It seems like there are days that life just throws a lot of curve balls and I can deal with that, it’s when they are grouped together and become weeks, overlapping weeks that it becomes a challenge. That’s when even finding time to write down the fun blog I want to post never arrives. A few other things pop up and by the time there is time, nothing fun or funny comes to mind. A family event is taking a bit more of my time than I seem to have but is something I want to share. First a little history is needed.
My mother and her sisters were very close. They chatted on the phone often and visited each other at least monthly. After they all retired, they got together often for Mexican Train Dominoes. They
mistakenly believed that none of their children (we cousins) ever got together and with our growing families; we admit we didn’t often have the chance, but we thought about it a lot. So to thwart their lazy children, they (the sisters) decided that an annual family picnic was the way to force all of the cousins and all their children, baby and kid paraphernalia, diapers, food, bottles into our cars and drive to a designated spot to have lunch.
Of course the Annual Picnic was hatched well before they retired, and the rules were laid down when our little ones were babes in arms. As they got older the Annual Picnic took on new meaning and became a driving force for them.
They thought of nothing else, taking a whole year to plan. We had to eat precisely at Noon. Not a second later. (That makes for a stressful Saturday morning for families because not only were we to be packed and there but we also had to bring food, dishes and silverware, drinks, etc.) Interestingly the sisters decided “pot luck” might produce a once yearly unbalanced meal so they assigned all the descendants of each sister to a food category. Main dishes, salads, deserts. These rotated by sister each year. Somewhere along the line the sisters decided it could not be a real picnic without Un-named to Protect the Guilty Large Grocery Deli’s fried chicken. Not to pick on said Un-named to Protect the Guilty Large Grocery Deli’s chicken, but even fresh at the deli, it is not that good. Several hours after pick up it is horrible.
As the sisters got even older and there were only two left they decided to turn it over to the cousins to plan. Oh we were thrilled. Actually none of us objected to that what we did object to was the phone calls. They were always the same: “Have you girls set the date and place for the reunion yet?” They began the nagging in March. As they got older the phones calls got earlier. At some point we cousins actually started betting to see which of us would get the first phone call reminding us of the Annual Picnic and had we set the date and place? Trust me with a houseful of kids, animals, sports, school and holidays, were we even thinking of a picnic in February? Not on your life. We were trying to find snow boots for their feet.
I won that bet one year not because mom was the only one left, but because she knew my cousins and I were taking a weekend trip in October and she decided we must set the date while we were all together. She called every day for six weeks to remind me. I found out she also called all the cousins at least once a week to remind them as well. Over dinner one night we cousins did set the date. First Saturday in August, just like it had been the previous dozen or so years, at the standard beach location. We decided on Pot Luck because what if everyone brought the same thing? As one very wise cousin put it, “So what is the down side of 20 different chocolate cakes?”
My mom was exceptional, she started calling about the picnic in late September. Unfortunately, it did little to stem the
trickle flood of phone calls. By that time in her life, mom was having trouble remembering dates. So once or twice a week she would call, “Did you set the date for the picnic yet?” And each time I would sweetly (Honest, I was always sweet with her or at the least very patient. Really!) remind her it was same place, same time and the same date. As always it was the first Saturday in August and she would be riding with us.
With the exception of a few of her cousins Mom was the last of her generation. She died last October of pancreatic cancer, just a few weeks after her last Annual Picnic. Her service was a small family affair at the grave site where we spread some of her ashes. It was the first Saturday of November. The rest of her ashes have been interned in their double plot beside dad. The date marker of 2011 has been installed.
Next weekend is first Saturday in August, in honor of our mothers, we are having the family reunion at our house. It is a pot luck at about 1, stay as late as anyone can. If they can’t arrive at one, we will be here fixing dinner later. So not a problem.
The event is a Wake, rather than a Celebration of Life, or a Memorial. The reason is simple, mom’s favorite movie was Waking Ed Devine. We may actually watch that this week, just to make sure we cover all bases.
I’m sorry, but if you are not a friend or relative of my mother you aren’t invited. If you are a friend or relative please join us. Can you bring a chocolate cake? Oh, wait, dang I can’t eat gluten. Guess I better get busy whipping up a GF Chocolate cake, or at I can whip up a batch of awesome GF Chocolate Brownies for desert. Either works for me. Maybe I should experiment with both GF and vegan. Just for fun.
Here is where mom and dad will always be: In my heart. Their remains and the marker that tells others they walked this earth is on the hillside just below the marble relief of the last supper.
Next weekend I hope she’ll be looking down from above with her sisters and they’ll all be smiling and saying, “Can you imagine, they actually got it together without a single phone call???” Then perhaps they’ll laugh and realize they did a good pretty job, we all turned out to be great group of people, with fantastic children and extraordinary grandchildren and we are a happy bunch.
PS The fist five photos were taken last year at the Annual Picnic. Mom’s last big picnic. Because of a surprise significant birthday incorporated into the day, the picnic was held in late July. It was a very good thing it was early. Mom was able to be there and love every minute of the day. She never realized the date had been changed. The last picture taken last Friday.