It's all tangled up in my mind. The holiday dinners: the now and the then. I am my child-self again, running through my grandmother's house, the air thick with turkey smells, chasing, or being chased, by my boy cousins.
We go up the front stairs, along the second floor hall, through the den and across the enclosed porch to the back steps and down again. We go past the coat rack and up the front stairs again. Our shoes make lovely clopping noises as we run in giant circles with an occasional foray into the living room, the air thick with smoke layered on sunlight, where the grown-ups sit and talk.
And why would they want to do that, just sit and talk, we wonder as we catch our breath and start off again. Up the stairs and through the second floor hall and down. Up the stairs . . . and down.
I see it now in my own house, only time has slipped and I'm the girl who is suddenly the grandmother and the families come for dinner. We make stabs at conversation, sitting in the living room while the children swarm around us, running all in a row. Andrew in the lead and then Pilar, or maybe Katie or Maggie with Matthew coming along behind and Ryan bringing up the rear, staggering at times, turning around to go the other way, meeting the others as they come by again.
They swoop and dive, catching at the knees of grown-ups as they go, swerving around Elizabeth crawling across the living room floor and dodging baby Will in the swing. They go by in great rushes of air, in one door of the sun porch and out the other, through the hall and into the kitchen and out by way of the dining room and across the hall, the living room and into the sun porch and out again while the grown-ups snatch at quiet and conversation.
Time shifts again and I settle in my chair and watch them go and run with them in another house.
Up the stairs and through the second floor hall and back again. My cousin pulls my hair and it smarts down through the years.
A child cries and I blink, catching at the now.
''It was my turn and she --''
''Play nicely,'' a mother says.
''Take turns at being the leader.''
The children tire and flop onto the floor, leaning on cushions, a table leg, a grandfather's knee.
''Hey, Nana,'' someone says to me. ''Is it time for dinner yet?''
I= Colby Rodowsky is a Baltimore writer of children's books.