As far back as I can remember, the descendants of Vinnie & Loney Yoder gather twice a year: Thanksgiving and the 3rd Sunday in July. For many years one of Vinnie and Loney’s sons, Stanley (my grandpa's brother), and his wife Carmen, hosted the summer gathering.
I loved attending those reunions on long (usually warm) summer afternoons. My family would drive out of the Portland suburbs to the rural community where mom grew up and where my grandparents and many relatives still lived. On Stan and Carmen's property, I ran with siblings and cousins across fields of grass, under fruit trees, and into wooded dells (where I got my first bee sting). We played fun, goofy games led by my mom’s cousins (put your forehead on the handle end of a baseball bat and the other end of the bat on the ground - twist around the bat 3 times. Then stand up, step over the bat and RUN!)
Each family brought food to share and there was always homemade ice cream after the meal, but best of all was the icy cooler filled with cans of pop. I rarely had opportunities to drink pop in my childhood, but every year I could count on Uncle Stan and Aunt Carmen to provide that magical box. What delight! to pull back the creaky lid, dip my hand down into the icy water, and choose a cold can of fizzy sugar drink.
Stanley was a clever, talented man, and even into adulthood whenever I had opportunity to go in his shop I did so with curiosity and wonder. There were so many interesting projects going on in there. And also an actual airplane!
He wasn’t much of a talker in my experience, but Stanley's smile was always ready and always kind. My boys would have enjoyed him. He'd died by the time they were traipsing through Aunt Carmen's home, downsized at Hope Village - little boys intrigued by all the interesting gadgets and stories about Stanley. He was everywhere in the things he'd made and the life he'd shared with Carmen.
In the years after Stanley died, Aunt Carmen was a regular part of our family's life - she was like a fun and interesting Great Grandma for my boys. She joined us for holidays and celebrations and we often stopped by her house to see what she was up to (or run software updates on her computer).
One day Carmen was at our house when David got out his drill to stir peanut butter with a hand mixer beater blade attached. The next time she came over she brought him Uncle Stanley’s homemade peanut butter stirrer - specifically designed as a drill attachment with small effective blades, easy to clean. Peanut butter mixing is still a common task at our house all these years later, and the Stanley-made stirrer is super handy tool
I've been thinking about the things we do and make and leave in this world. How will we be remembered? And by what?