Saturday, October 3, 2009

Family Reunion

“So, how long has it been?”

“I can't remember, probably 40 years...”

“I think the last time was your brother Rick's wedding.”

“Yeah, that sounds right, that would have been 1972, I think.”

We're sitting in my cousin Bill's loft in the beautiful Western Auto building in downtown Kansas City. Merry and Joli and I are on our way to a week in the Sand Hills of northern Nebraska. We stopped for the night in Kansas City specifically so I could catch up with my cousin Bill Pitts who has lived out here for the last 30 years or so. Our trips to our shared hometown never corresponded over the years. My mom would occasionally mention that he had dropped by when I spoke with her on our weekly telephone calls. Before her death she suggested I try to see him, since we now lived in the same state, never mind it was opposite sides of that state. So here we were.

Bill, who is two years older than me, looks a lot like my younger brother Rick: same black hair, same bald spot (smaller than my brother's), same build, same basic complexion. When we met him in the lobby of his building Merry recognized him at once even though she had never met him before.

It would be an understatement to say the Pitts family has not been really close. Bill and I remembered some family gatherings at our summer place from the early 60s, but none since. The few family members of my generation all moved away from our home town, Hanover, PA, after high school and started lives elsewhere. There was not enough of whatever it takes to pull us back together.

After taking some time to tell each other the short version of the stories of our lives since high school, we headed out to eat at Lidia's, a signature Italian restaurant of Lidia Bastianich, host of Lidia's Italy on PBS. It's housed in an old railroad freight house that has been converted to a big, stylish, bright and busy place. The food is very good. I dug into a plate of three fresh pastas: a sweet potato ravioli, a spicy linguini and a bolognese rigatoni. We relaxed and expanded on our stories. I told them the catfish story [see:] and in return they explained the old Ozark tradition of the “sportsman.” It seems that when a southern Missouri good ole boy is out of work and somebody asks him what he does, he says he's a sportsman; you know, fishes some days, hunts or trains his hunting dogs on other days. His wife works.

After our leisurely dinner Bill gingerly eased his car through the packed streets of the Crossroads Arts District. A glam rock band was on a stage set up in a parking lot complete with smoke and sequins. “First Friday” was in full swing. The art galleries are open late. Restaurants and bars are hopping. A film flickers on the side of a warehouse. We saw a whole troupe of what appeared to be circus performers of some sort waiting to cross the street in full costume, complete with two costumed miniature horses. KC, the most midwestern city of the mid-midwest is hip. I see this as a sign that our country is finally starting to grow up and learn to enjoy itself.

Finally, we had to go. We rescued Joli and let her run around for a few minutes to meet my rediscovered family members. Then it was off into the windy midwestern night.

1 comment:

  1. Ed: I was thinking about trying to get who ever is left together for a re-union. I only can come up with seven. Can you do better? Sounds like you had a nice visit with Bill. Wish I could see him. I last saw Bill in l957 and I think he was around 12 years old. Thanks for sharing your trip.