Monday, December 8, 2008

4 hoseys

Little bit of a family resemblance
I can't talk about my father, or my grandfather, or my great-grandfather, without becoming lost in memories of the tastes and smells of my grandparents' home in upstate New York.

Every time we visited New York, my grandparents trotted out a long-standing ritual of herding every member of the family to the driveway. The practice traditionally took place on the hottest, most humid summer day, when everyone sported oily, reflective sheens of sweat and condensation over faces and heads topped by hair frizzing out and up at odd, unpredictable angles. It was under these conditions that the ritual began, every family member grouping and regrouping for photographs. My grandparents had a cherry tree, an oak tree, a lush lawn, and a rose bush. But instead of any of these verdant backgrounds, they invariably chose the white-paneled garage door as a backdrop. About an hour into the routine, everyone would persevere with grim-faced determination, and the countenances combined with the garage gave the shots the look of police lineups. My sister and brother and I have our growth recorded in a series of mug shots.

It is in this form that four generations of Hosey men were captured on film for the first and last time. My great-grandfather, an Irish immigrant who occasionally couldn't recall that I was not my aunt but could tell me the name of the woman who gave him a blanket on the leaky boat to America. My grandfather, a talented writer with a poetic bent (which I discovered, almost by accident, on my last visit with him) who always wore blue trucker-style baseball caps he bought on trips to Arizona, perched loosely on his head so you could see through the part between the top of his head and the top of the hat. My brother, who would one day roll a car at 90 mph and survive, would be homecoming king, would join the Air Force and almost die in training and would return to be an emergency medical technician -- but who then was just my dorky little brother. And towering head and shoulders and chest above them all, my father: math prodigy, winner of every Trivial Pursuit game, commissioner of his fantasy football and baseball leagues, cracker of horrible jokes (which, I've since learned, he learned from his father), terrible but unabashed singer, larger than life in many senses. All but my brother have since passed on.

After the shots we'd talk my grandparents into a shot or two in front of the rosebush -- which were always their favorite, although we could count on mandatory mug shots on the next visit anyway -- and sit on the bench with peeling red paint in their backyard, picking cherry tomatoes from the vine. The round fruits would burst with only light pressure, spraying sweet-tangy juices into our mouths. (Or out of them, if we were really lucky. A projectile tomato bite was one of the rare treats of a New York summer afternoon.) I still only eat cherry tomatoes, although they don't taste as sweet or moist in Arizona. I don't think it's entirely in my head.

It was my grandpa's birthday December 4, the same day we were closing on our new home. Right around that time, my son was making some of the worst puns I'd ever heard.

Damn, I miss those guys.


heather said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks Kim,

You turned a bittersweet day into a laugh for me. Yep, those days were "fun". My favorite all time pictue was one your grandmother took of all of us when you were about 2. Your father put you on his shoulders for the photo in the backyard and mom took a picture making sure not to cut your head off. Too bad I can't say the same for me, your mom and your grandfather. Our foreheads are about all that made it! Man, family photo time was always a farce!

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

It's not in your head; tomatoes just ain't so great in the desert. So—MOVE! :-)

I know, you just bought a new house. Congratulations!

I see with all your writing and photography that you are incredibly talented. I don't say gifted. I really think you can be blessed with a good eye and a good ear, but the rest of it is work. Even if it's fun.

Do me a favor. Don't take up guitar and singing. I'm twice your age, and it's all I have on you. If you put your mind to those things, I have no doubt you'd blow the world away.

Kevin J. Hosey said... Best Blogger Tips

Great, great post, Kim. I can see, hear, feel and smell Brian, Dad, Grandpa, you and Dan as I read this.

I sniffled for just a second as I read your post and then laughed out loud several times; Walker Evans just got up off our bed, looked in at me in the media roomed and snorted.

I have a photo that I want to post to my blog some day; your father or mother took it of you at age 1, at a table, pecking away with one finger at an old, light brown Smith Corona typewriter I used to have. I always kept it and smiled, hoping that another Hosey would become a writer, maybe a newspaper reporter, someday. Well, it has better than I could have expected in you.

Of course, looking at the photo on your blog, between the three older Hosey men there was barely enough hair to get messed by the humidity.

mw said... Best Blogger Tips

I love what you've written here. It's funny and sincere and moving AND it's well written. I really appreciate this - thank you - it's beautiful.

Kim Hosey said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks, everyone.

@Heather: That's funny, actually. I scanned a bunch of photos of him in the other day, and threw in one he took of me, David and Grandma/Mom. The crop is like 15 percent us, 85 percent side of the house. I think my dad was known for cutting off parts of people too, but he always got lots of sky in the photos!

@Leslie: Thanks; you know that means a lot coming from you. Also, don't worry about the singing, for sure. I must have used up my talents in other areas.

@Kevin: Thank you. And I think I remember seeing that photo! Pretty prophetic. (Also, I regularly laugh/yell at my computer screen. The cat, son and husband all think I'm nuts.)

@mw: Thank you. I'm happy you liked it. I'll have to head over to your blog next!