We swept the house. Ran many loads of beach laundry. Prepared the leg of lamb and the chicken and picked the squash to roast and infused the mint and simmered the custards for the many homemade icecreams. Ground almonds for the wineberry tart. Kneaded the dough for bread. Mowed the grass and picked the wildflowers.
Friends drove up and the thunderstorm rolled in, chasing us off the deck and onto the living room furniture where we sprawled and I shared where we are on our journey to sell the farm and buy a new home in Texas and good friends listened. Skies cleared, more piles of food arrived. A dear one brought fennel from her garden and green beans. I didn't plant beans this year and had never eaten fennel, so was thoroughly delighted.
Another friend brought her decadent broccoli salad. And wine. The clan (McDermotts, not the Klan) brought brats and asparagus and dip and chips. And beer. Some other friends brought guacamole with herbs and tomatoes from their urban garden. Rachel brought hot dogs (hurray for the kids!). Others brought KFC and Rice Crispie treats (Double hurray for the kids!) Another brought homemade mac and cheese (tarragon is the secret) and a couple of varieties of homemade icecream. There was watermelon. And canteloupe. And bean dip. And cucumber salad. And pound cake. And coleslaw. And homemade bread.
What a lucky pot.
We stretched out over the deck and the porch and the lawn and ate and ate and ate. Myriads of conversations were had. Toddlers toddled. Soccer game took place on the lawn with little kids and teenagers and girlfriends and dads.
At one point I wanted to run away to my room and cry because I was overwhelmed with so many intense emotions.
Six years ago a bunch of interns from our church came out to help us when Philip was in the hospital in a coma. Afterwards, we invited them all out to the farm for a cookout to say thank you and to help them celebrate our Independence. That was when we met Sean. Which is the beginning of a very long and precious story, which you will already partly know if you have followed this blog from the beginning.
Back then the kids were all elementary age and younger. Nora was just two years old. Sean was a mere 19 years old.
This year Thomas is 18, Patrick is 15 and a half, Nora is seven, Sean is a sweet married young man, expecting his first baby before too long. I got to bless that sweet baby as I put my hands on Julie's belly.
Looking out on our dear friends, gathered about the tables, enjoying the bounty of early summertime food, part of it produced on our farm and friends' farms, mixed in with fun town food, church friends, farm friends, a variety of philosophies and political leanings, all savoring the sounds of the evening and the feel of the cool breeze on our skin, I thought, "This is it."
Relationships cultivated over the last several years, bonded together, literally and figuratively, with blood, sweat and tears.
This is it.
These lives, all mashed together with flavors and senses, explosions and sparkly dances, a little moonshine and bullfrogs.
This is it.
And the wonder that a couple of years ago Philip was in the middle of it all and now he isn't and now we are leaving and as I pushed back my red bandana and hugged a little neck, I realized, this is it. The end of a wonderful run of 4th of July celebrations.
We are saying goodbye to a chapter. A beautiful, amazing and horribly wonderful chapter that we would have never experienced had we never had to say goodbye to our dearest New Jersey friends back in 2005.
The kids asked me if we could fire off fireworks in Alpine.
I told them that this year there is a burn ban and that it was dangerous to light any sort of fires, but who knows what awaits us in 2012?
Today I wondered if it was healthy to have so many family traditions, since they are all having to be turned upside down after Philip's death and we try so hard to figure out our new family ways.
But deep inside, I love our many traditions, and am very thankful to remember Philip's sparkler ballet, and ever-increasingly outrageous antics each 4th of July. The joy he took in setting off the most amazing of firework displays. The way he would improvise a megaphone and play like he was auctioning off peoples' vehicles lining our driveway like a used car lot. I love that he loved the way I like to prepare a feast for our friends and he supported the stress and chaos that came with inviting everybody we knew and all their friends and friends' friends to join in the fun.
We miss him a lot.
And the thought of leaving all these dear ones here in Virginia hurts pretty much more than anything I ever dreamed I would ever feel.
But in the background of all the chaos, is a little note of excitement, hanging in the air like the fragrance I smelled as I went out to mow this evening. A new life, a new, updated version of all our family traditions as we evolve and shift. With Mom and Daddy near enough to be a part of things. In our favorite part of the state of Texas. With the smell of creosote and sage brush and the distant howl of a coyote, and who knows what kind of new flavors that will greet us.
Know anyone who wants to buy a beautiful farm here in the lovely Catawba valley?