We are the proud parents of two sons and the proud grandparents of four beautiful and very intelligent grandchildren. Each one is a blessed gift from God and they have enriched our lives greatly. The problem is that they live on each coast and the opportunity to be with them or to get them all together at the same time is a challenge. Nevertheless, Helen (adorable wife) and I are adamant that, at least once a year, everyone will gather in one spot and become reacquainted. That event happened last week. For Helen and me, this is retirement activity at its best.
Some very dear friends generously offered us the use of their vacation home on one of the lakes in our region. We didn’t wait to be asked twice. The home is lovely and easily accommodated our group of six adults, four children, and a visitor or two in grand style.
Helen had spent weeks preparing for the visit and had stocked our pantry with food and beverage so that once we arrived at the lake there would be no reason to leave. In the weeks leading up to everyone’s arrival, Helen was getting so excited, I was fearful that if they didn’t arrive soon, she would explode. Mercifully, that didn’t happen and all arrived safe and sound.
Fortunately, in today’s world, it is somewhat easier to remain connected with the internet, Face Time, and unlimited talk and text, but there is nothing that takes the place of sharing time together and we made the most of it. In addition to preparing the food, Helen had made several trips to the craft stores to buy watercolors, colored paper, Play Dough, beads and trinkets, and crayons so that the children would have things to do in case of rain. The rain was not necessary. Each child enjoyed the craft time immensely and spent hours coloring and creating. Their works were impressive and we created a gallery that grew with each day. I was most impressed with the smartphones created in Play Dough that came complete with icons for apps on the home screen.
The highlight of craft time came when each person, young and old, was challenged to make a tie-dyed T-shirt to wear in the family picture (above). Even though two applications were required in a couple of instances (particularly mine) we pulled it off successfully. This was a lot of fun. (Pictured at bottom of page)
No trip to the lake is complete without fishing and that responsibility fell on my shoulders and I relished the opportunity. Helen and I owned a lake home before we downsized, but downsizing did not include fishing equipment and I still own a large inventory of gear and brought most of it along. That was all I was required to do because each son carefully baited hooks with slimy worms and let the children have at it. They were rewarded for their patience with more than one catch. I love watching their faces beaming with pride as they reel them in.
Other lake activities included paddle boarding, jet ski rides, boating, and, of course, swimming. The children, ages 8, 6, 6, and 4, have all had swim lessons and have become quite adept at the sport, but we kept life jackets and swim floats within reach at all times and an adult swimmer as well. As for me, I prefer to float. My usual practice is to sit on a swim noodle and relax. We were blessed with perfect weather for the whole week and floating opportunities were plentiful so I usually enjoyed two sessions per day (in between naps…it doesn’t get much better).
The children were visited by their great-grandmother (my mom) during their stay and were eager to show her their crafts. This was a special time for everyone, especially my mom, who will turn 90 next year and still enjoys good health. All of us enjoyed the potato salad she brought for us to add to the pork shoulders we cooked for dinner on that day. This is one of her specialties and requested by me for the occasion.
A tradition of family gatherings is a meal of Southern gumbo. From the time our boys were small children we vacationed on the beach with another family in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina and gumbo was usually served on the first or second night. Admittedly, this is a time-consuming process but, for me, it is a labor of love, primarily because I love to eat it, but also because it is such a hit with our sons.
Over the years of preparing this meal I have learned how to prepare it in two phases and am able to complete the chopping and initial cooking phase on one day then freeze the mixture until the day it is to be served after adding the second batch of ingredients. I came loaded with a freezer bag of step one this year and we feasted. Come back to Easin’ Along next Tuesday and I will offer a more detailed illustration of my gumbo recipe.
Sadly, the week came to an end all too soon, but we were blessed with a wonderful time, great memories and a renewed sense of family and what we mean to each other. Faith, family, food, and fun are what we’re all about. We were abundantly blessed with each this past week, and we’re still Easin’ Along…together.
Please visit the picture gallery by clicking here. Once you have opened the web page, click on any picture to begin the slide show.