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dear Kristin

I don’t suppose this is the Sunday paper you’re reading.  In fact, if Heaven exists, I doubt that you guys go through that weekly ritual of getting ink all over your fingers and toast crumbs in your sheets.

On the other hand, I suspect your media connection transcends Wi-Fi.  I think you’re in my head as I write this, amused as I spill coffee and tears on this longhand draft.  You have, if you will, On-High-Fi, and you’ve been tuned to the Yesrie channel since, ironically, Good Friday.

Most of the family gathered Friday night for a double birthday celebration, honoring your dad and Marilyn, and while it wasn’t Hearthstone, the event bore most of the hallmarks of our childhood holiday parties.  We cousins, a quorum of five, ran in a pack, talking about our parents and grazing the bountiful buffet.  (One member of the youngest generation was blissfully connected to his iPod for the entire evening.)  Marilyn’s daughter Dianne had arranged the whole thing, and she did a gorgeous job.  By the way, I was vastly amused to be back at the Knights of Columbus hall within a week!  (Not only had the dance floor survived the punishment it took last Saturday, it had moved to the front end of the room – perhaps in a desperate escape attempt.)

Loren – and I’ll deal with him later – was not in attendance.  He was sorely missed, but it’s generally conceded that Seattle is a long commute.  David and Brad arrived at le moment juste – in the parking lot, in time to be fully visible as their increasingly suspicious uncle pulled in.  David valiantly fibbed that they were looking for a good restaurant, but it was apparent to everyone that Willow Street is not normally the epicenter of fine dining in Westborough.  (On the other hand, local chef John made Friday the exception.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself in the chronology.  I arrived about 10 minutes past the appointed hour, characteristically anxious about joining a room full of people.  Thankfully, your eagle-eyed sisters spotted me and rushed to my rescue.  Stephanie!  Gretchen!  Each is now the best possible version of themselves.  These are funny, smart, warm women, and they’ve raised the next generation in kind.

I tapped Mom on the shoulder to register my presence and get the 411 on party strategy.  The guests of honor weren’t expected for a half hour, our hostess was pointed out, and I was instructed to remove the shoulder pads in my jacket.  (Thanks, Mom!  A little louder, so they can hear you in Seattle!)  I checked in with Dianne, bought some liquid courage and parked the offending jacket with my pocketbook.

Steph and I stood together, watching the last-minute preparations.  It was then that I learned of your death, Kristin.  While we as a family had been left to imagine what adventures you’d had in your years apart from us all, I can tell you that I always hoped we’d reunite.  I knew that if we did, you’d get hugs first, an unbiased ear second, and questions a lot later.

There was more and more physical distance between us as we grew up.  My first memories of you still carry potent emotions.  To me as an eight- or nine-year old, the sight of a todder in leg braces was difficult to resolve.  You shed them soon enough, and I believed the grown-ups when they assured me that you’d known nothing else.  You were a happy kid, and we were lucky to be born into a century when doctors knew how to realign limbs.  Still, little kids understand more than we think they do, and I was quite sure you must have noticed that no one else was sporting hardware.

The pack of us cousins got into all kinds of benign trouble on holidays, but I don’t remember you as a particular instigator.  If anything, I as the eldest got us started, with the able assistance of my sidekick, Steph.  We all flouted parental instructions (and common sense) by running around on the rotting floor of the barn’s second story.  Stephanie and I even snuck into the Mees’ pasture so she could ride their horses bareback!  (I was chicken, but I egged her on.)  I admired your beauty and, in your early teens, your killer wit.  And that was the last I saw of you – Pennsylvania – and I had to be content with infrequent reports filtered through the parents.

