One cousin is here from Georgia, another from Alabama, so last night we had the big family dinner. I think I counted 35 of us, from one month to… however old Jack is! The cousins have held on to the homeplace because it’s the only place big enough for everyone to gather, and the house was nearly bursting at the seams.
The food is always excellent. My cousins are good cooks, Olympic-class competitive cooks – and as one’s husband observed, this fall, each of them cooks as if she were the only one providing the food for the entire gathering. There was ham and turkey, dressing and gravy, several different kinds of sweet potatoes (casserole and candied), creamed white potatoes with bacon bits and cheese, broccoli casserole, plain vegetables from the summer garden (beans, butterbeans, corn), potato salad, macaroni salad, several different platters of deviled eggs, a cabbage salad, homemade pickles, Judy’s sourdough loaf bread and rolls – all extending the whole length of kitchen counters, around the sink and reaching the far end of the “U” at the stovetop. Desserts were arranged on the back porch, on top of the deep chest freezer.
There were the usual jokes about how many helpings this cousin had gone back for – or that one needing sideplanks to hold the food steady on his plate. The girls blushed over the breach of diets so carefully followed all year long –
There was talk about how old various children and grandchildren now are – and as one pointed out to lots of laughter at ourselves, “They’re all one year older than they were when we discussed this last year!”
The newest baby is barely a month old. He was less than a week old when we all gathered at Thanksgiving, so this event was his debut into the larger family circle. I got to hold him for a while, as his mama checked on the older boys’ dinner plates. I got to hold the next littlest, now almost three months old, who tried so hard to talk to me as I held her! Holding little babies always tugs at my heart – I’d love to have another one, even at my advanced and decrepit age!
I got to visit a bit with the cousin who drove in for the day from the western part of the state, and share what a precious experience it is to be a “home-mommy” – she’s on leave from her teaching job as an experiment this year. She’s bucking a social expectation of women, and I’m proud of her for having the courage of conviction to follow her heart to be with her children just now – as I’m proud for another of the cousins for their decision to allow God to plan their family.
I think that was part of the very best of it, sharing hearts and minds in those traditional values that have made our family so strong and resilient over the years, in the face of varied sorrows. My family, although not (yet) Catholic, are grounded and rooted, fed and watered, on Christian faith. It was a good way to grow up, and they’re all quite close, even now after Mama and Daddy have gone on, and their own children grown.
The anchor still holds.