For my mother they were sweet relatives she hadn’t had time to visit.
For me, at 12, the news registered just above neutral, as only slightly interesting.
The sentence served the double purpose, outlining our itinerary while also letting us know that some people named Eddie and Emily existed. Apparently we’d visited them briefly when I was four. So, on the car ride over, Mom turned to us every few minutes and offered facts without context, trying to build some hype around these people.
“They lived in Okinawa for years.” “Eddie was a pilot.” It was like cramming before visiting some bizarre country: their main exports, I assumed, were hard candy, corduroy, and judgment.
Long after everyone else got full, I kept taking her up on her offers of coffee cake and hot dogs.
So we sat, me chewing and her staring, each of our hairstyles a variation on the bowl cut.
Eddie had flown more than 50 high-risk bombing missions over Europe and northern Africa, could play Chopin sonatas on the piano, and referred to staying in bed past 5 A. As he drove, Eddie would periodically glance down at this new device called a GPS, into which he claimed to have fed coordinates.
The patches of fog would clear to reveal behind them denser patches of fog.
For me, the slow conversation was nodes on a family tree morphing into real people, the way dots on a map, once visited, become real places where you can get a good burger or picture yourself living—or places you decide are only worth driving through, not worth stopping at again.
The exception to the general stillness was Emily, a slender, energetic woman flitting around the house with hospitality.