Monday, June 30, 2014

The Gathering

Since I first became aware of dream sequences that are repeated from time to time, my reoccurring nightmare has always been based on the unpreparedness scenario. In school days is was usually about my not having studied for the test for the day, or when I was showing horses, it was having my name called to enter the ring, and my not even having my horse saddled yet. Apparently my control freak nature comes out in my nocturnal moments and I can’t seem to find a way to solve anything. Chaos rules, and there is the feeling of total helplessness in that I am drifting, falling, turning, with no sight of land to catch me. 

More recently my typical journey into this nightmare world has involved getting the news, and usually the surprising news comes from my husband, that a large number of people were coming over for, perhaps a very surprising dinner that I had not planned for, nor shopped for. In this nightmare I am forced with the sudden responsibility for cooking for, and entertaining this invading horde of visitors. I know, doesn’t sound like the end of the world, but we all get to have our own set of nightmares, and this one is mine.

So, months ago now, the idea was thrown out that my husband’s sisters wanted to try to get together as a family, somewhere like a retreat or reunion. He is from a large family, six kids total and this was going to be a pretty big project to tackle, plan, and somehow find a time when it suited everyone. Then as the idea began to take shape and become more than a just wild thought, Mark suggested we use my family’s beach house. There was an issue of would it be big enough to handle everyone. It would be crowded and a whole bunch of togetherness but looked like it could be done. It then became my job to check on availability of open dates on the cabin.

I have to admit that my early thoughts on this project being at the beach house were somewhere on the verge of my feeling like I was being put into one of my not so favorite dreams. I was really not looking forward to the idea of being responsible for the coordination, planning, hosting, and then cleaning up after such a large group, but I was assured that was not to be the case and that the sisters would handle it. I got some dates and tossed them to the group, found one weekend that worked for most, and the train ride of planning it began. What began months ago finally came to the appointed date, and it was time to head to the beach.

After doing the usual stuff that nails down leaving the horses, the dogs, and farm, we left on Wednesday to head down to the cabin to open it up and also to get a head start on finding some sea food to eat. Mark’s baby sister drove her rental car which was stuffed with suitcases and snacks, drinks, and all kinds of other food for later. Arriving a bit before dusk we got in the boat and drove it slowly across the bay to find a waterside restaurant where we ate our fill of fish and shrimp till we could do no more, and headed back to the cabin for the night. The remaining group that included our two daughters, their significant other and their kids, would make a total head count of nine adults, two toddlers, and two infants, and were coming the next day.

Finally the cars began rolling in and then once everyone had found their rooms and had settled in, we all headed out for the beach and the water. Lawn chairs made their way out to rest under the shade of the big oak out front, and the toddlers had their water wings snapped on. Suddenly there was a new life to the cabin and the area around it that was surprisingly wonderful. It had been so long since we had come to the cabin when our children were still quite young, and my parents were healthy and strong. Suddenly the happy noises of the toddler cousins getting to know each other, playing with their sand buckets and splashing in the water, combined with the excited chatter of the older siblings and cousins as we all refreshed our relationships and the air was filled with a renewed energy and made the place feel happy again to me. 

Since the times back when we used to travel with our kids and their friends to the beach to share the house and time spent there with my parents and my brother and his wife, the house had lost its joy when we visited it. Where once the house would be filled with many folks, in more recent time Mark and I have visited, we have been alone. The house would be quiet and the sounds where of the waves on the shore and a passing Osprey. I am part hermit and do enjoy a lot of solitude and being at the beach when there are no distractions is great, but I had forgotten what it’s like to be there with little kids, and lots of folks to catch up and laugh with. It was good to hear the chaos of the life bouncing along the days. It was great to see the beach towels drying on the porch railing and to smell the shrimp boiling in the big pot down stairs. 

There was also a nice flow to the wine and “A”dult lemonade. I mixed a batch as close as I could to my dad’s old recipe, and I think was successful in recreating a passable semblance to his famous elixir. It made me miss my dad terribly, and wished he could have been there to feel the joy once again in his house. 

We spent the next few days in a blur of eating good food, enjoying the sun and the warm water and each other. The babies were good and there were many arms to take a spell with them, aunts rocking the crying one to sleep, and Gracie, our Yorkie guarding the other one. We had arrived on Wednesday and suddenly, it was Saturday evening, our last night. There was a point where it became so clear how much fun we had all had, and that sadly it was nearly over. The bubble would inevitably be popped. Mark got out his camera and began taking group shots with the afternoon sun casting warm rays over everyone in the moment. We shared another great meal of gumbo from the leftover shrimp, joined by some great hamburgers, and finished the night with some games and continued conversations, all of the adults sitting in the rearranged living room in a circle, and, it was sweet.

The down side to all this fun is Sunday morning and its time to pack up and clean up. Everyone went into worker bee motion to get it all done, and we got the floor swept as we headed out. Sad but smiling faces said goodbyes and hugs were sent around to all.
No one wanted to say it, and didn’t have to, but all of us were keenly aware of how special this had been and how likely that it may not happen again with the same faces, but we all agreed we should try to.  One by one the cars rolled away and the quiet returned to the cabin. As I backed my truck out from under the carport, I could easily imagine my dad standing on the landing of the stairs, smiling, waving goodbye, and happy that we had come. I was happy that we had, too.