Patience & the Family Reunion By: Evelyn C. Pointer
Every other year, in September, Patience and her family would go to visit her mother’s family in Tennessee. They usually had a family get together and many of her cousins and other relatives would come by and visit for a few days. Her grandparents lived on a few acres of land that bordered a state forest. It used to be part of a farm years ago. Her grandparents still had a big garden and kept a few chickens for eggs. They also grew apples and peaches. But this year things would be different. Patience’s mother started working at a new job and she could not get the time off. Her father did not want to go without her mother. And the twins definitely needed their parents there to keep them in line! That left Patience. Patience was not sure she wanted to go without her parents. Auntie Jo was her mother’s older sister and Patience’s favorite aunt. She called her mother and begged her to let Patience come. Jo was forty five years old. She had never married and did not have any children. She adored Patience. Jo still lived with her parents, which Patience thought was funny. Her dad always teased her about it. “Hey Jo,” he said, ”Still living with mommy and daddy?” “Hey! They’re better people than you,” Jo laughed. She didn’t care what he or anyone else said. She loved her parents and they had a huge house and were getting on in years. She helped them with a lot of things that they were finding it hard to do. She had no need or desire to move away. Jo or Josephine (her real name) was an artist. She had a studio in town and she made all kinds of creative and beautiful things. She was itching to teach Patience how to paint or sew. She made money from her work but not enough to buy her own home. “Patience your aunt Jo wants to come and pick you up and take you to see momma and Pop Pop”. Her mother said. “But mom, I don’t want to go without you and daddy.” “Look I know honey, but it
would hurt her feelings if you didn’t. She loves you like you’re her daughter. When you were born she came and stayed with me to help me take care of you. She was always very protective toward me and she wanted to make sure I was alright. When she saw you she loved you so much she carried you around and you slept in the room with her. I didn’t have to do anything but nurse you. She cried when she had to go back home. Nobody loves you like Jo except for me and your dad and grandparents.” “I know mom, I love Auntie Jo too, and it’s just that it’s going to feel strange without you and dad there.” “I know honey but you’re growing up, you’ll be twelve next year, besides I know your grandparents would love to see you. You’re going young lady! I’m going to tell her to come get you.” A week later Patience found herself in her aunt’s old blue Chevy heading south for Tennessee. Her aunt had brought her dog “Nippers”. Nippers was a little blonde Chihuahua. His name was perfect for him. He was nervous and high strong with bulging eyes like marbles. He hated Patience and always tried to sneak and bite her when she was alone with him. Her aunt loved him and treated him like her precious little boy. “Oh play nice Nippers, mommy has a treat for you Nippers! Oh Nippers won’t hurt you Patience, he just wants to play.” All the while Nippers was growling and barking and looking at Patience like he wanted to rip her throat out. Good thing he was in a carrier. Patience knew that Nippers blamed her that he was in a carrier. She knew he was plotting his revenge. Most of the trip she listened to her aunt talk, and talk, and talk, and she listened to Nippers growl and growl and growl. Patience closed her eyes and imagined herself rolling down the window and just accidently tossing Nippers in front of the oncoming traffic. She smiled blissfully. Auntie Jo said, “O Patience, it is a nice drive isn’t it? I’m so glad you came. We’re going to have so much fun!” “Yes Auntie Jo” Patience smiled, this time imagining them accidentally leaving Nippers at a rest stop and a little kid running off with him.
