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THE FISH FRY AND THE FORGOTTEN CAMERA.
A tale of regret.
I really have an exceptional family.
I mean, I know everyone thinks they have the best family (except for those who think they have the worst), but really, mine takes the cake.
My immediate family is superior by far. They are the core of everything good. Hilarity ALWAYS ensues.
But from there on out, I have extensive family of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents, on either side, who are just su-perb.
This particular moment in time, I'm bragging about the Hansen side. My dad's parents and siblings and their kids and their kids.
Yes, we're a very large group, the lot of us. And we're growing. There are near 60 descendants of my Grammy and Grandpa, who, coincidentally, just celebrated their 60th anniversary in August.
The truth of the matter is that we simply do not see enough of each other. So, when my cousin Kendal came home from his mission to Australia, and my grandparents decided to throw a Fish Fry, and with our kids in tow, we headed out to Sugarhouse, where my dad was raised in a 3 bedroom house with 5 brothers and sisters, and a giant backyard full of fruit trees, and metal play toys built by my grandpa's own hands.
I didn't take my camera. ~Hangs head in shame~
I know, I KNOW!!! It's an absolute loss.
As we were leaving, I grabbed the camera, and then threw it back onto the couch, thinking all about how we were going to be outdoors, we were going to be eating, my kids would probably spill at least one cup of water or juice or lemonade, probably ON my camera, I'd be busy talking to my aunts and uncles and chasing around my kids and my cousins kids.
NEVER AGAIN WILL I DOUBT MYSELF!!!!
As soon as we turned off the freeway and passed the giant, castle looking house that serves as a nursing home, the corner bakery where my dad worked as a teenager, and entered the street where my mom's grandma lived, 5 doors down from my dad's parents, I knew that leaving my camera at home was an epic mistake.
I hadn't been to that neighborhood in around 5 years. We'd been away in other states with the Air Force for 3 of those, and since we moved back to our hometown 2 years ago, our family has grown to a size that requires the reservation of a church building or a park for all of our family parties.
But nostalgia flooded in.
The house was one of only a few on the street that looked nearly exactly the same. Sugarhouse has gone through all the changes a neighborhood normally does over the years: quaint suburb to dangerous ghetto, back to a regenerated, cute little town with double the value due to people who just happen to care.
Along the left side of the house ran the same wide, black top driveway I ran up and down as a kid, the chain link fence heavy laden with grape vines hung with fat purple grapes. The back yard was lined with tables and chairs, and in the bare part of the garden- next to the giant raspberry bushes we used to pick berries off of for home made raspberry ice cream- was a fire pit ready for lighting so we could cook the fillets of fish my grandpa caught only a day before. Home made scones and canned jams of all flavors basked against the sinking rays of the sun, like they were some kind of stained glass jars.
At the end of the driveway was an extended garage where my dad worked with my grandpa until 2am, even on school nights, building cars, taking them apart, learning about tools and building the swing set, merry go round and slide that ended up in the back yard. (my dad can build ANYTHING and that's not just a daddy's-girl mentality. It's really truly true. He had to learn it somewhere- and I daresay it was from my grandpa back during those long nights spent in the garage.)
Inside the house, where we had to rush before exploring further so that my children could use the bathroom, my 2 year old hand prints still hang in the hallway, painted in red with a quaint poem about how my hands leave dirty little fingerprints, but someday, they'll be missed. We measured them against Scarlet's hands- but even as little as she is, mine were a knuckle smaller.
Again, we emerged into the cooling temperatures of the back yard, where my kids rushed to see the new terrain they hadn't had the pleasure of exploring yet.
There was the cherry tree where, at eight years old, my dad had first seen my mom, perched upon a branch with his younger sister, chowing down on ripe, dripping red cherries. She was only 5, wearing cats eye, rhinestone glasses. And he vowed he'd marry her.
Beyond that, the deeper part of the back yard held memories, thick as syrup.
As a child, the place seemed bigger to me. And it was a kind of wonderland, canopied so thickly with fruit trees of all kinds that there was hardly any sunlight allowed through their foliage. As kids, there were more trees, and the swing set did not yet creak with rust and age.
Back then, Grammy and Grandpa had a white Labrador named Sally who seemed monstrous to all of us kids at the time. Just now, I have a black lab, and she couldn't have been that big. But to us, she was the dragon that guarded the walk back to the house. Grandpa would have to hold her chain as she grinned a doggy grin, drooling down her tongue, wagging her thick lethal tail, as we skirted past her like she'd gobble us right up.
We played for hours back there, without supervision, climbing over everything, ducking under anything, until late in the night, the adults would call us for dessert, or to go home, as we sniffled goodbyes to our dear cousins, like it was the last time we'd see them.
That night, I ventured beyond the garage with my children, and the place was much different.
Now, the merry go round resides in my own parents' back yard, where it is used often by 3 and 4 year olds who attend my mom's home-run preschool. The wood pile was moved from against the back fence, where it was a towering turret of termites, to splay along the garage instead of plunging into the sky. The monkey bars had been piled with lead pipes from heaven knows what project Grandpa had taken apart, and the slide was posed next to it.
As a child, it seemed so harmless. As a parent, every jagged, rusty end that jutted out at my kids' eye level was like a mocking song. Every ladder leaned against a fence or tree taunted Mahone, the only great grandson at the very moment, to just try and climb it!
My aunt JoAnn and I dusted leaves off of the cement ends of the swing set to trace her siblings and her own name, etched clear back in 1965. Behind the swing set was a rusty bike cart. All it would take was one little daredevil, or Scarlet, to impale themselves against that bar...
When the food was ready, we lined up against the long tables full of jello salads, vegetables, tartar sauces and those delicious scones, juggling hand fulls of plates for the children that outnumbered the adults, and as the sky started darkening, the light bulbs hung along a wire contraption that Grandpa built from the roof of the house to the garage began to glow a warm halo.
The fish, flowered and fried to a crisp, yet flaky texture, looked like something out of a summer magazine on my plate- never mind that it is now October.
Somewhere along the dinner timeline, the children ran their little dirt caked feet back to the house to announce in panicked little voices: "Scarlet fell off the swing!!!"
Of course, my fears had come true, I knew that yard that was once so friendly was a death trap, especially for my accident prone almost-three-year-old! Behind the cousins, came my toddler, fussing a bit, but otherwise, just fine...with a mouth literally full of dirt.
The jokes ensued.
After a bit of washing up in the bathroom, a determination was made that there were no loose teeth or bloody goose eggs anywhere, and she busied herself with a slice of pumpkin pie, eaten as though it were a piece of pizza.
The night ended quietly as everyone eventually folded chairs and tablecloths, hugged goodbye, and drove off with only engines humming gently into the night.
And oh how I wish I had images to show you! Oh how I wish I had a picture of the tree where my parents met, or the rust covered metal constructions of hand made genius my Grandfather so lovingly built his brood of six children.
How I wish I could have showed you the delicious fillets of fresh trout or Scarlets muddy grin.
Alas, my camera lay at home, silent and smug as the house became dark.
And now, I wholeheartedly vow to surgically attach my camera to my shoulder by it's strap.