June’s design is nearly a straight-up tribute to family members. Granted there’s always been a part of me with a fascination with bellows-instruments (is this a type?) and if they’re a seasonal instrument, they’re summer. For that, I blame my upbringing–my mother has always hated crowds and mosquitoes and my earliest July Fourth memory is of standing at the entry to an alleyway in early twilight somewhere in Denver, the sounds of fireworks just beginning in the distance and a group of men in kilts bagpiping in front of us. As far as that was from the Norman Rockwellian notions I might’ve developed later, my mid-twenties found me living across the street from a parking lot where cheerfully bagpipers practiced their “My country tis of thee” and the national anthem in the weeks preceding Independence Day. Add in the lively polka influences of Nordeast Minneapolis at seasonal street fairs and roller derby events and even occasionally wafting from backyards during evening runs and it’s pretty clear that if someone’s not squeezing air into and out of something to make noise, it might not be summer.
But in this case, my grandfather’s siblings, my great-aunt Grace and great-uncle Ben both were both born in June and both accordion players. Not only does the accordion lend itself to charming photos of your relatives younger than you can imagine, in this case the instrument captures something essential about my Aunt Grace. Complex and graceful, always in motion and singing, precise and expansive and mesmerizing. She was an amazingly loving woman, the kind of teacher who believed fully in her students, the kind of mother whose home expanded to include children beyond her own without hesitation. She wrote us regular long letters from California about birds and plants and her visits to us, about our thoughts and likes and what made her think of us each day, about the people she knew in her day-to-day life connecting with kids in jail, visiting and supporting those in rough spots emotionally or physically. She was constant motion, constant active love in the world, but when she came to visit, she was totally and fully present in your joys and in their smallest details.
Being with her was like being in June, in this world ripe for exploration, literally and figuratively. A sense of breathing in and out, singing, everything colorful and fascinating, only goodness in the world. The rise and fall of the day, both intense and languid, clouds passing and flowers pulsing open and shut with the sun. Baskets full from the farmers market, slipping fruits out of their skin with the tastiest and most succulent bites held on open palm for you.