A Partner-in-Crime Reunion

August 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm (Waxing Nostalgic)

At work, I try to skip lunch. Well, not exactly. I gobble my health food between customers and work through the hour-long break, facilitating easier paying of the bills down the line. (I’m making money instead of spending money.) Once in a while though, I insist on taking lunch.

As I plugged away on the till, my chest started ringing. (And vibrating. If I get any more popular, I’ll have nipples of leather.) I didn’t recognize the number, so I hit ‘Ignore’, which sends it straight to voicemail. A few minutes later, I see there’s a new message:

“Hi, this is your niece from San Diego! I’m in town for the day, and think I might be near you. Are you working? If so, and you can get away for a break or something, give me a call.”

Wow. That was a voice from the past…

I’ve gone on about the vast age differences in our family. From oldest to youngest, amongst the ‘children’, there is a span of about forty-two years. My older brother’s daughter is the same age I am, and we connected at an early age.

One of my earliest memories is visiting southern California in the ’60s, going across the Golden Gate Bridge with my mom tranquilized and clutching the car’s arm-rest in mortal fear. A few hours, after an endless drive through the desert, we arrived at my brother’s house.

My niece was a fun playmate, not mean, possessive and obnoxious like the boy cousin I was used to playing with. I don’t remember a lot of the visit, just that it was fun, and that my brother’s wife tells a killer bedtime story.

The last time I remember seeing her in person? It was on a trip to Idaho. I was fascinated with cigarette smoking, Pink Floyd’s Money was a big hit on the radio, and The Eagles Take It Easy filled in when Spirit in the Sky wasn’t haunting the night. We were about twelve. We whispered dirty jokes and tortured the younger kids, like all bratty tweens do.

A couple of years ago we began e-mailing, catching up. She was on a road trip to Alaska, and would it be okay if she dropped by? What did I know about her? She liked camping and ice cream for breakfast. One could jump to conclusions and assume she was fat and homeless. Would it matter?

Then I learned she was a school teacher. Cool! She has a job. We all have relatives that show up with their hands out, and I’d hoped this wasn’t the case. And it wasn’t, although the mission was aborted when the camping truck broke down before they got out of California.

Which was a drag- curiosity was killing me! Would we get along as well as we did when we were kids?

When she called, I gave her instructions to the store and waited. I remembered what she looked like at twelve, and saw a high school graduation picture. (Hottie!) My imagination ran away with itself as I waited. Would she be platinum blonde draped in Prada? A twitchy tweakery-type who had followed my lead when it came to better living through chemistry? As pedestrians passed and customers came and went, I searched every face.

A young lady came in, smiled and went to the back of the store, where the magazines we don’t have to babysit are kept. I rushed through customers, and soon the young lady returned to the front of the store. When everyone had gone, I asked, “Is that you…?”

“Yes!!” It was the best of hugs, the full body kind you feel from head to toe. She looked marvelous. Natural, without all the cosmetic fixin’s usually associated with SoCal girls. She may be my niece, but eyes will be poppin’ when we walk out for lunch!

My co-worker was most hospitable, even offering his phone number to her, in case there was anything he could do. (“Down boy!”) I ran into boss Whitney on the sidewalk and made proper introductions. Since we only had an hour, I gave her the walking tour of *my* downtown.

We visited all three stores, with me assigning faces and real names to blog characters. (You don’t really believe a Jehovah’s Witness woman would name her son Grinder, do you?) She met Dr T, and thanked him for getting me out of that whole OJ mess.

We walked, talked, and the hour went way too fast.

She’s on her way to Hawaii to see my big brother. But first they are touring the Columbia Gorge, and her hotel is only three blocks from where I’m working tonight, so I’m hopeful I will get one more chance to visit before she disappears.

It’d be a shame to have to wait another 35 years…

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