My first glimpse of him: Christmastime almost thirty years ago, an old lakeside house. He's just back from U of M, wears his radicalism lightly, is shorter than his brother but just as strong. They adore each other in the standoffish way of some men, and their loyalty to each other is palpable even to a stranger like me.
My first glimpse of her: coming out of the old blue house as we wait in the car that hasn't warmed up yet. Her breath crystallizes as she slides into the cracked back seat beside me. "Hey there, mystery lady!" She's a sprite who already belongs to the strange clan.
My first glimpse of her: a hotel room in Tempe. Her exhausted young parents have strained all resources to make the journey to see us. She is tiny, red-haired, alert, big-eyed. She looks up from the blanket at us and wails.
My first glimpse of him: a Polaroid picture, already three weeks old when we take it from the expensive package with all the stamps. Half a world away in a dank German apartment, we see his little face in the white blanket, sleeping in his mother's arms in the same room where I first saw his father.
In between: years of summer visits in Michigan and in Germany, winter visits in New York and Texas. Brother and nephew helped gather stones for the hearth. Niece came to a concert at Carnegie. Sister-in-law shared shopping trips, lattes, long conversations. Boys played games and made up rules for them, girls plotted the future and sat up late. We joined hands in a few large moments of crisis or celebration. We didn't tell each other most things that happened.
Today it's raining in Chicago and almost all of us are watching the World Cup in the new house with the bedrooms for the kids who don't live here. Tomorrow we'll travel through Ann Arbor and lay our eyes on our studying niece. And then we'll move on to the next family visit.
Three decades of love, adventure, and play with this family, who have invited us along and included us so generously. Sunday morning, rain falling, coffee brewing. Then and now, and with luck again, and again.