Ron Stone was feeling rather paralyzed in the presence of Missy’s grandmother. Not so much her parents.
He advised himself to be cool. Yes, that was the word. Cool, Stone, cool. If you are totally casual, maybe they will all be so preoccupied with Chip’s girl that they won’t notice you. What was that word in the poem they had studied in English literature? Hecatombs? Yes, that was it. Missy didn’t just have cousins. She had hecatombs of cousins, most of whom trailed spouses and children along with them.
The grandmother was discussing the history of the serving dishes on the table. Each bowl and tray, none of which matched any of the rest, had apparently been passed down in some branch of her mother’s family for several generations.
For a guy who had never exactly met his mother, since she had taken off from Lothlorien Commune for parts unknown before he was old enough to remember, this was a little disconcerting. Ron looked a little warily at Gerry, sitting close to the other end of the table, who had never exactly met his mother either. He hoped that Gerry would keep his mouth shut on the subject of mothers.
He looked toward the other end of the table again. Gerry was talking to Missy’s Aunt Clara. Since their conversation was entirely in German, it was more or less sliding in and out among the rest of the dialogue at the table.
Wes looked down toward her, smiling. The soft "g" sound, along with occasional tangles with the past tenses of irregular verbs, was almost Clara’s only concession to the fact that English was not her first language. She had even mastered the English "w" – an uncommon achievement for an adult whose native language was German. Though, as she had once whispered into the ear she was tickling, her desire to be able to say "Wesley" correctly as soon as she had the chance had provided an uncommonly strong motivation.
He’d have to ask her, some time, if she had written "Wesley and Clara" on her note paper and drawn hearts and daisies around the names. If she hadn’t, it was probably because it hadn’t occurred to her.
He sat there, thinking about his brother Faramir – Frank, to Grantville – and Giovanna’s two weddings. One Catholic, performed by a cardinal, in the Sistine Chapel, believe it or not; the other by way of his father’s mail order credentials as a minister in the Universal Church of Life in … whatever … and … stuff. His older brother would probably end up Catholic, no matter how socialist and atheist the rest of the Marcolis were. After all, Giovanna had promised the pope himself that she would do all that was in her power to convert Frank. He had a feeling that Giovanna was the kind of girl who kept her word. Plus Frank was chums with Father Gus Heinzerling. Catholic on one side of him, Lutheran on the other. Himself . . .
That was how he lost track of what people were talking about. Only to come back to reality and find out that Missy’s father was telling everyone about that ultimately improbable and utterly unfortunate mechanical event, back before the Ring of Fire, in the days when there were car lots in Grantville and his brother had been dating Missy.
"I am always fascinated by photographs," Clara answered. "If the Ring of Fire had happened earlier, we in Badenburg, ordinary people, could have had pictures of our grandparents. Not only wealthy people who can afford to have portraits painted. Though my brother Dietrich does have a drawing of my grandfather Pohlmann, who lived in Arnstadt, made by a student at the
She looked at the wall critically. "Though, mostly, they are shades of gray, and some are more tan or brown. Wes says that we will have our photograph made and give a copy to your mother for Christmas. And to my father."
It was an oddity in her English,
"A fiddler more than a violinist. On the other, Hudson Jenkins, yes. He died young and Grandma Mildred married again. This is her second family, with Clarence Walker, taken right after World War II. That’s Dad, over in the corner, at the end of the back row."
Clara frowned at the photos she had been examining. "I knowed – knew – already that Debbie was a widow when she married you." She pointed. "There is the photograph for her first wedding, to the soldier who was killed. Don Jefferson. You said that this child" – she pointed to a snapshot of a little girl about six years old – "is her daughter, Anne, the nurse who has gone to
She pointed to the wedding photograph of John Charles Jenkins and Eleanor Anne Newton, the date in an ornamental garland at the top. Then to a family picture, taken shortly before Wes and Lena married, the two of them standing in back, one on each side of their sister Mary Jo, who had been left up-time, with their parents sitting in front, drawing the downward slant from Wes’ height to Chad’s, the shape of each face and hairline, on the glass with her fingernail. "Where did Wesley come from?"
She was looking at Wes’ and Lena’s wedding photo now, then one with Lenore about ten and Chandra about eight, both long legged and gawky. "Those little apples did not fall very far from the tree," she commented.