Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Its a Family Affair II

Event Two: Twin Billings

My wife is upset at me as I weave in and out of traffic. I do not want to be late today since I was instructing everyone to arrive early, and time is not on my side. I just want everything to go smoothly and be a memorable afternoon.  It is not every day that my mother turns 70, and its certainly not every day that she gets to spend her birthday with her twin sister. Last August I took my wife to the Crabtree Kittle House for our anniversary dinner. I had heard about the place, an old farmhouse which then turned into an inn and now its a restaurant, but did not know anyone who has eaten there. We loved the food, the old style feel to the place and the grounds are beautiful. We complemented the hostess about the meal and she began to describe their famous Sunday brunch. My wife immediately suggested that this place would be great for my mother's 70th party. We floated around the idea for months, until a day in early spring when my uncle from Dallas emailed me about doing something festive for the twin's 70th. Like a shelved movie project that suddenly got financed, the idea sprouted legs and after a few conversations got green lit. 

We arrive on time and walk inside. It is very hot outside and the rush of air conditioning felt satisfyingly refreshing. My parents and my aunt and uncle are already there and are excited about the place, the guests, and the makings of a lovely afternoon. Soon everyone arrives, kisses and hugs go around the room and pure joy from seeing long ago faces once again. The restaurant seems dark in contrast to the bright sunlight, except for the flashes from digital cameras capturing history. Eventually everyone gravitates towards the two large tables, and by total chance get split right down the middle, under sixty at one and over sixty at the other. The brunch is buffet style and of course my son is the first one to venture over and scope it out, crediting his "Club Med" experience, and I am a close second. As you enter the buffet area, your eyes are on recon and informs the taste buds to get in ready mode. To the left are the fresh baked breads, and muffins, and colorful cut fruit. Cauldrons of waffles, and French toast overflow the top and the scent of crispy bacon is almost a felony. Along the back sit plates of smoked fish, salads and a tower of raw bar. If you still have room on your plate you can sample the carving station, or a spoon of simmering pasta or rice.  My son and I walk back to our table passing the other guests along the way, their eyes fixed on our selections as they hurry by. I am polishing my plate and glance over to the other table, my mother and her sister are surrounded by family, reminiscing about the past, about which kid ate well and which kid barely slept, laughing and noting how fast time has gone by. My two year old niece calls over my mother to show her the cup of ice she is having with her pasta, and my mother is happy to acknowledge. My mother's cousin give each twin a photo album he crafted with pictures of them as kids, the grainy black and whites create a soft moment during the party. 

After we pour over the buffet and cannot eat anymore, the hostess informs us of the dessert plates that will soon arrive and if anyone wants coffee, or maybe an iced cappuccino, which made me raise my hand. Dessert is brought out, with two special plates with the words Happy Birthday written in chocolate. We sing Happy Birthday and I glance at my parents, I think of how they must feel, arriving at this point, through the struggles of raising four kids and making ends meet. How they managed their lives and how accelerated it must feel and then fall back into the pace of real time. As the smoke from the freshly blown candles rise and dissipate into the air, I glance at my wife and child, thinking how its been a blink in time since I met my wife and since my son was born. If I blink again, I could be me standing here blowing out the candles on my 70th. I take the moment to let the movement in space trickle down, almost appearing in slo-mo, the sound in the room muffles and I try to stop time. I feel a drip of sweat hit my eyebrow and I blink, causing the sound in the room to build and motion accelerate and just like that, I am back in real time. 

The party ends just like it began, hugs and kisses and joy to have seen long ago faces. Guests walk to their cars, and kids fighting to get strapped into their seats preparing for the ride home. I walk to my car and pull it out of its parking spot, cooling it off before my wife and son get in. I stop near the driveway and put the car in park. With my hands on the steering wheel, I stare straight ahead and travel back to when I first meet my wife and see my son. I try again to hold the moment, stopping time. The sound of a passing car causes me to blink, once more starting time moving forward. My wife and son get in the car and I drive home slower, no speeding necessary.


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