WALNUT SPRINGS, Tex. - They melt into one another's arms with every greeting. They cry a little, laugh a little, then cry some more.
It's been nearly two decades since they last saw her. That time was a wedding. Or was it a funeral? Too many years, too many miles and too many emotional walls can cloud the memories.
Miriam traveled back to this town of about 400 a couple of hours south of Dallas last week. It is due south of Glen Rose - a bustling metropolis of 2,200, a barbecue joint and a handful of other businesses.
She came back to join her aunts, uncles and cousins to help bury her grandmother, Carrie Hampton.
Granny Carrie was a nurse at the hospital there in Glen Rose, but a dedicated resident of Walnut Springs, where she attended the cream-colored Methodist church on Main Street. She loved playing the piano - honky-tonk gospel was right up her alley - and, man, could she cook.
Just outside of downtown, where Junk in the Trunk antiques is at the bustling center, the family's old homeplace sits. It's a white clapboard house with green shutters that another family - and a pack of yard and porch dogs - calls home now. The old tin shed where family members would gather to smoke still stands, serving now as a garage for a broken down green sedan.
It's in that home that some of my wife's favorite memories were formed. There were marathon card contests, board game battles, drawing numbers to see who'd be sleeping in a bed and who'd be bunking on the floor and hundreds of pictures to document each recollection. There was no distance too far to keep family members away from such gatherings. For Miriam's family, the solitude of Carrie's house was a half-a-day away on Interstate 20, through Alabama, over the mighty Mississippi and through countless miles of Texas flatland.
But, like many things in the modern world, life got in the way of the Hamptons. They drifted apart across America, calling sporadically to check on each other. Some of the brothers and sisters were closer than others, and family fractures are often the hardest to repair. Their family landscape came to resemble the mile of asphalt between Granny Carrie's old home and Oak Grove Cemetery, where Carrie and the love of her life, Bill Hampton, Sr., are both now buried.
The family will gather there now from time to time, atop the hill and within earshot of the creek that cuts across the adjacent cattle field, to remember.
But in there is an important message: The family will gather. They will laugh again. They will make new memories.
And the potholes in their hearts will slowly fill with love.