When Mary’s kids get together the noise volume goes up considerably. Add to that the din of dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren laughing and talking over the sound of a football or basketball game on TV and you have the makings of a headache. Not an intolerable one, but a headache nonetheless.
When mom was alive, her children made the trip home at least once or twice a year. Seldom did just one family arrive. If not all, at least a majority of the siblings arrived pulled into our driveway in cars packed to the room. The children would pour out of the vehicles and bring havoc with them.
It was great havoc.
Dad and Mom loved to have the family home. The dining room table was extended, card tables set up on the porch and in the music room and TV room. We put fresh sheets on all the beds and made up pallets on the enclosed front porch for the little ones. Extra bags of groceries found their way into the pantry and cooking began in earnest in the kitchen. Penuche-iced cakes, flaky fruit pies, golden brown homemade bread and rolls. Big pots of spaghetti or chop suey– and most definitely mashed potatoes. The Thornton grew up on carbs and carbs they loved! Every breakfast had biscuits and gravy. What better way to start the day?
When I was in high school, just three of us remained at home. Life at 601 Sycamore Street was quiet. Dad, Mom and I. We missed the clamor–at least I did. Mom may have been a bit relieved by that time to be rid of ruckus of such a lively crowd. I imagine she enjoyed the peace and her ability to read and play without interruption.
But with news of the arrival of family, dad and mom shifted into a higher gear. Cleaning, moving, advance cooking for mom. Mowing and fix-it projects for dad. One year, Watson decided to add an extra bathroom in the house. One tub, sink and toilet could no longer service 23 people at one time.
Dad would descend to his workroom in the basement and spend hours cutting and sanding blocks of wood for visiting grand kids. They needed something to play with and what better than good old-fashioned blocks. And then there was the Christmas he made box hockey for the young ones. Tournaments held on the front porch kept kids occupied for hours, hitting sticks, cheering and raising a ruckus.
Mary has been gone for 30 years. Three decades. Yet to me she feels alive when we get together.
She’s in the kitchen rubbing shoulders with her grandsons who have now become the experts on making both biscuits and gravy. She’s in the living room beaming with pride hearing her granddaughters play the piano. She’s part of the non-stop conversations and outbursts of laughter as her children and grandchildren remain seated at the table long after the food and dishes have been removed.
We’re getting older now. Ruth is 85 and her twin, Alice has passed. Ruth talks of how much she misses her other half. Charles lives in Alaska as does Kate. They get together from time to time. Elsie died a few years ago and we grieve her absence. Her kids are great at getting together. Martha in California has been diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease. Her traveling is limited. Sam remains in Greenfield. John left us before mom died and we miss him still. Kate is the one that does the most to keep in touch with all. She travels each year to most if not all siblings. I’m in Ecuador and feel the distance almost daily. This is where we are supposed to be and want to be but I feel the tug to be with family.
I miss the way we used to be. The grandkids now are stepping up and creating those family-packed, laughter-filled memories.
Mom would love to see it. The energy and love that flows when the Marquess people gather in Kentucky for riotous Thanksgivings, kids weddings or weekend fishing trips. She’d sit in on the stimulating conversations held by the Caldwells –where 10-year olds have been overhead discussing string and chaos theory. The boys who have grown into fine men bring their families together and celebrate life with their parents. Mary would be thrilled to hear her great granddaughters play the piano with such skill. She’d smile at all the babies but she might prefer not to hold them. She’s done all that.
Dad took such joy in his growing family. He would sit silently at the table and smile from ear to ear, listening to his children joke with mama. He said he was blessed with such a family.
By now, many of the younger generations can’t remember mom or dad. They have heard only stories. But let me tell you, those stories are repeated often and with great love.