The Home Team

I’ve started writing personal essays again, using Tinyletter. Here is my most recent one.

Last week I went to a hockey game with my cousin. He was in town for a conference, knew we both liked hockey (we’ll go with “like” even though it’s vastly inadequate), and thought he’d be able to get tickets. I had kind of given up on going to the World Cup of Hockey, so I was glad to be asked and we made plans. I hadn’t seen this particular cousin in ages (the kind of ages where you have to say it like a groan when you’re telling people – “in aaaaaages”) and was excited to catch up with him.

WCOH.PNGWe fell into an easy conversation – partly hockey, partly exchanging news on mutual family members. There are a LOT of mutual family members, so I’m sure that could have lasted us at least a period or two, but the game was exciting and there was lots to discuss, including when exactly we had seen each other last. If you’d asked me before the game I would have squinted and then gone with, “I guess like 7… 8 years maybe? Gosh, maybe 10.” A decently long time for cousins, I thought. We spent a while trying to piece together what event could have seen us in the same place at the same time.

“Oh, the last time I came out east was 1995.”

Okay, so… more than 8 years, then. I would have been 5; he, 14. In that light, it was less like catching up with him and more like meeting him, since the only things I remember from 1995 are things we have pictures of (i.e. things I’ve invented memories of by listening to recollections of people who had fully-functioning long-term memories in 1995).

Strange, then, to have recognized each other’s faces and stories; to have had more than enough to talk about with no existing threads of conversation or prior hijinx; to have familiar jokes. As though blood carried stories in it. As though the people that connect you were there too. As though by knowing someone’s father and sister and uncle, you could also know them.

The hockey game was Finland vs North America, and it was really really good. Nathan MacKinnon, man. It was like he and Drouin were on the Mooseheads again; like they’d all been playing together for ages. For aaaaaaages. What a terror.

Over Labour Day I went to Hawaii for a family vacation. It was a great vacation (dolphins! lava! HURRICANES!) that heralded my youngest sister Adrienne moving to Australia for a year. At our rented house in Hilo, my other sister Laura found a copy of Taboo and insisted we play it, which we did for two nights in a row for a cheering section of shrieking peepers in the trees outside.


Adrienne: the monkey in the middle

At one point Adrienne had the word ‘dolphin’. For those new to Taboo, there’s a list of words you would commonly use to describe a dolphin that you are not allowed to use. You’d think that my sister, with her newly-minted Marine Biology degree, would be able to find some workaround that would allow her to describe a dolphin to my mother without using one of the verboten words. She, however, decided to bypass words altogether and just imitate the noise a dolphin makes, hoping to lead my mother straight to the prize.

That was, at least, was her intention.

What came out of her throat, however, was another noise entirely.

They lost their entire turn because neither of them could stop laughing, hysterical tears falling into their wine as we all goaded her into trying again – which she did, for an even WORSE attempt. I don’t know what it sounded like – a hyena on helium? a long soprano fart? one of the mice from Cinderella attempting a supervillain laugh? – but “dolphin” wasn’t even on the same plane of existence. It was amazing.

She sat right there in front of me trying to salvage her clue with nobody to guess it since we’d all fallen into breathless laughter, and I missed her immediately.


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