I sat outside on a not-too-muggy Washington morning since I didn’t want my asthma to flare up since the cats were inside of the house. My cousins filtered onto the patio over the course of the morning. At one point I noticed I was the oldest one at the table. Beside me was my cousin, Jared, who got married the previous evening. His platinum wedding band was so shiny I could see my reflection in it. Next to him was his younger sister, Arielle, who was snuggling Isabelle on her lap just like I did with her when she was a little girl. Isabelle has loved her ever since we visited her in San Francisco, where she’s started her post-college life. Beside those two were my cousins William and Jonathan, who are the most polite and caring eighth and fourth graders, respectively, you could ever imagine. Moving around the table was Ike, a talented bass player who is still in college. And on the other side of me is Josh, Arielle’s twin, who is no longer my little cousin seeing as he towers over me now.
“When was the last time we had a family reunion?” William asked.
That was kinda what this was, I thought. My thirteen year-old cousin was thinking exactly like I was.
“I think the last time was at Gabe’s Bar Mitzvah in 2011, but you weren’t there,” I said pointing to Josh and Arielle. They were away at college. “And before that it was at your Bar Mitzvah,” I said pointing to Ike. (Of course, Isabelle wasn’t present for that one.)
“Wasn’t it at someone’s 80’s birthday party?” Ike wondered.
“Whose?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged.
“Me either,” I replied.
And then the conversation switched back to something else. I looked around at my cousins and my daughter. We span 33 years. We’re from two different generation levels (Ike and Isabelle are on the same generation level. This is due, in part, to the fact that the six first cousins, of which my mom is one of them, were born 30 years apart.) We live over 7,000 miles apart in suburban towns and big cities like Beirut, Rochester, Chicago, and San Francisco. And here we all were… sitting together around the same table enjoying each other’s company. I made a move to go inside to get my camera since I didn’t want to forget that moment. But then Isabelle got up and began running around the table. Jonathan went after her like the dutiful big cousin he is. She ran into the house and Jonathan went after her leaving the group somehow changed. The hope of my digital family snapshot was gone. But it really wasn’t since the power of words allows me to recreate that moment again.