Friday, July 2, 2010
Granny was one of 17 children, that included two sets of twins! What were those folks thinking? Did they ever figure out where all those children were coming from?
How did poor folks from central Illionis back in the early 1900's even begin to feed that many mouths around the dinner table?
When all those people showed up at the annual family reunion it was an occasion equal to a worlds fair. Our little alleyway was blocked off and all those old cars were lined up and down the road. I remember Granny's brothers and sisters as all as being married with several children of their own...some approaching grandparenthood. Usually the whole tribe attended. If the party was in our back yard it took days to get ready. Long tables were made of doors and plywood perched atop carpenters "horses". Those make-shift tables were laden with the best food ever prepared by woman! There was always fried chicken, home-grown fresh or previously canned vegetables of all sorts, ham, home made sauerkraut, mustard greens, salads, fresh bread, cakes and of course every pie imaginable. No one could make a pie like Aunt Rene, I have her recipe! All those sisters were excellent cooks. Most owned or worked at restaurants at some point in their life.
We would eat, laugh, tell stories and play games. Usually two or three of the men brought their guitars which livened up the evening. After dark everyone under 12 would run rampant playing hide and seek while the adults sat around and visited. Nighttime fun was so mysterious. It was a carefree existence and my selective memory names it "easier times", everyone seemed extremely happy to just be together.
But of course a childs memory leaves out much of the adult worries of the day. Wars were discussed and young men were drafted into them. Death and accidents took a cousin or two almost every year. There were divorces and conflicts and a few court cases that required attention. One uncle was shot to death by his estranged wife! (Yep, she shot him right through the screen door and his siblings NEVER got over that!) I remember a couple of house fires and the devastation that brought to those families. All those experiences were rehashed at the reunion.
Life is full of joy and pain, often experienced simultaneously. It's always been that way. The "bad" times just make the "good" times all that much sweeter, I suppose.
Adult concerns and childhood innocence co-existing. It's called family.