When my parents moved out west, I was cut off from my extended family. I sort of knew my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my only first cousin, but that was it. Whenever there were family gatherings, it was with people I didn’t know at all, and they had no children my age, so it was always a bunch of adults jabbering away about what adults talk about. I still don’t know what they talk about, since I still choose to talk about movies, comic books, and video games.
But then there was my Great Uncle Marvin. We had stopped off in Missouri on our way to one of these dread family reunions. I was around eight. And the adults were all talking, and I was bored. But Great Uncle Marvin carried on his conversation while playing Connect 4 with me. It was one of those travel sets for the car, and I had beaten Mom at the game so often that she didn’t want to play any more while Dad drove. But there, in the midst of all of those adults jabbering away, was my uncle Marvin playing Connect 4 with me.
And he was good. I don’t mean that he was unbeatable. I mean that he paid attention to the game. I didn’t have to remind him whose turn it was, and I didn’t win easily because he was too busy conversing with the adults to have his mind on the game.
The other memory I have about Marvin is when we returned from another such reunion in Ohio. He and his wife Bertha let us stay the night. But the real treat was in the morning. The breakfast was unimaginably good. After spending three weeks living out of a motorhome, the homemade strawberry jam on toast was heavenly. It was the best thing I remember tasting all trip. And he and Bertha made sure I had as much as I wanted, and even sent a jar of the jam with us when we left.
I hadn’t thought about these little stories in years, but it struck me the other day when I was putting some strawberry jam on my English muffin, and I thought it worth sharing, or at least preserving, here.