When they arrived at her grandparents house Patience was happy to see that everything seemed the same. It was a big white house with a great big porch. There were rocking chairs and pots of flowers on the porch. Her grandparents were both sitting outside as if they were waiting for them to come. “O John, look at the child! Here she comes now! Come on Patience and give your grandma a kiss!” Grandma Rose was a short plump woman. She was soft and always smelled sweet and she gave the best hugs in the world. She was also the best cook in the world and made the best cakes and pies. Grandpa John, or ‘Pop Pop’, was tall and thin with scratchy stubble on his cheeks and a bald spot on his head. He always wore baseball caps and his clothes always looked old, like he had them forever. He had big scratchy hands, and he could fix and build anything. The last time that their family had come, Pop Pop had built a tree house for the kids. Her twin brothers adored Pop Pop and would follow him around and try to help him with everything. Pop Pop was always patient with them and told them stories and laughed at their jokes and spoiled them rotten. They had been so upset when Patience had been able to go this year but they had to stay at home. “Josephine honey, you better take that dog out back, he’s making Patience nervous”, Grandma Rose said. Nippers was running around Patience in circles barking. “O they get along great mom. Patience he’s not bothering you is he? He just wants attention; he’s just a big baby.” She picked up Nippers and kissed him and rubbed him on his head and he just made little moaning sounds and wagged his tail as if he was innocent. Patience knew better. “Well come on in child. You can sleep in the room next to Josephine.” Her grandmother said. The house was warm and cozy. The furniture was old. Some of it was very old, antiques her mother had told her. There were crotched Afghans and quilted throws on the couches. Pictures of the family were everywhere. They were on the walls and on the tables. There were old pictures of her great
great grandparents and new pictures of tiny babies. There were lots of house plants too. Her grandmother loved plants and flowers. The kitchen was big with a big table and a brand new refrigerator. There was no dishwasher. Patience knew she’d have to take turns washing the dishes. “Where is everybody else?” Patience asked. “Well, Donna and her family will be here tomorrow, and Jordan won’t be able to come until Sabbath. Kevin and his wife are going to try to come but she hasn’t been feeling well, you know they’re expecting their first baby! It’s going to be a small group of us this year.” Jo told her. “Come on I want to show you what I did to the room you’re staying in.” Jo brought her upstairs and took her to a small room at the back of the house. There was a big wall hanging covering the wall behind the bed. Her aunt had created a masterpiece! It was made of beautiful colors, turquoise and blues, greens and corals. She had sewn strips of fabric together to look like her parents home, and she had made images of Pop Pop and Grandma Rose and her brothers and sisters, and there was Patience and her parents and James and John. “Wow Auntie Jo! How did you make it look like everybody?!” There was writing too, verses from the Psalms twining in and out, some letters big and some small. Patience didn’t know how her Aunt could do what she did, where her ideas came from! She couldn’t stop looking at it. It was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. “Do you like it?” Auntie Jo asked. “Yes! It’s so pretty! I wish I could sew and paint like you.” “Look on the bed,” Jo told her. Patience saw a beautiful but simple quilt made with squares and triangles with all of the same fabrics and colors as in the wall hanging. “Look on the back” Jo told her. Patience turned it over and saw a label that said, ‘handmade with love for my sweet Patience from Auntie Jo’. “I made the quilt for you. It’s like a hug from me. You can take it home with you and when you sleep under it or wrap yourself in it you’ll know that I love you and I’m always here for you.” Patience gave her aunt a big hug. “I love you Auntie Jo.”
The next morning Patience woke up to the smell of spicy beef sausage and homemade biscuits. Grandma Rose was cooking in the kitchen. “Good morning darling. Go on and sit down and I’ll fix you a plate.” Her grandfather had already eaten. She saw the remains of his meal on the counter next to the sink. He mostly wanted coffee in the morning. “So strong it’ll put hair on your chest, darling.” Her grandfather always told her. He would sneak and give her a little coffee with a lot of sugar and milk when no one else was looking. Grandma’s biscuits were the best n the world. Her mother was a good cook, but not like her grandmother. She made her own pear preserves too from the pear tree in the back yard. Patience took a big spoonful. It was sooo good! While Patience ate Grandma Rose told her about the plans for the day, “We got so much work to do. Your Auntie Donna and Uncle Jim are coming with your cousins this evening, and I think Kevin is going to come tomorrow, but Sonya is feeling a little sick so she’s staying home. I’m gonna fry chicken and put on a pot roast. You know colored folks gotta have fried chicken! The pies are in the oven, I don’t think I’m gonna make a cake. Well, maybe a Red Velvet, Kevin is very fond of my Red Velvet. Grandma smiled indulgently. Kevin was the youngest and everyone spoiled him. Patience’s mother claimed that Kevin was the favorite of her mother, but Grandma Rose denied it saying she loved all her children the same. “Josephine is supposed to be making the greens and potato salad. You can make the cornbread. Can you do that Sugar?” “Yes ma’am.” Patience enjoyed cooking with her grandmother. “Grandma, where is Auntie Jo?” “She usually gets up real early and goes down to her shop, I mean studio”. Patience looked at the clock, wow it was only 7 am, she thought it was real early now! She wondered just what time it was when Auntie Jo
