Monday, September 17, 2012
The Relatives Came
by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Bradbury Press | 1985
This past summer, my relatives came. My brother donated his house, only a few miles from my parents' house, and couch surfed at friends' for a week. My sister and brother-in-law and my two nieces; a cousin and her husband and their two kids; another cousin (sister to the first cousin) and her husband and their two kids; my aunt (sister to my mother and mother to my two cousins) and another of her grandchildren who belongs to yet another cousin who couldn't make the trip himself; all came to stay. They arrived in two stuffed cars and two different airplanes. A trip to the beach involved three cars and seven car seats. My relatives came, they sure did. And we had as much of a glorious time as the folks in Cynthia Rylant's timeless book.
The anticipation of their arrival, the day they show up, and hugging are all part of relatives coming to stay. "Those relatives just passed us all aroudn their car, pulling us against their wrinkled Virginia clothes, crying sometimes. They hugged us for hours." What lovely words.
The book takes the reader through the visit--eating with so many people to feed, sleeping with a shortage of beds, celebrating together, and the poignant sadness of the leaving when "our beds...felt too big and too quiet." That dull achy feeling at the pit of a stomach after a visit--the physical manifestation of missing someone--Cynthia Rylant hits it right on the head. Gammell's illustrations are soft, rendered in what appears to be colored pencil, adding a lighthearted whimsy to the text. The road they travel is windy and hilly and the car bounces along as if alive. The joy on the faces of each and every relative can remind children that even when the house is crowded and cousin Billy just whupped you a good one, we're all still family. And that's what matters.