At the Sole Proprietor's aunt's house.

The Family Party, December 1998
The Sole Proprietor often expresses a certain ambivalence Richard with Taryn, six weeks. about the holidays and the stresses they contain. This both applies and doesn't apply to the family get togethers in Seattle every December and July. Yes, you have to travel north, yes there are things to be done that stretch you out of shape and make you a little crazy, things that could be solved with a simple decision not to attend. Just this once, you understand, you'll be there next time, but this party has been one of the few things that still binds the Sole Proprietor to his past and reminds him that he does have a family and a family history and it is important that he not only remember it, but that he make contact with it periodically lest it slip away.

This is the time we bring in the strays, the Sole Karin and Michael, one year. Proprietors out there on the edge and introduce them to the newest members of the tribe and reintroduce them to the potentially more problematic ones who are old enough to be out of the house, the ones in their late teens and twenties, so that should you run into one of them somewhere out on the street in some strange town (where the Sole Proprietors live) hanging out over an abyss, you might recognize them, give them a hand and haul them in, stand them to a meal and make sure their plane tickets are good because that is their right and that is your duty and privilege as an elder cousin (outer regions chapter, dues paid).

Every family has members who get out of town and never return The Captain in his cups. and the Sole Proprietor is one of them. His sister, he thinks, as well, although she lives closer by in Portland and has a family of her own. He doesn't know why this is true, this loner thing, he could tell you all kinds of plausible and rational stories about the whys and wherefores, but the honest answer is he really doesn't know. Maybe its in the genes. Maybe its not. Ann. He remembers a young woman named Elaine whom he dated briefly in high school saying to him once, as if it were common knowledge, that he was a loner. No pejoratives here, just that he was and therefore such and such. He hadn't thought of himself that way, not in high school, he had a group of good friends after all, and not in college either, although he is less sure now, in college he was on his own. Still, all things said, when the rubber meets the road, loner he was and loner he is and when the decision comes to stay, he goes.

The party itself was pretty nice. There are two new Mary. members now, they're the smaller ones in the pictures. His cousin Bruce took it upon itself to provide the food, the Sole Proprietor vaguely remembers an unlimited supply of shrimp and grilled salmon before falling into an almost terminal twelfth helping stupor, a throwback to an earlier time when men didn't have a clue about how much to prepare so they prepared for everyone coming, everyone who may come, everyone who had ever come and some none of us knew or cared whether they came or not. This is secondary to the getting together part, but its a pretty nice secondary none the less.

The Sole Proprietor used the heavier artillery for the camera work, The Sole Prop's mother with Suzie and daughter Kristen. some six rolls of film. He hopes they turn out. He didn't use the special flash reflector he used last year so there may be some harsher shadows, but the Nikon will generally save your ass no matter what damned fool thing you've done. The pictures included here were taken with the digital camera and they seem to have turned out reasonably well. Now that The Sole Proprietor is home he'll read the manual and see what sort of adjustments can be made. If you shoot up close with the built in strobe the person tends to be a little washed out and you have to adjust in PhotoShop. Otherwise pretty good.

So the Sole Proprietor goes to the family party and rejoins Kristen with Taryn, 6 weeks. the "real" world for a while. His aunt's house was his home when he was in college, the last six years he was in Seattle before he left for the army, and so returning here really is like coming home. The bed is the same, the Bruce, chef and salmon entrepreneur. routine is the same, everything with its time and place. And isn't that what we look for in Christmas, a formalized ritual that we all know, in which we all have a part? The Christmas carols after dinner, the same carols, the singing of the Twelve Days of Christmas connecting us in a line that runs through our collective past when the world, at least for that one moment, was right and we knew our place (right next to the punch bowl grinning like an idiot lost in the clouds). Speak for yourself, Sole Proprietor.

The banner photograph was shot with the Coolpix at the Sole Proprietor's aunt's house in Seattle. A bit out of focus, this is the kind of shot a tripod and a manual focusing system would handle with ease. But it wouldn't create a jpeg on the spot. The rest were shot at the family party near Edmonds north of Seattle and seem to be focused on the cute younger and youngest members of the family as perhaps they should.