left. “I know she wants to take you to her stu-di-o this afternoon” Grandma said this real slow and chuckled, to her Jo’s studio was just a shop. “She’s working on something special. She’s always working on something special. She’s got so many ideas…..I keep finding pieces of paper with sketches and writing on it all over the house. I think she’s my most talented child, just don’t tell her I said so, I don’t want her to get the big head! And never tell your mother I said so, I love all my children the same, but every one of them is so different. Anyway honey, did you like the quilt?” “Yes Grandma, it’s beautiful.” “Well you should see all the stuff she’s got…..” Grandma kept talking and talking. She was the best company. Patience loved to listen to her, she was very wise and very funny too. “Can I help do anything now Grandma?” “Well, since you asked….” Patience found herself after breakfast sitting on the porch with a whole basket of beans to shell. It was a lot of beans and would take a lot of time but Patience didn’t mind. The sun was shining all golden and happy. The breeze was soft and silky on her skin. A few fluffy clouds floated lazily across the sky. She could see Pop Pop in the distance taking large wooden tables out of the barn and placing them under the big oak tree behind the house near the creek. They would eat outside tomorrow when everyone came if the weather cooperated, and if “God is willing” as Pop Pop would say. Auntie Jo came back just before noon. She was wearing a peacock blue skirt with a pink t shirt. She had a colorful shawl wrapped around her hips and a matching scarf on her head. Two long braids hung down her back. She had big dangly earrings and scruffy old flip flops on. Auntie Jo did not care about fashion. She just wore what she felt like. She made skirts and scarves and shawls out of fabric that she had designed. Patience thought she was cool. Her
mom always said that nobody else could get away with wearing clothes like Jo did. She had flair. “OK Kiddo,” she said, “Off we go. I want to take you to my studio and show you a few things, but we have to get back here in a few hours so we can help Mom cook.” Jo’s studio was a small store front in town. It was right next door to the post office and the second hand shop. Jo loved her studio. She could mail her orders out with no trouble. She even used some of the fabric from the clothes in the second hand shop in some of her designs. Jo was a textile artist. She dyed her own fabric and made intricate quilts and wall hangings. Sometimes she would knit and crotchet amazing scarves and hats. She also did sketching and painting sometimes. She sold some of the things she made in boutique shops in New York and Chicago. But she could only make a little at a time. She did not want an assembly line of workers. Her work was a work of love, she didn’t care about money, and she’d never be rich. Her most meaningful work was her scripture wall hangings. She had given two of them to Patience’s church. They sometimes took years to complete. They walked to the work room at the back of the studio. A large table was covered with bits of green and brown fabric. Patience saw the beginning of a design that looked like a forest. “Oh Auntie Jo, I know what this is, it’s a forest!” “Well you’re right. And why do you think I’m making a forest?” “Because you like trees?” “No, Patience,” she laughed “I do like trees, but this is a scripture wall hanging. Do you see the words in the design?” “It says gather together. Is this for Ingathering?” “Right,” said Jo “Do you know why I would do a wall hanging with trees for Ingathering?” “I think so…well; when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt he made them to stay in booths. The booths were made out of branches of trees. Dad always takes us out to
get branches to bring to church for Tabernacles. He says that our little church is like a booth. A booth is just a small church that has the truth.” “You’re right!” said Jo, “But did you know that God describes some of his children as trees? Trees are tall and strong. They provide shade, fruit and nuts and the wood is used for so many things. When Solomon built the temple he made the walls on the inside out of beautiful carved wood. I have always loved the woods. One of my favorite things is going for a walk in the woods right outside our back door. When I walk I sometimes image the day when God is going to gather all of his saints together. In fact there is a scripture that I’m going to add. It says “they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.” Beautiful trees are a symbol of God’s blessing. And guess what, we’re going to sleep in the woods tomorrow night!” “Sleep in the woods? We’re going to sleep in the woods? You mean like….camping?! OH NO! Patience thought. She truly hated camping. She hated the hard ground, the bugs, the scary sounds, the darkness. There were no street lights anywhere near her grandparent’s house. When it was dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. “Yes, isn’t it great? It was Dad’s idea! He used to take us camping when we were kids. Didn’t your mother ever tell you about it?” “Yes” Patience sighed. Her mother had told her that she hated camping. She told her about being eaten alive by mosquitoes, owls hooting eerily, the wind blowing and making the tent flap, and her brothers hunting frogs and throwing them in her tent. Patience had gone camping with her own father twice. She hated it each time. Camping sucks, she thought. Her Uncles tortured her mother telling scary stories. They said that there were black bears and hoboes in the woods. “Is Nippers going?”Patience asked. “Nippers? Well, that’s a wonderful idea Patience! I hadn’t thought…but you’re right, he can be our watchdog!” Her Aunt hugged her. Oh no, Patience thought. She just had to open her big mouth. Her aunt was so happy she
