Back in the early summer when watermelons were ripening on the vine and peas blossomed in profusion, three of Larry’s cousins stopped by to visit. We sat in the living room to talk. I listened to childhood stories that didn’t include me. No Ellis blood flows in my veins. During the course of the conversation, Sherry said, “We ought to put together a family reunion.”
Larry cut his eyes at me, and I raised my eyebrows in response. Family reunions are not on our list of favorite activities. He doesn’t like crowds, and I prefer to visit in smaller groups myself. We really enjoyed visiting with those cousins here in our house though.
Oh, well, we assured ourselves later, probably the idea would fizzle anyway. It didn’t.
A couple of weeks later, Cousin Sherry called and invited us over to her house to visit with more cousins. Laughter rang from her porch for a couple of hours. Again the dreaded words came up—Family Reunion! Before we knew it, there was a date, a place, and even a notice on Facebook. That’s official.
Suddenly it became Larry’s job to get our branch of the family here. Josh, our youngest, could not come from Richmond, Virginia, for a weekend. Impossible. Calvin, Julie, and the boys were coming from Atlanta though, and Jakey reminded me on the phone multiple times that he was coming to celebrate his seventh birthday. The reunion was a mere secondary event.
“Have cake and presents ready, Grandma,” he said. “You know I like Legos.”
One thing about family reunions is there is no better place to eat. Good food abounds. Every cook fears not having enough food and brings a surplus of her best dishes. I rubbed a pork shoulder with garlic, sea salt, cumin, and a few other of Bobby Flay’s secret ingredients, and then roasted it for about six hours. Paula Deen generously shared her recipe for crockpot macaroni and cheese with me, so I made a double batch. Green beans and chewy cake completed my contribution. If we had leftovers, my family would be ecstatic.
Larry helped. Every time he passed through the house, he sniffed the air and said, “Smells really good in here. I love garlic.”
He helped load the car, too. When all was ready, he called, “Stuart, come help your grandma carry this macaroni and cheese to the car. Don’t burn yourself. Calvin, grab this barbeque. Don’t drop it now.”
Finally we were on the road for Alma, to Wolf Pit Church, and a relief it was to escape our ringing telephone.
Thirty minutes later we walked into a social hall packed with Ellises, some of which Larry hadn’t seen in decades and I had never seen. We ate, visited, ate some more, and visited. During the course of the afternoon, I overheard my grandson Trey and his new found cousin of about the same age talking.
The blond said to Trey, “Hey, are you an Ellis?”
“Of course, I am,” Trey replied. “My name’s Larry Calvin Ellis, the third.”
“That’s cool,” the blond said. “Come on. Let’s go play.”
The children played on the playground with cousins they’d never seen before until they were all satisfactorily hot and dirty.
Larry circulated and visited every singe person there. For an old man who doesn’t like crowds, he certainly was enjoying himself. He did stop long enough to eat, but Trey expedited the process by leading him through the line and pointing out all the best foods.
“Grandma’s barbeque is the best,” he advised. “Get lots of it.”
And as for me, well I may have inadvertently enjoyed it just a little bit. I didn’t intend to. I was just doing my wifely duty, but I think I did slip up and laugh a few times. When we got home, we had Jakey’s party, but the boys weren’t very excited about the Dairy Queen ice cream cake. I wonder why.
Last night on the phone, Larry reported to his brother Frank in Lawrenceville, who had (supposedly) right at the last minute gotten too sick to come.
“Yep, it was a great success, Frankie,” Larry told him. “There was plenty of food, no body got drunk, and not even one fist fight broke out. I’m sorry you missed it.”