I hope it was quick.  I hope it was a successful escape.  I hope that you’d known love (apart from the familial kind), that you had lived the life you needed to, this time around, and that it was time to go.  I hope that there was some sense of… balance, regarding the particular day that fate stepped in.  And I don’t think I have to hope, I’m sure I know, that you had a huge welcoming committee when you crossed over.

~~~

The party reportage is spotty here, but I’m selfishly keeping some of the good stuff close to my vest.  I just need to give the shout-out to which I alluded earlier:

Loren, your little brother is a tattletale.  Braddy spilled the beans, and you are SO BUSTED for being a lurker here!  I’m absolutely astonished and thrilled.  Sorry that the entire month of March went undocumented.  I just have a rule that if there’s nothing to say, I won’t log on and say it :>  Think of it this way: I’ve spared you all from the tortures of a 5th grader’s diary (“Got up. Went to school. It rained on the way home. Had dinner”).  I have been collecting savory excerpts from classified ads, and just as soon as our weather decides to get with the program, I hope to stalk some nature shots with the trusty S2IS.  In the meantime, although I told Brad to remind you that the blog has a comments feature, I’m telling you now that you don’t have to say a word.  Put it through the grapevine, though, whenever you come east!  I hear Steph puts on a mean cookout, so I think we cousins and our families need to descend on her and see for ourselves.

I swore I wouldn’t do pictures in this entry, but that was then and this is now.  At the party, Mom read me the riot act on my penchant for taking funny candids as opposed to flattering portraits.  Doesn’t she know by now that no parental decree goes unchallenged?

the birthday boy

For (both of) you readers who are not part of the family: it was NOT a candid. He was mugging, and I rose to the bait :>

5 Responses to “dear Kristin”

  1. Steph Says:

    Leslie….the letter was more than I could take before my first cup of coffee, so I’m sitting here blubbering a little. It always amazes me that every family member has such a personal and unique perspective to lend to the entire collective truth that is “family”. Your snapshots are different than mine and stored in an entirely separate album…yet they connect us.
    I think each life is like this, at the very least dual in it’s content, perspective and connection to both the universe and the souls it came here with. I don’t know what Kris came here to do or be this time around….I do know that her body and her life were too infintesimally small to contain all that she is, and that she paid alot of debt this time around (and incurred some as well, no doubt). Through Judy Turner, Kris has had alot to say to me over the last year, some apologies, but for the most part messages of love and acceptance….that’s been my lesson this time around with her.
    Anyway….thank you so much for the letter. It was a surprise and a gift all at once. I love you.

  2. Yez Says:

    It probably wasn’t fair to surprise you with this entry without a bit more warning :-I  I love your image of snapshots in related albums.  I know there must be tons of anecdotes hiding in my cranium, but they wouldn’t emerge for this piece; I’m still adjusting my overview, I think, and those curling Polaroids will turn up later, in the back of musty mental drawers.

    I searched in vain for a scanned-in shot that Dad (or Uncle Mac) took of my Hearthstone cousins, back when there were only 4 of you.  I have the print, but pending major surgery on my own computer, we don’t have the scanner hooked up.  At any rate, you guys were lined up on a small couch in Grammy’s front corner room next to the driveway, and nothing could be cuter!  You have your trademark steady gaze and a Mona Lisa smile, at the advanced age of about 6.  (I’m sure that an executive decision had been made by the photographer to exclude the snaggletoothed, bespectacled 11-year old, and I applaud that in the name of all that’s artistically holy.)

  3. Nancy Says:

    Yez, that was a beautiful tribute to Kristin. And to your family :-)

  4. Gretch Says:

    Wow, that just about knocked me off my chair here at work this morning. I was not aware that you did didn’t know Leslie about Kris. You know I think of her every day, I talk to her often and I think she’s happier now then ever has been. I loved your letter. Steph, I’d love to hear about you’re talks with Kris through Judy Turner. Occationally I have dreams and she’s there in the distance waving at me. Thank you for your tribute Leslie!

  5. Yez Says:

    Nancy, thanks :-)  It was, and is, a wonderful family.  Not perfect – because, whose is? – but everyone had a good heart.  Even my “evil stepfather” had a lot to recommend him, when he let down his power-mad autocrat persona :>  Kris took off when she was a young adult and, to my knowledge, never really looked back.  Every 5 or 10 years I would hear that the family had been sent, or found, an address several years before.  Always too little, too late to have established contact, so she’s frozen in time for me.

    Gretch!  Welcome aboard :-)  As I told Steph at the party, I completely understand why I hadn’t heard the news.  The buffer of time made it a little easier (and Mom didn’t feel compelled to give a 4-hour lecture on the baby boom generation!).  I will always have 3 girl cousins on that side of the family – Kris has just moved again :>  I might actually hear from her now, if she chooses to visit in my dreams.  I hope so.

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