"Well, look at this!" Grandpa exclaims, scanning the front page of a copy of the Sioux Valley News, seated comfortably at the kitchen table. "Your name is splashed all over the front page! You're a VIP!" He continued gushing, shaking my hand, and eventually asking for my autograph.
I'll admit, I was pretty excited the first time I saw my name in print on that newspaper: "Laura Heckmann, Sioux Valley News Reporter." But that eventually lost its novelty, in line with a calling card for complaints on every story I write. Grandpa somehow managed to turn it into something magical again.
And it wasn't even about the paper, or whether or not I really was an accomplished writer, or that my name was all over the front page. It was that he cared because my name was on it. I have no idea if my family cares about the inner workings of newspapers, or what types of tasks fill a reporters day (probably not), or anything that paper has to say, but suddenly because I, their niece/cousin/granddaughter, was a part of it, it mattered.
Earlier this morning, I was joined around 11 a.m. by the ENTIRE crew at the newspaper office. As in, almost the entire side of my Dad's extended family. Grandma and Grandma, two sets of aunts and uncles, a handful and a half of cousins, my dad and two of my siblings.
From the second they stepped in they were wide-eyed and full of questions. Visiting my office had been put on their schedule as a major field trip for the morning. They wanted to take my picture by the cash register, in front of newspaper stacks, sitting at my desk and working the stapler. They wanted to know how the newspaper runs, how we put it together, what kinds of customers we have. They wanted to see the storage area, know what the stacks of paper were used for and marveled at the large paper cutter.
Amanda and Peter (two of my cousins) sat in on half a Commission meeting with me. The entire family has sat for hours, both nights of the reunion so far, just listening to stories from everyone else, wanting to know the intricate details of our lives and marveling at our accomplishments.
It's overwhelming in the best possible way, to know you're cared about.
I suppose it's pretty easy not to take interest in something that doesn't interest me. I can forget that relationships aren't about keeping me entertained. If someone is talking about planting corn seeds, the art of square dancing or how they once played an extra in a small budget movie, if I care about them, I'll care about what they do. I'll care about what makes them happy, or what fills their day. And I may just learn some fascinating things in the process, about the subject, but more importantly, about the person.
This family cares, and by the time they'd left my office, probably close to 45 minutes later, I couldn't help but beam and feel like I'd just gotten a gargantuan hug that hadn't unwrapped me yet. They made me feel special and in a way I rarely have, and I only hope I'll carry that genuine, wide-eyed curiosity for my loved ones beyond today. Thanks fam, for not only reminding me how blessed I am by all of you, but what can learn from you, as well.
Who knows, this may even give me a new perspective on Commission meetings.