A few years ago, my sister fell in love with a brash Boston-ite. So, snow be damned, she decided to pack up her brood of three young boys and high-tailed it to Massachusetts to start a new life.
I had helped them move and stayed for a week in hopes to help everyone adjust to the new place. My nephews weren’t so excited about the move and had become prone to bouts of silence, temper tantrums and general moodiness. I took them to Salem one grey, half-rainy afternoon.
We explored the outskirts of town, walking the side of a lonely highway and tried to ignore the mist that collected on our jackets. My oldest nephew Josh ran ahead of all of us and began to kick rocks as hard and fast as he could. The littlest one, Jason, lagged behind with sad shoulders. And the middle one, Jake, just looked up at me with big eyes and said, “I don’t have any friends here, Aunt Banana.”
It was then that I knew what I must do. I yelled for Josh and Jason and gathered everyone around in a huddle. “OK, guys,” I said. “No matter where you are in the whole entire world, even if you don’t know a single soul, there is ONE sure-fire way to find your people.”
Their eyes were huge. “How?” said Josh suspiciously.
“Easy,” I said. “The disco call.” I did it for them. “O-wah! O-wah!” They looked at me like I was crazy. “Just practice it,” I said. “You’ll see.”
We kept walking. There was nothing around except an old run down gas station with an attached mechanic’s garage. A coin operated bait machine out front read “Live Worms and Crickets.”
Josh resumed his post ahead of the pack and as he kicked another rock down the shoulder of the muddy road, it seemed like he didn’t kick so hard, or with as much anger. Instead he practiced his disco call. “Owah! Owah!” he said softly at first a few times. Then as he got the hang of the vocalizations, he became more brave until finally, he belted the Disco Call out perfectly and LOUD! It echoed off the gas station and the surrounding trees.
Josh stopped and turned to look at me, his toe digging the ground. “See – nothing happened,” he said. His younger brothers looked up at me out of the hoods of their rain jackets as if to say, “See?”
I stood there looking back at them as mist caught me right in the eye, not knowing what to say. I just wanted my nephews to not be sad anymore . . . when the magic happened. I looked up just in time to see a mechanic clad in greasy overalls, giant wrench in hand, come running out of the garage, looking frantically all around . . . for someone . . . he looked right at us and wailed . . .
I smiled and waved back. The mechanic shook his wrench twice at us and disappeared back into the garage, as if part of a mirage, while my nephews caught rain water in their open, disbelieving mouths.
I came back to visit a couple of years later. I took them to a museum. Jason, the youngest, got separated from us. I asked Jake to help me find him. “Easy,” he said. “O-wah! O-wah!”
And from faraway, I hear my youngest nephew’s muffled disco call in reply.