They urgently run in the door looking for cousins. No formal greetings made, there are games waiting to be played and stories to share. Some gather in the T.V. room and get sidetracked with a show while others rush outside to the swings. Two wait impatiently for a game of Risk, two go upstairs to share secrets while straightening each other’s hair and applying make-up. The little ones are out playing with Reimo, the black Lab. Charlotte comes running in looking for a treat to offer him for good behaviour. He is impressing everyone today by not jumping and yelping for attention. The Aunts are in the kitchen helping Grammie get lunch in order. It will be everyone’s favourite, hamburgers, with ice cream for dessert. Grammie does her level best to keep things running smoothly in a cramped pantry, not spacious enough for the number of women now working in it. Lunch time, sounds the call, and children come running from every direction.
Afternoon, and bellies are full for the time being. Aunt Dianne says in passing that we will have about an hour before they all come looking for more food. The adults sit for a spell and chat about this and that. Coffee is served along with a slice of blueberry loaf. We savour time when the children are content and we can just sit, relax. After a bit, Grampie finds his old red boxing gloves and sends the boys outside to burn off energy. Grammie gets a word in first: One boy against one boy and no pouncing on one another without the gloves. The wrestling match in full swing, they declare grand champions, one match after the other. Andrew pummels Matthew into the ground, and he cries for mercy. It is all in good fun, and Matthew gets off the ground no worse for the wear. Grammie comes to the door to check on things every so often, less out of curiosity and more as a safety precaution. All too soon, it is supper time, and there is a scurry in the kitchen again. Meal time comes quickly.
The kitchen is buzzing. Decisions are pending about how much spaghetti to cook. Grammie wants to have enough to feed all thirteen, so another bag is opened and added to the bubbling water. One Aunt stirs pasta, while another makes a salad. Grammie works her way around the extra bodies in her kitchen, checking on casseroles in the oven and setting out items for the spaghetti. Children are served first, they inhale noodles with and without the crimson sauce. MaryAnne gets sidetracked and leaves the table before eating much on her plate, and Thomas is last to finish. When the adults sit in, there are streaks of chocolate and tomato sauce along the edge of the tablecloth, and everything feels sticky. We bow our heads in thanks for the spread set before us.
Supper over, the noise level picks up. Keith points out object after object , his baby voice full of emotion, while others play on the floor with cars. Conversations are lost amidst the confusion of children playing and the television on in the background. It is decided that there must be a photo session, so children pile on the couch. One little one does not wish to have his picture taken, and runs off crying, while others try to coax him back. Pictures are snapped in rapid succession in the hopes that one will be exactly right, capturing the joyous mood of the occasion. Suddenly, everyone piles on top the few remaining on the couch. All is chaos. Children running, laughing, crying, wrestling and jumping, aunts and uncles observing in amazed wonder at the intensity of it all. For a moment, no one knows quite what to say, what to do. Children pour from one room to the next, and the noise level is deafening. And then, as quickly as it began, it is over. Grammie speaks, and children listen. Things begin to settle down to a low rumble, like a train gradually coming to a stop. It is soon time for us to go, we do not wish to wear out our welcome!
Children say goodbyes, tearful at times. These are difficult, these parting words. It will be another year before we all gather at this house again, spend afternoons in one another’s company. Hugs shared, we gather our belongings and walk out the door. There are precious memories to keep in our hearts and time will pass quickly, until we meet again.