couldn’t take it back. The only thing worse than camping would be camping with Nippers! He would probably try to bite her every time she closed her eyes. That evening Uncle Jim, Auntie Donna and their kids came. They had four children. Jennifer was sixteen. Paul was seven and Tina and Jeremy were three and two. Jennifer had really changed since Patience had seen her last. She looked almost like a grown up. She didn’t want to play. She pretty much ignored Patience and was either talking on her cell phone, texting or had her ipod in her ear. Grandma Rose threatened to take it from her. Paul was shy, unlike her twin brothers and followed Pop Pop and his dad around. Tina and Jeremy were so cute and kept trying to get her attention. They constantly asked her questions and made her play with them. That night they all played scrabble and monopoly. Auntie Jo popped a huge bowl of buttered popcorn, and brought out bottles of ice cold apple cider. After Tina and Jeremy went to sleep they all watched a movie. The next morning they were all surprised when Uncle Jordan and Uncle Kevin showed up in the same car. They were able to come after all. Uncle Kevin’s wife did not feel up to coming, and Uncle Jordan had managed to get the time off from work after all. They didn’t want to miss the camping trip, or Grandma Rose’s good food. Grandma Rose and Patience’s two aunts worked very hard to get the dinner ready. Patience and her cousins set the tables outside and set up the folding chairs. Even little Tina and Jeremy tried to help. They used brightly colored vinyl table cloths. Auntie Jo tied long strips of fabric to the table legs to hold down the corners to keep the wind from blowing the table cloths off. They looked like streamers flying.
They all had a wonderful time. Pop Pop blessed the table. He smiled and kissed Grandma Rose on the cheek “You out did yourself honey!” She beamed and patted his bristly cheek. The food was so good. Everyone complimented the cooks. Patience was happy that they all seemed to like her cornbread. In fact that was all that 2 year old Jeremy wanted to eat. The uncles were so funny. They had everyone laughing. They teased their sisters and made jokes and played with the children. Uncle Jim threatened to toss Nippers in the creek if he didn’t stop barking. “Tee hee!” Patience laughed. Evening and the dreaded camping trip came all too soon. They dug out tents and sleeping bags. Uncle Jordan always went camping and came with all kinds of equipment. Grandma Rose said she was too tired to go. Besides she had a bad back and couldn’t sleep in a sleeping bag, but No! Patience could not stay with her to keep her company. “I’m going to bed child. You just go on now, I need my rest. I’m going to take a shower and go to sleep!” Pop Pop led the way through the woods to the campsite. He said that there was a beautiful spot about a mile in. They needed to leave right away so that they could get there before sundown. The uncles carried the tents and everyone carried their own sleeping bag, even the little ones. Uncle Jordan said he’d make another trip to get the rest of the supplies after he helped everybody set up. The woods were beautiful and sweet smelling. They could hear the sounds of what Patience thought was a million birds. Auntie Jo explained it was really the songs of a million tiny frogs. She said that they were only a half inch long and Patience didn’t have to worry about them because she’d never see them, but wasn’t it amazing what a big sound something so little could make. Patience
said “like Nippers.” He was running around going crazy with excitement. Auntie Jo just laughed indulgently. Everything was green and lush. The leaves would not change color for another month. The sun was shining from the west and streams of golden light were filtered through the leaves. Patience noticed the play of light and shadow on the path. So did Nippers who kept trying to chase the shadows and catch the squirrels who just laughed at him from the branches of the trees. Patience knew the trees were happy. She could tell by the way the branches swayed and she could hear they were happy by the sound they made when the wind blew the leaves. The sun was happy, laughing and having a good time, she could tell by the way the warmth beamed down on them and from the beautiful golden light. Her family was very happy, especially her Grandfather who walked as if he was as young as his sons his head high leading his family. Nippers was happy, his tail was wagging like crazy and he didn’t try to bite anybody. Patience realized that she was happy too. The campground was in an open area on a little hill. There was a fire pit, a couple of grills and a few tables. There were places you could set up tents. A Port-a-potty was a little bit further down wind. “Ugh” Patience thought. After the tents were set up Uncle Jordan and Uncle Jim went back to get the rest of the supplies. Patience was sharing a tent with Jo, Nippers and her cousin Jennifer. Jennifer’s parents and the two little ones shared a tent. Uncle Kevin and Uncle Jordan shared a tent. Grandpa shared his tent with her little cousin Paul. It was kind of fun setting everything up. Everybody helped, even the little ones. Everybody had their own flash light which made Patience feel better. Auntie Jo set the rules. Whenever any of the kids went to the bathroom an adult went with them. When they went exploring they took a buddy and told an adult.
