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Family; the Book of Laughter and Remembering

This blog post was written in July 2011

Just got back from Minnesota, and sadly it is warmer here in normally tepid LA than it was there. Everything feels dull compared to the pretty green landscape and gorgeous blue sky dotted with little white clouds I saw in St Paul and surroundings.  I have re-entered la la land, the land of bland, the city of blah.

It was a fun holiday weekend, filled with all the typical Minnesota good clean fun and quirks I have grown to love. We ate, we drank, we played lawn games, we watched dvds, we played with cats, we got dusted with fireworks cinders.  Much of the agenda is created to please our little niece Ellie, who at nearly thirteen is not so little anymore.  With three doting aunties and her very patient mom Ellie is the only one of the next generation in our family.  Oh the pressure.  As a result of being an only child she is a picky eater and a stickler for rules.  I have a one-up on my windbreaker wearing sisters in that I am a “girly-girl” as Ellie puts it and can coach little miss Ellie in all things hair, nail polish and clothes, clothes, clothes.  She once asked me, “Claire why are you a girly-girl?” “In this family someone’s gotta be it” I answered. I deserve to have this special privelage.  I live 1300 miles away.

Ellie isn’t like the kids in LA.  She is more innocent. Less sarcastic.  More interested in what’s going on among her friends than Hollywood, although she was vaguely interested to know that I actually know Nikki Reed from the Twilight series.  Ellie lost interest when I mentioned Nikki was engaged to someone she hadn’t heard of, namely Paul with the Rod Stewart like voice and cute smile from American Idol.  I think she just wanted to polish her nails and watch High School Musical with me which is what we ended up doing. We watched all three!

I was surprised when on our little sojourn to the Fraconia sculpture park that Ellies’ sullenness wasn’t due to being away from her friends and stuck with her aunties in a car on a holiday weekend.  “What’s wrong Ellie?”  I asked. She surprised me with, “We should be interacting!  We should be connecting!  Instead we are walking around looking at these big art pieces.”  WOW.  She actually wanted to interact with us!  What to do?  It took me a while to really get it.  First I told her “Oh hey I know the drive was a drag but we’re e going to a fun dinner tonight…”

What she was asking for was interaction.  NOW.

We climbed atop the giant skin segment wart installation. I ventured to give her what she wanted.  “Okay.  So you want interaction.  We’ll ask each other questions!  I’ll start first.  This is an easy one.  What’s your name?”

“Ellie.”

“Your full name.  And what does it mean to you?”

Jackpot.

“Ellie Raine Martinson”

“I like your middle name”

“Yeah.”

“How do you spell it?

“Raine”

“That’s cool.  Another question.  If you could be any other name than your own what would it be?”

“I like Raine.”

“That is a pretty name.  Are you thinking maybe you will switch to it in college when you need to break away from your childhood identity?”

She pondered that for a bit.  She didn’t answer but maybe five years from now we will all be calling her Raine.  She spoke.

“My turn; what’s your name?”

“Claire Louise Partin”

“Louise?  I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah – it’s my mom’s middle name too.  Grandma Martha’s middle name.”

“Neat.  Okay more questions.”

And so I created a monster.  We all asked each other questions the whole ride home and I found out about my sisters’ favorite teachers, Ellie’s favorite foods, places my sisters wanted to live, and dreams of careers we wished we would have pursued.  We remembered things we’d forgotten about our childhood, we laughed, and we gave Ellie some fun new knowledge about her family. Ah youth.  Thank you Ellie for expressing your concern.

I can’t wait to go back to Minnesota and play the question game again.