The summer has been cold and wet and cheerless. The main topic of conversation in our rural area is the weather and the effect on crops. Experts, self styled, of every stripe proclaimed their own brand of truth. "I know you won't believe this, but we've had less rain this year so far than we had last year. It just seems like more because it rains every day. My well is the lowest it's been in years" one farmer told the group standing around at a community yard sale. Another said "Nope, I don't believe it. I got water running right into the cow barn. Now I've been workin' this farm for over fifty years, and my father worked it before that, and it's never happened before. This is the wettest year ever, and that means more rain fell!”
No matter what the truth is, apart from the conversational value of the weather, it has been the pits. Nobody disagrees with that.
The arrangements were made for the anniversary party with fingers crossed and a fallback plan to use the church hall if the weather was bad. My sister in law, Shirley, had recruited a small army of grandchildren to help, and they created invitations on the
computer, made phone calls, arranged for the pot luck meal which was to be served, and helped with all the other small details.
The couple being honoured, Stan and Martha, were celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of their marriage, and their four children would all be present. So too would assorted uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances, and a variety of fringe relatives. In our family, as in most, an occasion like this (weddings, funerals, etc.,) was good reason for a reunion. Somehow, we never had reunions for their own sake.
Shirley worried about the weather. Ronald, her husband and my brother, was unconcerned. "It'll either rain or it won't" he said. The day dawned bright and sunny, cool though, and with great white fluffy clouds floating overhead.
We would be making the hundred mile trip with our daughter and her brood of three since her husband was somewhere in the southern states on a business trip. Since this was the case, I proposed a departure time somewhere in the area of an hour before we really needed to start. Experience had told me that it was a wise thing to do since we never, ever, not once, ever got away when we said we would. On the other hand, I was concerned about arriving too early. What would the children do with extra time on their hands.
The van was loaded with all the necessities. Lawn chairs, our contribution to the potluck meal, diaper bags, bottles of baby formula, boxes of toys, a folding stroller for the baby, paper, crayons, games, extra clothing, gifts, snacks for the trip, sunglasses, sunscreen, blankets, and other assorted paraphernalia made up the cargo. We could easily have survived for two weeks in the barrens.
We arrived an hour early, and not wanting to get in the way when we knew they
would be frantically rushing around with last minute details, we stopped at a donut shop to use the facilities, puttered around town for a while, and then went to the park where we all got out and wandered around.
Just when I announced we should go, Alison found that the stuff we had loaded earlier did not include a sweater or jacket for Morgan. There was nothing for it but to go back to the Giant Tiger, where my wife and daughter went shopping. Now of course, we were late.
Did I mention that I was the MC? Well, I was, and I sat in the van listening to the small voices chattering incessantly, looking at my watch every two minutes, and fuming about the whole affair. The disgusted look I gave to the two ladies when they finally returned clutching their purchase went either totally unnoticed, or if noticed, ignored. "OK" my wife said cheerily, "we can go now".
"Just great" I thought. "Now we're late, I'm the MC, and everyone will be waiting
for me to start the program." (As it turned out, the "program" didn't start for another hour, and by then it was so late I was unable to use any of the material I had prepared. So much for the importance of the MC. No one had even noticed we were late.)
Ten minutes later, and half an hour late, we pulled in to my brother’s house. Well,
we didn't actually pull in. I noticed the long line of cars parked on both sides of the road, the driveway being full. As we drove past, we saw the lawn full of people, some milling around, and others with their lawn chairs set up in the best spots. I found a driveway to turn around in well down the road, and then found a parking space along the road, not more than half a mile past their house.
While my passengers each carried something (my daughter carried the baby) and
then joined the throngs of people on the yard, 1 was able to lug the rest of the stuff back from the van in only four or five trips.
Again, the grouchiness of my response to the question "do you need any help?" which came just after the last load, was apparently not noticed.
Earlier in the day, before leaving home, my wife had suggested we take the new camera. It was a state of the art birthday gift for me, and had not yet been used. 1 thought we should take the old camera since it still had half a roll of unused film, and I knew how it worked. Over ruled, 1 had packed the new one.
Lots of unique photo ops were evident. There were groupings of people that might never be together again in exactly the same mix, and I wanted pictures for our albums, and also to send to another brother, Paul, who lives in Yellowknife in the NWT, and could not attend.
