My thoughts roam to family gatherings after an evening when the near-by family including Amelia and family, and Bill and his little girls, came to celebrate a birthday. What came to mind was generational splits and responsibilities. At this meal, it was the parent generation, and the young adults, that did all the work. The children, our grandchildren, vary from young adults to two little girls (5 and 7). I was reminded of the many Christmas and Easter events when my family went to Granny’s house in Cambridge, Mass. At those events, my sister and I were the only children. We were reminded en route of our good manners: sit up straight and say please and thankyou. It was an adult event but I do recall it as being a happy time. When the main course was over, Grandpa would parade us around the house, to shake down the meal and make room for dessert. While we went on this parade, it was the adults who removed the dishes for the dessert.
The summer family gatherings were another affair entirely. On the Cape there always seemed to be more children than adults. I am not sure that was true all the time, but there were enough kids that my sister and I had some compatriots in making sure it was not always dull grown up stuff. Then there were guests, like Ken, who livened things up for everyone.
When I was a young child, the adults would gather in the living room for cocktails and it was the parents who prepared the meals. My mother did not like the cocktail part so she would read to the kids in a nearby room to the kitchen, occasionally stopping to stir a pot or check on the food preparation.
When we were older we all helped in setting the table and in the clean up afterwards. Then we would gather in the living room and often played games. One game I recall is “categories”. We would clap, clap, snap, snap our fingers in a rhythm and the start would be to select a category… Cars.. Ford. The next person in the circle would repeat Ford and select another car name… Ford— Buick… and on until no one could think of another car name. Usually someone would invent a name and it would send us all into giggles. We would then select a new category. When my husband-to-be met my family for the first time, he was subjected to the game of catagories and we all had a huge laugh when he had to admit he could not snap his fingers.. That was the era when the kid generation seemed to be paramount.
Upon marriage, I moved away from my family gatherings. I had some times when I took my kids to the Cape, but then I was the parent generation, overseeing meals, and parenting the kids. When we moved west, those events occurred only once when I took my kids by train for a rare visit to the Cape.
Eventually I became the grandparent generation when my children and their kids would visit us on the Cape when we retired there. I watched my children in the parenting stage, and realized how hard my parents had worked to make our summers so wonderful.
The last family gathering I recall with my husband’s family came when we went to Cooperstown for a gathering of my husband’s brother and his kids and grand kids. We took my oldest granddaughter with us and my sister’s granddaughter. The two girls were in their young teens. The girls had never met their younger cousins but they were up for the event. We stayed in an assortment of cabins on the lake. I recall sitting there with the parent generation and realizing, for the first time, that I had reached the grandparent generation. It was the parents who arranged for the party, prepared the meal and cleaned up. My husband and I, and his brother and wife, just enjoyed watching the whole event.
The kids, ranging from young teens to about ten, were to spend the night in one of the cabins on the lake. We heard loud shrieks and laughter coming from the cabin that evening. A parent went to check on the kids and came back to report that they were all playing strip poker. A slight gasp from the gathered adults, and then we were told that the kids had put on every article of clothing they had with them, from pjs, top, pants, shirts, sweaters, jackets and hats, even several pairs of socks.
We have had gatherings here several times. The last was at Christmas. The young adults gathered around the table after the gifts were opened and played a variety of new games with cards. The little girls played with their gifts. At the birthday gathering this week, it was the little girls who seemed to be the entertainment and they were well aware that they were. Once they settled down to Legos with my grand daughter’s husband, we could breathe a little and catch up on our lives.