house together.  Nate is already making sure the fridge is filled with foods she will enjoy, that we have a variety of tea for the mornings and even some coffee / latte t-discs for my Aunt Dina who will also be visiting.  “I’m going to move the Play Station back upstairs,” he tells me, “Because your grandmother will be here this weekend, and I want the living room to look nice.”  Without even asking, without even giving him a “To Do” list, he is making his own “To Do” list, because that’s just the kind of husband he is.

I would like to think that after our visit this weekend,
my grandmother will have a “To Do” list
for me that might read something like this:
Pull remaining weeds in the back yard
Plant at least one veggie in your garden
Water the roses