Just as I snapped the fifth picture, a funny buzzing feeling started in the camera, and as 1 looked at it, 1 noticed that the lens had retracted, the counter showed "E" for empty, the film was rewinding, and the film loading door was open!
"1 suppose you think it's my fault" my wife accused, when I grumpily told her
what had happened. "Yes I do" I responded unwisely. She set her mouth in a way which I had come to realize meant nothing good for me, took the van keys, and set off for town to get more film. 1 could tell that she thought I had done something wrong and "might" be able to figure out what by the time she got back.
When she returned, a parking place had opened in the driveway. Life is just not fair!
Morgan, our five year old grand daughter was playing with Emily, also five. I haven't stopped to figure out what their actual relationship is, but Emily's father is my nephew, and so I guess he and my daughter Alison are cousins, so I suppose that makes Emily and Morgan second cousins. Who cares? They were playing.
Alison, not sure whose child she was asked Emily "who are your parents?". With a great deal of wisdom, Emily responded "My mommy and daddy!" "Yes" Alison insisted, but what are their names? What are they called?".
"JoAnne and Dear" was the reply. "My daddy calls mommy JoAnne, and mommy calls daddy Dear". That settled that!
Old acquaintances were renewed, and we were introduced to giant young men and beautiful young ladies that had been transformed into these strangers since we last saw them. For some, high school starts this year. For others, university will be their life, some on bursaries and grants and scholarships. Still others are just entering the world of work. I think Michael Dean Frederick, our one year old grandson was the youngest there. I would not care to guess who was the oldest.
There were also absences. They were all missed, but specifically Uncle Harold. Aunt Arley spent an hour or so, leaving before the meal to go to the hospital where he is recovering from his serious run in with a tractor and cultivator.
George, another brother, was presented by someone with a shoe saver crutch. This device was designed (according to the instructions) to use the folding trough strategically placed so that the user can propel certain body fluids a reasonable distance in front, and thereby prevent ruining a shoe shine. This tool made the rounds, and there were many comments made about the size and shape of the trough. Dorothy, George's wife, did not deny or confirm the various speculations! George of course, was ready to offer proof, but the offer was declined.
A gospel quartet from Harrowsmith, all friends of the bride and groom, set up their
equipment on the row of tables and enchanted the audience with several songs.
Berniece, another sister in law had been to England and Wales since we last saw her. She accompanied her grand daughter and school music team, and we understand that she set the pace for the group. This was her first time in Europe, and as she told me, she is determined to return. She also tells me that Keith, her husband and another of my brothers, won't go, even though they have promises of lodging in both England and Scotland. Keith and I had words, and that exchange ended with his promise to think about it. I hope they go.
Stan and Martha, the bride and groom, looked young and healthy and very happy. Martha disappeared into the house for a few minutes and returned wearing her bridal gown. Since they had been married in Seattle, most people had not been able to attend the wedding. She looked beautiful, and the comment was made that she might be the only person that ever had to have a gown taken in after twenty five years.
The meal was finally laid out on the long tables. Salads of every imaginable kind, and cheeses and ham and roast beef made the table groan.
Just before the feeding frenzy started, grace was sung, led by Ronald's rich voice.
Be present at our table Lord
Be here and every where adored
These creatures bless and grant that we
May feast in paradise with thee
I think everyone, at least those over thirty, knew the words, if not from recent use,
then from childhood memories of when those familiar words ornamented almost every gathering where food was served. Most people joined the singing, and the sounds rose from that shady summer lawn to the heavens, and invoked memories for many of us of past events.
Everyone said they ate too much, and when the damage was done, there appeared
to still be enough food left to satisfy the hunger of the whole Canadian Navy.
As the day drew to a close and people started to leave, there were the usual
promises of keeping in touch, of visiting. No doubt they were all sincere, and the
intentions were good. But, time slips away from us in this busy world. Distances too are greater than they used to be for most folks. The majority of promises will end with the good intention.
There is little likelihood this group will ever meet as a group again. Certainly, there will be other gatherings for other reasons, and there will be many of the same faces, but not them all. Each of us is more conscious of mortality as the years go by, and each of these gatherings becomes more precious.
Strangely enough, I loaded the van mostly by myse1 while grandchildren were gathered and belongings were searched out, and finally, we too departed with a "toot tootle oot toot - toot toot" of the horn. Pretty much a perfect day I'd say, not counting the camera fiasco I