The first reunion I remember: Old Italian uncles playing their accordions in the dining room of a South Chicago suburban hotel. The cool linoleum of a great-aunt’s basement kitchen, where the men played cards and the air smelled of bread. The wild way our distant cousins were allowed to roam around the park grounds, unattended. I have long hated the photograph of us taken that weekend. My great-grandmother squeezes into a folding chair, while our branch of the family gathers around her. We are beaming, wearing T-shirts that say we’re from Texas. Mine is purple. I am standing at the edge, wearing the self-conscious slouch of a pre-teen, my mouth curled awkwardly around my braces.
The most recent reunion I remember: The nurse hands us the baby and says meet your daughter, but I look at those dark eyes and wet-pink skin and I know I’ve met her before. From the monthly ultrasound pictures, I recognize her immediately: the point of her jawline, the broad curve of her forehead, the way she keeps a wrinkled hand tightly fisted at her cheek. She curls against my collarbone and we both soften. She must recognize me too, in the distant heartbeat she has known for almost 39 weeks. We look at each other. I like to think we have the same thought then: It is so good to see you in person.
Reunions don’t always have happy endings. And they can take as many forms as there are stories: a gathering, a reconciliation, a clash, a coming home. In this 11th issue of Proximity, we explore nine ways people connect—or try and fail—to one another, to themselves, and to lands as familiar as a heartbeat thrum or as distant as can be imagined.
Cris Harris describes a son’s deepening appreciation for his father against a backdrop of AIDS and financial struggle, in “Darrell.”
In “Myths,” Emma Ignaszewski peels back the evocative layers of a late-night argument to show how discord can clarify what we have in common.
Bill Lascher travels across the South Pacific in the hopes of better understanding a long-lost relative and WWII correspondent, in the photo essay “On Melville Jacoby’s Trail.”
In “Unfolding,” Avery Malone celebrates the good and difficult work of reconciling with one’s true self.
Katey Schultz explores a reunion that never got to happen and, along the way, experiments with a reunion of form where fact and fiction come together, in “MISSING.”
Sarah Van Bonn reunites with her beloved city of New Orleans in “Levitation, Levitas,” exploring how people and place can reflect one another’s stories.
Emily Varnell’s “On Big Country” takes us on an intimate journey into the heart of Texas, in a beautiful meditation on what it means to reunite with a disappearing landscape.
In the poem “Reconnection,” Emily Vieweg recounts a reunion with an old classmate that suggests sometimes our lives diverge for good reason.
And in “Seven Seconds,” S.M. Whitfield shows us reunion as a form of heartbreaking fantasy, a secret life lived one weekend every year.
We are so proud of this collection of true stories. As always, we bring you a mix of new and established voices sharing stories in a variety of ways, through flash nonfiction, longform essay, poetry, and image. The nine stories included here are very different from one another, but they all do this: They challenge us to pause and consider our own complicated connections to the places and people we have loved.
Carrie Kilman, editor