Family Binding

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Family Binding

A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair.” –Cloud Atlas

From Wikipedia.

I come from a family of book people.  It’s just who we are.  Before the world of the internet intervened and we all retreated to our separate laptops, we would all sit around and spend family time with our own individual books.  We don’t take family trips too much, and the small children running around the house tend to sap what energy we have out of us pretty darn quick.  But at some point, someone will yank out a book and we’ll all follow suit.

I try to add a little variety to the group.  Nobody else reads comic books, but I can’t get enough of them.  I don’t read devotional books; I want stories.  In tandem with my love of stories in book form is my appreciation of a good movie.  When I hear that a book is coming to the movie screen, I want to read the book first.

On the one hand, it’s an ego thing.  When the movie finally does come out, I can have bragging rights.  “Oh yeah, I read the book.  Did you?”  This additionally allows the option of spouting a pompous phrase like, “They left out three chapters of the book.”  I have yet to say such things, but I like to know that the possibility exists.

In addition, once you see the movie, it’s almost too late to go back and read the book.  The actors will always be stuck in your head.  (The only exception I’ve come across is Pride and Prejudice, and even then I still had Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle dancing around in my head.)

Tonight I got the e-mail that all true book huggers wait for.  The library wanted to let me know that a copy of Cloud Atlas was waiting for me.  The book is about six hundred pages and the movie comes out just before Halloween, so I had to get a move on.  (If any movie is made with Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent, I’m forced to see it.  Those two actors cannot be denied.)  That was how I found myself in the local library this evening.  The sooner I had that book in my hands, the sooner I could put the rest of my life on hold.

I walked into the library, made my way to the reserve shelves, and plucked my book off the shelf.  Being the somewhat-considerate brother-in-law that I am, I checked the shelf to see if my relative had her normal stack of books.  I was on my way to babysit my nieces and figured I could save the other family members a trip.  There were no books for them on the shelf, so I assumed she had already been in earlier this week.

I needed to keep my nieces entertained and they like books as much of the rest of us.  I made my way towards the children’s section.  I assumed something worthwhile would jump out at me.  If nothing else, I figured I could inject a little Shel Silverstein into their lives.

Appearing out of nowhere, a small girl with blonde curly hair started running towards me.  It took me by surprise, but this sort of thing has happened to me a few times before.  Her blue eyes wide open; she ran to me in her spring dress and threw her arms around my leg.

“Uncle Phil!”

“I was just on my way to see you guys.”  I was taken aback, but not floored.  This was the third time that I have run across my family in the library.  Book junkies need a fix rather often and the librarians are good at pushing their wares.

Carrying a large cloth bag of books, my sister-in-law approached.  She gave me a little tsk-ing because my phone had been turned off.  She had been trying to offer to pick up my book for me since we were going to see each other.  Great minds think alike.

Instead of blindly guessing what sort of selections I should grab for my nieces, one of them helped picked the stories out with me.  Happily, she agreed that The Missing Piece sounded like an interesting read.  As a matter of fact, she made me read it twice to her tonight.  I tried to talk her out of it.  She wouldn’t have it; the munchkin likes books as much as the rest of us.  There’s no escaping that genetic trait, nor do we plan to.

A Childish Lesson

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Childish Lesson

Sam was hardly the greatest uncle his family had ever produced.  A single, rather introverted fellow, Sam remained content with the busy schedule that he kept.  While his siblings were up late nursing small children, Sam was out late acting childish with other single adults.  He wasn’t a bad person, he wasn’t even a terrible uncle; it simply wasn’t the first activity that he marked on his calendar.  He had made it a habit to visit his nieces.  He had even attended their dance recital.  However there were plenty of times he could have visited Stephanie and Susan that he had opted out of.

The girls were both quite cute and the eldest was well aware of just how cute she was.  The youngest had yet to learn this lesson; she mostly just did what Stephanie told her too.  They looked enough like sisters that people guessed as much without being told.  They had round faces, blue eyes, and blonde hair.  Stephanie’s hair had lost the springy curls that Susan still had, however that meant that she had less tangles to worry about.  

Sam had spent enough time with the ankle-biters to know that Susan was his favorite.  He refused to give a reason as to why, but he insisted that it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Susan looked just like him when he was born.  That was a complete coincidence.  None of the family really believed that, not even Sam.

Along came the birthday party.  Like any other family, Sam’s brother and his sister-in-law had thrown birthday gatherings before.  This year, Sam’s parents were in town to see their grandchildren so he felt that reuniting the family was probably a good idea.  Stephanie and Susan were considerate enough to have their birthdays within a week or two of each other (give or take three years), so it was really just one more visit added to his schedule. 

Sam was wary of small children having birthday parties.  He was at a point in his life where he was trying to get rid of stuff.  He was trying to stop accumulating and start simplifying.  The notion of a gathering where two youngsters acquire even more toys did not entirely appeal to him.  Without meaning to, Sam showed up at his brother’s house without any gifts.  Only upon entering the front door did he realized the faux pas that he had committed.  His relatives shrugged it off and soon the girls were ready for their gifts.

Stephanie, as always, went first.  She was the oldest and the bossies.  No one really seemed to mind.  Soon, and with much ripping of paper, she beheld a doll just a tiny bit smaller than her.  It was intricately decorated and designed, with clothes carefully crafted and a face that looked lifelike enough to endear itself in to any girl’s heart.  “It’s just what I wanted”, Stephanie replied with a smile.

Sam sat, unmoved physically or emotionally.  He was there to support the family.  He felt no need to get emotionally involved.  It was a nice gift, his seven year-old relative was pleased; everything was fine. 

Next it was Susan’s turn.  She was handed a similar sized box and her eyes went wide.  She approached cautiously.  She looked at the box that her mom was offering her.  She looked at her mom.  She looked at her grandmother.  Then she looked back at her mom with a declaration of surprise and awe in her eyes.  “For me?”  The words came out of her tiny mouth with excitement and disbelief.  She struggled with the box that was the same size as her.  She tried hugging it, which proved to yield no results.  Stephanie tried to help.  She held the box to the ground while Susan pulled at the paper and lifted the lid with a mighty heaving action.  Soon, a similar doll to Stephanie’s lay in the box in front of her.  “Thanks!”

Sam found himself taken aback.  This was a moment he had not expected to have with the four year-old.  She was not a child who assumed that things would be given to her.  She hadn’t expected anything.  Susan probably would have been happy to see Stephanie get a gift so long as she got to play with it once in a while.  The entire moment could have been described in one word; joy.  She was thrilled because someone had thought to give her something and she was ecstatic that it was something she had wanted.  There was no attitude of being owed anything.  She couldn’t have been upset that she didn’t get what she wanted because she had never expected to get anything.

Sam found his manly exterior cracking.  He was relieved that everyone was thoroughly enamored with the two girls playing and accessorizing their new dolls.  Their distraction gave him a minute to swallow the lump in his throat and contain himself.  Yep, Sam thought to himself, definitely my favorite niece.  He then sat up and considered scratching his chest or burping.  After all, he had his reputation to think of.

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