This past week’s national holiday was once again aptly titled. I didn’t punch any timecard or show up on the job site, but it was enthusiastically laborious nevertheless. For about a day-and-a-half, my wife and I entertained all members of our immediate family at our humble “home for the holiday.”
Counting our canine, who has a tendency to want to be the center of attention, it was a party of 18 for a little more than 24 hours. Truthfully, our beloved pet’s attention spans wherever food might be located, any highchair is occupied and however the possibility exists where crumbs might “fall from the master’s table.” With little ones in town, seven grandchildren to be exact, she eagerly anticipated whole pieces rather than measly crumbs. Keenly on the hunt, as any retriever, she perches in the direction of all delicacies made vulnerable to her timely grazing near the kitchen table’s edge.
Keep this to yourself, but please forgive the fact that though plenty of masks were within reach, we were above the recommended maximum number to gather and failed to always retain the minimum distance. Plenty of activities took place out of doors, and the likelihood of anyone having a solid 15 minutes with the same human being was essentially an impossibility with the boundless energy on display.
An equal amount of work was demanded of the two of us in anticipation of our cherished entourage. Sheets and towels needed laundering, paper plates needed purchasing, carpet needed vacuuming, dust needed dusting, dormant bedrooms needed airing out, propane tanks for grilling had to be topped off, and mounds of mac and cheese needed melting. Our lawn needed to be mowed, but not before every pile of dog poop got scooped.
Prepared in advance, the fridge was filled to capacity, the pantry was packed to the max, and did I mention the 11 dozen chocolate chip cookies that needed baking to hopefully quell the soon-to-be salivating and hungering masses?
Our homely “crib” we child-proofed as best we could with all coffee tables covered with blankets, all electronic devices out of reach, all charging cords removed from wall sockets, all glass put into cupboards and every age-appropriate toy drug out of the closets. It was “all chairs on deck,” and we scrounged the domain to remand into service enough to accommodate the gathered when we would en-masse converge upon the “mess hall!”
Between diaper changes, nap times, potty breaks, feeding schedules and energy levels, meals mostly were strung together in a random sequence as needed. Thankfully, we still managed to congregate as one to join in a prayer of thanks or to sing “Johnny Appleseed,” a family favorite.
First arrivals happened Sunday afternoon, and in short order our numbers would double and even triple in size.
With a bit of a bowl for a backyard, we busted out the Slip’N Slide, enhancing the extreme thrill-ride with a full bottle of dish soap. In the end, the grass was sparkling, and none of the kids needed a bath to close the day as they were all squeaky clean.
Bike rides for the kids and adults were on the itinerary, too. A nearby parking lot provided space for the wee ones. As a self-taught bike mechanic, every bicycle was in some sort of disrepair. Training wheels needed to be fastened, seats elevated, derailleurs adjusted, brakes repaired, chains tightened, and of course, all tires inflated.
Our evening meal gave me opportunity to see if all the burners on the grill worked as I cooked enough hot dogs and hamburgers to feed an army. As darkness approached, s’mores would be in order. Where would we find kindling? The problem was easily fixed by a game of pick-up-sticks with the grandchildren incentivized by a “nickel a stick” and funded by old moneybags as his coffee-coin-purse was flush with cash.
Carefree with regard to where the twigs came from, when I ran out of funds, I gathered up the mound and headed to the fire pit out back. Maybe I should have paid more attention to their whereabouts, as two days later I came down with a quality case of poison ivy.
Labor Day brunch was followed by a rousing battle of Nerf gun warfare downstairs. Weather forced the foam festivities inside, with hundreds of darts projected in every conceivable direction. Casualties were minimal. When a cease-fire agreement was signed, all remaining ammunition was “exhaustively” collected. Still, the two of us along with the dog daily discover the remnants of “friendly-fired” as bullets make their appearance behind potted plants and between couch cushions.
No formal birthdays or anniversaries were to be celebrated, but gift exchanges were many. All grandchildren, upon arrival, received a toy to play with. I welcomed a 5-pound bag of coffee and a folding lawn chair. Our three sons were surprised with 21 pairs of the new sweat socks.
We had one unexpected guest the middle of the day. She came on a mission bearing a family gift for each. Secretly commissioned, we all opened up our gift bag to find a fragrant candle inside inscribed with the words, “A bun in the oven!” I quickly and quizzically glanced at the stove. Nothing was inside. Then it dawned on all the uninformed.
Our daughter-in-law and son were expecting their fourth! It’s by far the best gift of all because, when it comes to grandchildren, there’s always room for one more!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com