Friday, March 7, 2014


John Cullum's family is a vine -- that's what I said to myself, the day I met them.

I was nervous, wanting them to like me, wanting to like them, and have like become love. But I was divorced, and from a Jewish family, who didn't bring me up with any religion.

I often fee that his family is a vine -- like yesterday. His niece called when JC was performing in a show. She told me that she wanted discuss what new car to buy with "Uncle Johnny." The way she said his name, -- she sang it lovingly, reverently certain that he was there for her, even though she'd called when she couldn't reach him.

The vine, the Uncle Johnny part of it, rambles this way and that way, weaves around the other cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, spouses. It attaches itself to other families, who by marriage have annexed themselves and grown into another twist, another curvingtendril climbing, winding, intertwining with other vines in the state of Tennessee, the Carolinas, creeping along, sending offshoots to the Virginias, and other parts of the deep south.

My dictionary says -- "vine: inert vegetation whose stem requires support, which climbs by tendril or twining, or creeps along the ground." The image stays with me as the vine, over the years, has gotten denser, tangled, sprawling, surrounding JC. Not me. Just JC. Not JD. It's a pang, remembering JD as a teenager, trying to become part of the family, realizing he couldn't, discovering that he couldn't be himself if he let himself be overgrown by them.

I've heard young members of the vine-family talking about leaving town and seeing the world -- seen them not go. They just settle into the whorl, their place on the vine. I've seen new leaves, new tendrils that are dormant, unable to escape or separate or move away from the roots. JC did escape, and separate. He's the only one in the family that I know of who has.

Yes, being part of a family is a powerful thing -- yes, JC is a part of it, but he's never been caught, stifled, thwarted or in any way limited by the twirls and whirls of this ever larger green growing vine.

Though some cousins and their offspring can't seem to get away, the vine is still a marvelous thing, especially because something so green and strong and powerful as JC is a part of it. Maybe that's all the vine needs -- a JC growing toward the sun.

I have to say that I'm glad to be a something-or-other on separate ground, with JD. No, we are not a vine with tendrils and whorls, but JD and I enjoy being free and we're growing wonderfully well toward the sun with JC.

1 comment:

Carola said...

What a beautiful image. It's wonderful that JC's nieces and nephews still call him for support. It's too bad about JD, but it is important for him to be free and himself.