When the sun began to set they put logs of wood in the fire pit and made a fire. As it got darker the frogs started singing louder and the birds got quiet. They passed around the mosquito spray. They took their jackets out in case it got cool. Everyone sat around the fire on their sleeping bag. Pop Pop began to speak. “Now isn’t this fine! It’s just beautiful for us to get together like this. You know God has really blessed us. We’re in good health. And he gave me another year of life to be with my family. You know I don’t have the energy I used to but I was determined to come out here again with all of you. Now you all know what this makes me think of?” “Yeah Pop, we know.” Said Uncle Jim. “It makes you think of all the leaves you’re going to have to rake up soon.” Uncle Jim always liked to joke. “No, son” Pop Pop laughed, ”Besides I’m going to require your help this year. But serious now, you all I’m serious. We’re just a small family. We don’t live together or see each other all the time. Your mom and me and Jo, we worship by ourselves most Sabbaths cause there is no other church that teaches the truth near us. We have to have a little church in our home like we always did when you all were children. Patience and her family were luck, no not lucky. God blessed them to find their church. But one day God is going to bring us all together, and not just us but all of his saints, all together and all rejoicing. “I wish my family could be here” Patience said. “Well, we’re your family too darling,” Pop Pop said. Patience missed her parents and surprise, surprise, she even missed her twin brothers. “I could call them” Jennifer said. She pulled out her cell phone that she was not supposed to bring with her. Her parents nodded. They called Patience’s house. She passed around the phone so everyone could talk to her father and mother and twin brothers. James and John were so excited. They said they wished they could be there. They even said they missed her! Then Kevin called his wife Sonya to see how she was feeling and everyone talked to her too. “Now everything is perfect.” Pop Pop said.
“Daddy,” said Auntie Jo, “Can we sing?” “Yeah, how about that song that we always sing on tabernacles….” Then Uncle Jordan began to sing in a beautiful tenor voice…”Oh come all ye people to the gathering of the Lord…” Auntie Jo joined in with her strong soprano, Pop Pop with his baritone. Soon all of them were singing and praising the Lord. The woods were filled with their voices. Even Jennifer put away her phone and ipod and surprised them with her lovely alto and perfect harmony. Patience looked around at her family and was so happy she came. She saw the glow from the fire on all of their faces. Her heart felt like it could burst with happiness. She thought about how much better it could have been if everyone, her parents, Auntie Sonya and even her twin brothers could have been there. James and John would have had so much fun, especially since Paul was there. They always had a good time doing crazy little boy things together. Then she closed her eyes and imagined not just her mother’s family, but her father’s family, and her church. Then she closed her eyes even tighter and tried to imagine if all of God’s children were together, gathered all together, all happy and all praising God. She knew that was what the promise of ingathering was all about. It was about not being my family and your family, but everyone being the same family, as Pastor said, one family in Christ. She knew that this thought was so wonderful because it was also true. Patience never felt cold, she wished the night would never end. They roasted marshmallows and hot dogs in the fire. Then Uncle Jordan began to point out to the children the different constellations of stars. There were so many stars. She saw the Milky Way for the very first time. Patience had never seen so many stars at home in the city. Eventually it was time for sleep. Patience snuggled up in the tent with Auntie Jo and Jennifer. The ground was hard but the sleeping bag was warm. She went fast to sleep. She only woke up briefly once, as Nippers squeezed into her sleeping bag and curled up into a ball to sleep on her stomach. He did not bite.