Sitting in the cocoon of my studio this morning, hands dipped in warm water, pulling centered clay up to the hum of wheel. My coffee cup steams with the first morning brew. It is a good place to be, I have never felt so comfortable or happy in this place. The chickens are talking, the wind is blowing and the snow is melting, methodically dripping off the roof.
The last planes are departing the airport this morning filled with the lingering Miller tribe. The house is quiet and settling back into the ebb and flow of life on this rainy, cold winter morning. Planes and cars have arrived and departed to the four directions; New England, LA, Florida, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Benin Africa, Beijing China. It was a send off I think my mother in law would have loved. Her house was full and brimming with her progeny. The chatter was deafening with greetings, stories and solace. Three generations crowded into the tiny house on Walnut Blvd in Ashtabula.
My mind reeled with the thought of just how many people would be converging on this tiny town during one of the worst winters in ages. We pondered where we would eat and visit. There were no options. I had the kitchen, the freezer, a basement full of food and the pots needed to prep all this food. The calls started coming in, Rachael was here. I looked at her and she said; "Mom, let's burn it down!" So we did! We opened our house to cousins who fit in seamlessly here at happy acres. For 5 days pans bubbled on the stove, the food processor got a work out and the kitchenaid mixer never stopped.
Betsy and I rocked the Apron Brigade. Evening were spent lingering over bourbon and long yearned for conversation not accomplished through facebook, email or phone.
The first night was lasagna, salad, sundried tomato dressing and chocolate chip cookies.
The second night, chili and cornbread, salad greens with leftover dressing and a few more cookies. Lunch the next day would be taco salad with the leftover chili and salad. Packed on the side, a jar of salsa, a bag of corn chips and bag of grated cheese.
The third night was meat loaf, leftover carrot raisin salad and angel food cake served with pineapple in rum sauce.
The fourth night was Sunday and most of the clan have arrived. Due to the storms, planes had been delayed, re-routed or cancelled. Nieces and nephews arrived by four wheel drive from Vermont and NYC, very tired travelers found their way to front door. Two turkeys were roasted off, 50 yeasted rolls sat raising by the woodstove, dilled potato salad with capers, three bean salad, brussel sprouts were roasted with walnuts and bacon and dessert was a double batch of cheesecake. Palmaries were baked off filled with caponata, pesto and sundried tomato fillings, perfect with a glass of wine or beer while the table was set.
The fifth night two huge pork loins were roasted off, one in sauerkraut, one seasoned with a dry rub. The pork loin was accompanied by baked beans and coleslaw. There were plenty of desserts leftover.
The sixth day of the funeral was leftover day. We hauled out every single bowl or pot of food that had made it's way to the table over the week long gathering. As the bowls emptied, dishes were washed and put away.
I had traveled to the grocery store two times during the undertaking. Almost everything was on hand. My receipts totaled out to $167.00 Toss in an extra $100 for meat in the freezer and we fed thirty people for 6 days for under $300. My garden had paid off, as had the canning and food preservation of the last summer. On a good note......... we are not wiped out. The basement is still full and the freezer still has enough to get us through the winter. The turkey carcass is being turned into soup as I type, feeding us for another few days.
Besty, first commander in the Apron Brigade.
A table set ........
The kitchen was a very good place for me to be during this gathering. My two sister in laws and husband had their hands full with details, paperwork and exhausting meetings. The details can be overwhelming. I was so happy to be able to do this! The funeral was just tough...... many stood at the church filled with overwhelming memories over so many birthdays, passings, pilgrimages and feasts. My kids had so many great years in the harbor with cousins and aunts and were taken aback at the grieving. After the memorial service a luncheon was served by the church ladies. My kids disappeared outside. I chased them down in the parking lot and opened the back door of the car they were sitting in. The cigarette smoke poured out, as did the laughter. I jumped in to yell at my darling girls but realized they were telling hilarious memories of their Grandmother. Funny stuff they wanted/needed to remember her for, I sat listened and breathed in the smoke (God, I miss smoking there are times it just has it's place....) the smoke went up to the heavens with tearful laughter in the privacy of Abby's car. We so badly needed to laugh, smoke and cry a little. I had to ask why they felt they couldn't share these memories in the church as they were part of Grandma. They felt the grieving was too great, their Dad was having a very hard time too. In reality these stories would have helped everyone. And yet at graveside in -23 degree weather another niece came up and said; Wow Grandma game me my first Danielle Steele novel. The woman who had tethered everyone to this homestead on the shores of Lake Erie for 96 years, lived on the same street for 85 years, knew what each grandchild had needed on their journey to grow had had a grand ride. Everyone was now untethered, kind of scary. Will we every gather like this again? I think it will happen........ And I will volunteer to bring my apron :)