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Mirth, conversation, folly, laughter, loudness, music, humor, and song filled the living room air, when it was “family jam” night with everyone there. A sparkle of excitement twinkled in my eyes. It happened quite frequent but especially so when out-of-town family gathered. People everywhere spilling out on the porch a front yard. Cousins dotted about, up to no good, tasting unattended “highballs,” and warm beers left about. I knew every name from Detroit, Louisville, Cincy to New York. It was a cousin feast, our generation of family and friends. It was a get-together blast, a feverish frenzy! How can you get so many people into one small house?

The ivory tickled, guitars strummed and picked; the banjo ukulele and mandolin bringing old songs to life, like “Frankie and Johnny,” “Detour,” “You are my Sunshine,” “Wave to Me My Lady Down the Line,” “The Wabash Cannon Ball” and “”Old Shep” – I sang and knew them all! And then there were stories, stories abound; who needed TV even Radio with stories around? Ahh! Those stories of Ed, Uncles Larry and Frank, most hilarious; others quite rank. I hung on each story told like gold; Stories of us; stories of old.

The War was over, our soldiers returned, to live with us briefly in our humble home; until they found the peace they had earned and got back on their feet, perhaps find something sweet; Like perhaps Helen for Frank or Aunt Billie for Larry, and more cousins to play with, should they marry. America was happy again!

Those days are gone now along with the people ghosts. Their generation has left them entrusted to me most, so I'll tell every story as if they were alive, to share their life’s journey through my song and eyes.

Oh yeah! My memory was my tablet. I didn't know it then, that I'd remember more vividly as time went along, as I jot it all down in memoir and song about those past and gone. I write and write and write until a faint, banjo sound, story or song; reveals itself once more; creeping from memory stored in my soul. Those I loved resurrected from deep within. On memoir’s wings are not forgotten; their spirit lives on in the stories I spin.

It's good to visit with them again. I guess it's a reason I write now, and then. While dormant and patient by nature, I am sure, memories become alive, live and celebrate and flourish; with remembering they endure, my memoirs to nourish.

Author’s Note: “Family Jam” is taken from “My Wrinkle in Time: My Memoirs.” It was the first of my attempts to mix poetry with prose. Perhaps my best attempt was my poem, “The Trees,” and the Author’s Notes that followed:

I can name every one of those folks: All but one of my mom’s brothers and sisters and spouses, Ed and JoAnn Wotier, Eddie Wotier and Brigette and their kids Darren And Bina. My uncles Larry Floersh, Frank and Veronica Mariano, Ed Wotier and their spouses and my Mom and Dad. When we got together it was an all nighter musical foot stomping jam with highballs all around, singing and picnicking in the kitchen. It’s just what families did a’ways back then. All the old folks are gone now but not forgotten. Their jokes and laughter and singing rings yet in my ears, eyes, heart and soul. I shall put in on paper. I’m next in line.

tom tenbrunsel

Poet Laureate of My Domain

*photo by me, I drove the sisters and brothers over to visit with the Wotier’s in the University van😉

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