The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 32

#32 of 52 : VELMA AND PAUL
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project - Week 32

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   It all started on Thanksgiving Day that winter the lake froze solid.  All the family had gathered, some travelling in from Kansas, others just from the next county.  It was a standard family affair wonderfully complete with too much food and twice as many children as the year before.  The women cooked and giggled, and the men smoked outside and talked about politics, crops, and religion.  Everyone was generally too busy to notice that a romance was budding between two young people.

When she first saw him, he had been looking at her intently, trying to figure out her age.  Some vague impression told him she was about two years his junior.  Even the girls in his class at school were not so grown, not nearly so womanly.  Yet here she stood, wearing perfume and lipstick, chestnut hair let down in smooth curls and parted on the side instead of yanked back in the standard girlish ponytail.  Once he was caught staring, hot color flooded his cheeks.

He turned away looking almost irritated, which confused her.  She offered a smile anyway and then turned back to the raw green beans she was helping to snap and string.  Boys she thought to herself, why be it so hard to just be polite?

She liked that he wore a smooth white t-shirt with his belted jeans.  It showed off his tanned arms.  That Thanksgiving was so far warm and windless, belying the bitter winter that lurked around the corner, and no one was keeping a jacket on for long after playing out in the Oklahoma sun.

He was tall and obviously athletic, two qualities that were unfortunately rare among the boys she knew.  He smiled a lot and laughed easily with people, but never when he knew she was watching.  A quiet wickedness inside her loved that she made him nervous.  That same wickedness urged her to cross her legs and execute the most perfect posture when he was nearby.

Who is she??  His thoughts swam even as he played football in the stickery side pasture or compliantly pushed the younger kids on a tire swing.

They had never met.  In fact, he had barely even heard of her family’s name before, the connection was so loose.  He slowly gathered that her mother was somehow related to his mother’s cousin, by marriage.

This morning all he been able to think about was the expansive feast and ridiculous dessert table that was being prepared for the afternoon.  Now, all he seems to care about is not wandering off too far, at least not so far she wouldn’t catch him in a great pass or super human leap in the air.

As morning turned to midday they continued in this mild flirtation.  She smiled; he scowled.  She curved her spine and combed the length of her hair with her fingers; he threw the football in an excessive display of strength and focus.  They communicated for hours without ever saying a word to each other.

Then at one o’clock, someone at the house began clanging an old brass bell.  The patriarch was stepping haltingly onto the front steps, beckoning everyone to circle up for the blessing.  As the patchwork clan gathered into a wiggling oval which started and ended at the front porch, the boy and the girl found themselves side by side, quite by accident.

The patriarch joined hands with the two people on either side of him, signaling the entire family to follow suit.  Hands joined in a quiet tidal wave that spread out around the oval, finally reaching the two reluctant young people.

Knowing she had the upper hand in confidence, the girl was grinning.  Ready to press her hand into his, ready to be the gentle aggressor.   But he shocked her by scooping up her hand instead, quickly and not gently at all, then bowing his head so forcefully that surely he must be in fervent prayer.

Now it was her turn to blush.

The blessing was recited and all hands dropped in the clapping excitement of Thanksgiving dinner being served.  The pretty girl stood dumbfounded and almost paralyzed by his confidence.  The boy smiled at her from the side of his handsome face and walked away, finally relaxed and definitely hungry again.

Several hours later he found her sitting up in the hay loft of the nearby barn.  She and a few other girls were playing jacks.  He collapsed near her and offered her a small navy blue china plate filled with homemade pecan pie and vanilla ice cream.

“Oh, thank you.  I thought this was all gone already.”  She felt completely surprised and satisfied by his advance.

“Nope, I heard you talking about it earlier and when it was almost emptied out I saved some for you.  The ice cream is a little melted though.”  He handed her a spoon.

“That’s okay, I think it tastes better melted anyway.  Thank you…”  Another smile from the pretty girl, this time less polite and more enrapt.  He returned the smile in a way she would never forget.

The other girls went on with their game of jacks, rolling their eyes and dismissing the silly pair.  He sat patiently as she nibbled at the gooey, sweet, and salty dessert.  He watched her but tried not to do it obviously, soaking up her movements and her fragrance.  Rosewater.  She monitored her posture and his expression.  Throughout the remaining hours of the day their careful interactions relaxed into genuine fun and lots of laughter.


   They fell in love rapidly and permanently, spending the rest of that Thanksgiving together and every one thereafter for sixty three years.

At a family reunion almost two decades into their marriage, they climbed to the hay loft of the barn where he had first gifted her with pecan pie.  They laughed together more.  He watched her more, now with the richness of time tested love and a rich bank of memories.  She leaned on his handsome confidence like it was their first Thanksgiving.  One of their children snapped this photograph when the happy sounds of their memory tracing spilled out into the yard below.

About The Author:
Marie Wreath is a native Oklahoman who spends too much time reading and hating her hair. She recently started the blog With her husband of ten years she runs a hobby farm where they marinate in love, lessons learned, and question worth asking.

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About The Imaginary Family Project:
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles.  This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir.  Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects.  At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.

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4 thoughts on “The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 32”

  1. I love this story. I don’t read romances very often, so finding one in the Imaginary Family Project is a treat. Thanks for warming my insides and bringing a smile to my face ~ Red Dirt Kelly

  2. I love it. I love every word. I love the way it made me feel – nostalgic about people I’ve never met, a story the possibly never happened.


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