It was hot. Real hot. Unusually hot even for August.
I say unusually not because the weather that day was any hotter than the day before or hotter even than the same time last year. I hadn't been there the day before or the year before or for several years before actually, but I certainly didn't remember it ever being that hot no matter what time of year. After being away so long, I guess I've kinda lost the right to say what's usual and what's not.
But still... it was really hot. Thank heavens for good air conditioning.
"You're gonna make a right at the next light", mom said from the back seat.
We had picked her up at her house to make the hour-long drive with us. My wife and I don't get back home very often and it's always nice to have a little uninterrupted mom time to catch up on everything that's going on with everybody. Like most families, mom is the center point and knows exactly who is up to what. It's always been that way, which didn't really play in my favor when I was growing up and testing my boundaries.
I tapped my wife on the leg to get her attention and pointed to the phone on the dash. "Google says we take a left."
"I'm pretty sure it's a right, but you're driving", came the voice of the back-seat driver.
Thanks anyway, mom. My motto when it comes to directions is "in Google Maps we trust".
We took a left and wound our way up into the foothills where the roads turned into streets and the small businesses made way to small homes, then larger homes, and eventually great big houses on teeny tiny lots. McMansions, I called them growing up... although I can't remember why now.*
I used to know my way around "these parts", but that was a long time ago. The trees and brush I used to hunt and hike through had been mowed down and paved over as the population in the city expanded out rather than up.
"Your destination is on the left", chirped a cheerful British accent from Google maps, snapping me back from my childhood and into the neighborhood.
Except the only thing on the left was one a giant grey house that looked just like the giant grey houses on either side of it, and the only thing ahead was the curve of the culdesac. This was definitely not my destination.
"Don't look in the mirror, don't look in the mirror, do not look in the mirror", I told myself.
But I looked in the mirror.
I looked in the mirror and saw my mom's "who you gonna trust... Google or your own mother" face.
There are worse mom-faces to get.
I flipped Google maps over to satellite view and found the problem. We were nearly at our destination... the only thing in the way were these great big houses. It seems that years before these houses were here, the road went through instead of cul-de-sacing (saccing?) and you could get to the park this way.
So there, mom! You were only mostly right!
We backtracked back (cuz you can't backtrack forward) and worked our way around the McMansions to take what mom lovingly referred to as "the right way" to the park.
By the time we got there, the Hathaway Family Reunion was in full swing. As swinging as family reunions get anyway. That was the purpose of the trip, in case you were wondering.
If you've never been to a Hathaway Family Reunion, well chances are you're not a Hathaway. Or maybe you are... Hathaways are notoriously introverted and likely to avoid seeing other people at all costs, even those they are related to and/or like. So to see a bunch gathered in a park on a sweltering summer day talking to each other is a rare sight indeed.
By the time lunch was served we were all feeling quite reunited. I love those people dearly and sincerely hope that I get to spend a few hours with them again in a few years, as I've done pretty much my entire adult life.
Between the egg-toss (I still think you cheated and you know who you are) and the raffle (everybody prays to get the salsa), we passed around the talking stick (ok, so it was a microphone) to talk about our memories of Grandma and Grandpa.
We talked about fishing and snowball fights and sand-dunes and wall-to-wall kids at holiday get-togethers. Good times.
Grandma and Grandpa had a small house in Idaho that was too remote to be considered urban but too well developed to be frontier. It was a small house, and I was always amazed at how many people could fit in it.
We remembered the trees and root cellar and outhouse (before my time). "Don't forget about the river", I contributed.
"What river?", someone asked and I instantly regretted bringing it up. At that moment I regretted driving to the reunion and pretty much being born at all.
Did I hallucinate a river every time I was at the gparents's?
"The one that ran by their house. Remember? We weren't supposed to go near it... It was freezing cold. It had a board going across it. We played in it all the time!", I insisted.
"Oh that", my sister waved dismissively. "That was more like a stream. Or a small ditch."
"Ya, the board was pretty much unnecessary to anybody over 3 feet tall", offered up another relative who was obviously out to crush my ego and my childhood memories.
To a small child, it really did seem like a river. And that's how I had always remembered it. I wasn't supposed to be anywhere near it without an adult nearby, and crossing over by balancing on the board that spanned it (which evidently was only a couple of feet long) was a feat to be attempted by only the bravest of souls.
Several in attendance attested to the inaccuracy of my memory, and I realized that it probably wasn't as big as 5-year-old Dee remembers. As we talked about it, I could indeed start to picture it as the ditch that I saw when I visited in my teens.
My river, it turns out, was merely a rivulet.
Isn't that the way it is with a lot of things in life?
I don't mean that there aren't some really big rivers out there, cuz there are. And here in Arizona they occasionally have water in them.
What I mean is many times the huge obstacles we face don't seem so bad once we are past them.
How many times have you faced a task that seems so overwhelming that you don't think you can possibly get it done... and then you look back afterward (cuz you can't look back beforeward) and realize it wasn't really all that bad.
Our mountains turn into molehills and our rivers into rivulets.
So next time you are facing a raging river, remember that its what you don't know that is scary. Take a step back, take a good look, and see what you are really facing. Then ask yourself if it's going to be that big of a deal once you're looking back on it from the other side.
Getting started is the hardest part.
*In suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative term for a large "mass-produced" dwelling, constructed with low-quality materials and craftsmanship, using a mishmash of architectural symbols to invoke connotations of wealth or taste, executed via poorly imagined exterior and interior design. ~ wikipedia