Periscope Depth

to everything, turn turn turn

Houston Airport: every sign repeats its message in Spanish. Even in the Northeast this is common, but never as omnipresent as on a border state. The men’s room I ducked into reeked of something Cartier and the baggage claim was under construction, but that could happen at any airport.

I showed up late, but still welcome, to the informal party on Friday evening. The last unofficial family reunion on my mother’s side had been at my cousin Jessica’s wedding about two years ago. Not all of the cousins had been there, meaning the last time I saw some of these people they’d been squabbling over Game Gears and those fabric Frisbees people play with on the beach. Now I was drinking local Texas beer with them and debating the best team in the ACC.

Of course, youth continues to march on: this was the first family reunion with great-grandchildren: Lily and Grace, the daughters of my two older cousins Lindsay and Ginger. That brings the Kelley clan totals to seven children (including my mother, the oldest daughter but the second oldest sibling), twenty grandchildren (including my brother and I) and those two. And for this weekend – my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary – we all turned out.

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I wish I had a day job as easy as entertaining my five-year-old cousins.

For one thing, the weather was perfect – a hot, dry ninety-eight degrees at noon. That may strike some of you as brutal, but we had an uncontested run of the community pool nearest my grandparents’ house. And I’d just come from sixty degrees and showers in Boston on Friday, so I welcomed the change.

Second, five-year-olds play along with whatever you tell them if you phrase it right. “Stick your arms and legs out,” I instructed Matthew. “You’re a torpedo!” He snapped into form, whereupon I glided him across the surface of the water and into his dad. Or I’d curl him under my arm like a duffel bag: “You’re a jet engine! Kick kick kick!”

Of course, life with five-year-olds isn’t perfect (shocking, I know), and soon the time came for them to go. “Matthew, get your shoes on. Matthew. Matthew, time to put your shoes on. Matthew, you have to get out of the pool. We’re not playing now, all right? Matthew, if you don’t take a nap now, you can’t hang out with the grownups later. Matthew. Matthew, get out of the pool. Thank you.” That last to me, as I hoisted him over my shoulder and dragged him, giggling, out of the water. Being a cousin’s easier than being a dad.

I got burned on my shoulders pretty bad: despite a thorough application of SPF 30, I probably lost all coverage by hoisting Matthew’s brother Chris onto my back like a camel and letting him spray his watergun at assailants. Time will tell if it was worth it.

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