Marolt: All in the family | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: All in the family

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

The party would have lasted well into the night, if we had a fire. But, the summer is a dry one and sparks are dangerous. It would be as foolish as it is illegal to light one and, so, we are left to try to reveal our innermost feelings of affection and gratitude for each other under the bright afternoon sun, looking one another in the eyes. The conditions are more suitable for discussing easier and more obvious things like the weather and what we've been doing with our lives since the last family reunion a decade ago, but we yearn for the more complex revelations and push forward.

The keg of beer helps.

Of course there was anticipation about the big event. We had a mixer the evening before; a quick event to help set the stage. It gave us a chance to size up the task ahead, to see who showed up, to prepare a game plan about who to talk to first at the picnic and about what. We wrote scripts in our minds to use to kick things off for when it counted. We formulated good questions to fire off. The few who wouldn't do this homework, we knew, would end up the life of the party, yet we couldn't help ourselves from feeling the need to be prepared.

One thing I learned, and I don't believe I was alone, was how to spell the Slovenian surname of my great grandmother: "Tekouchich." They tell me it's a common name where we are from. You pronounce it anyway you like. Everyone does. I think the concession was necessary for them to make friends way back when.

Nobody flew to the Marolt-Tekouchich family reunion. We are driving people with an instinct to do things the hard way. It's unstated that anything in life worth doing must involve suffering. It is a tribute to those who came before us, people who stood bent forward with shoulders arched back from carrying things they should have put in the cart that the team of horses eventually pulled up to the granary with half empty. We are a clan of martyrs, who move confidently forward in our self-inflicted pains confident that it will lead to something good someday, if only for the great grandchildren.

There is a pile of top soil at the edge of the grounds. I laugh with my grown children as we bet how long it will take the young cousins to discover this treasure and then which will win the award for dirtiest kid. Who knew it would be my son — a new addition to the young professionals of the working world, who tripped over a dog while reaching for a wobbly pass and land Superman style in the dirt — who would end up winning?

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A family reunion is too much to digest in one bite. It is easier said than done to get to know about 100 people you have known your entire life. It is a delicate balance of letting those whom you love know that all the precious moments of the past are held dear to your heart while at the same time keeping it unnoticed that you don't actually remember a thing. We nod and smile and listen until something clicks.

This is why we had ribs, flag football and a band at the once-a-decade celebration of relatives. As we watch the "marry-ins" dance carefree, these things buy time. Over the course of six hours you need more than beer and tequila shots to create space in your brain to collect thoughts into and pull out names that hopefully emerge in good enough condition to match to faces that have survived time. It's hard work and makes you realize the monumental task Apple has to make reliable scanners to identify us upon sight, not just after we have combed our hair, but also after standing in the hot sun all afternoon without drinking enough water.

As it is, we are hastily circling the grounds around the eponymous museum on the outskirts of town that used to be a barn where our ancestors stored hay and worked on machinery and told jokes in between shoeing the horses and harvesting potatoes. We are in a hurry to make our ways to say goodbyes to each and everyone at the party. It's not that we don't want to stay all night and talk until those we love and hold dear and might not see again for another 10 years know precisely how we feel. It's simply a matter of practicality. The sun has set, it's getting cold and, in our anticipation despite all good intentions, we forgot to bring jackets.

Roger Marolt believes firmly that family reunions are worth all the suffering they entail. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.