I wanted to sleep late after staying up into the wee hours, but the sun shone and I decided I have plenty to do today anyway, why not enjoy the quiet for a bit? Besides, I gave myself this crazy challenge...day four.
We almost had a political fight break out at the feasting table last night. A couple of feelings were hurt here and there. There weren't enough chairs, the silverware didn't match. I didn't get the gravy made. But we had enough, people shifted, ruffled feathers were smoothed.
After guests went home, the kids and I perched in the kitchen and talked and talked. They asked me about me. We talked about important things. As usual, I revel in family. Gosh, we are so imperfect. It is so rough around the edges. But, oh, how I love them. Us.
I remember as a kid going to the grandparent's home for the holidays. Whether western Oklahoma or northwest Arkansas, we girls would lie in bed, giggling and talking, with the comforting sounds of parents and grandparents talking into the night. If we went to the Rowe house, kids would keep piling in, into the late night. Every bed would be filled, every couch covered. Almost every spot of floor in the living room would be covered by blanket pallets, cousins lined up like firewood. One bathroom for dozens, a modest kitchen. We played outside as much as possible, to avoid the grownups, to play, climb trees, ride Grandma's big three wheel with a basket down the red dirt road. Grandpa would get up at five or earlier, turn on the 12in. tv to the morning news. The newscaster voices crackled to the sound of Grandpa shuffling around, harrumphing over us layabeds. He would start the percolater, the smell of strong coffee mixing with his Prince Albert roll your own. Cold Oklahoma no match for the paneled gas heater and the piles of sons, daughters, grandchildren spread out. Grandma's big, veiny, wrinkled hands would hold my hand, massaging gently, she would look me in the eyes, and I knew she loved me dearly. She would play her piano, and encourage us kids to play as well. I can still hear her voice yelling out the door, "Har-wooooood!" hollering for Grandpa to come back to the house. Food would be piled everywhere, the wives working away. The men smoking, talking, arguing outside. Paper plates stacked, grab it and find a place to perch.
If we went to the Conner house, we would be greeted by the smell of trees and rotting leaves and moss and a camp fire with a giant coffee can of hobo stew bubbling away. Oh, that smell was like heaven! Probably some divinity and fudge cooling on the screened in porch. Things were a lot calmer at the Conner place. Papaw would give us great big hugs. Mamaw was shy, but always smiled tenderly. They would break out the box of Nilla wafers, and pour glasses of milk or tiny glasses of orange juice out of a small glass jar from the fridge. Their house was two story, built by my mamaw's grandpa, a master craftsman. We loved the dark wood, the creaky stairs, the parlor. Things were tidy and not nearly as loud as the Rowe house! We girls would make up plays, and put them on in the parlor or on the big front porch. We would swing on the porch swing as high as we could go until a parent reprimanded. Beautiful meals were served around the dining room table, special plates, the jewel red glasses filled with iced tea. We were guaranteed a trip to the lake or the hills, with a box of Kentucky fried chicken, paper plates and wet ones. My grandpa was a pastor, artists, photographer, and he and my mom loved to tramp about. So did we kids.
No matter where, we were surrounded by hugs, love, laughter.
Sometimes anger, fights, quick harsh words. Not perfect. Not at all.
But all covered over in love. Secure. The broken parts were not always so pretty, and at times I was quite resentful. At some point (probably after a good bout of counseling, haha!) I grew to understand things a little more. And was able to see, to remember, the good. Grandpa Rowe kicking the football with his prosthesis, and all of us laughing! Mamaw setting up the tv trays in the living room, cottage cheese and fruits, iced tea in small glasses, the soap operas her entertainment. Can you still hear the sound track from As The World Turns? My Aunt Linda, the youngest of the Rowe clan, Down's syndrome, running to the car to great her dear brother, singing "Big, Bad John!" My Aunt Janet letting us sleep over at her beautiful house, Daddy taking us into the cave by the spring that used to supply water for the family when my mom grew up. Icicles as long as our arms. Cousins for running around crazy.
The sound of moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas talking late into the night. Laughter. Sometimes tears. Mostly love.
Okay, kids up, I better make some more coffee!!!