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Weekly Beats

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? 

I've also been thinking about record smashing heat, wildfire smoke and melting glaciers. We typically average 17 days of  70+ degree temperatures here in the summer, but we've been hanging out in the 80s and even reached 90 on the 4th of July. It was still 70 degrees at 11pm that night! (I like it.) 

But what I don't like is the upcoming slide back into dark. I woke up in the night Friday, and even through my groggy awareness I felt a deep foreboding: Dark is coming. It turns out I had wakened in the first actual darkness that we have had in 28 days. This time-lapse video gives you a pretty good idea what time I was awake.

It's no secret that deep winter dark is hard for me, and I can see the fireweed blooming up the stalk. There are a lot of questions and changes ahead for our family, but for today we mix the peanut butter, prop the doors open, and pick strawberries.

Jennifer Searls

South Addition, Anchorage
United States

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