Monday, June 16, 2014

Reunions: Forget cooking over an open fire



By Ada Brownell

A foggy mist dangled over Yellowstone Park, yet laughter tumbled through the pines, to the geysers, and rumbled over the lake and along the river as the Nicholson extended family, about 50-some, joined for a reunion.
Most of the guys threw lines from a boat in the lake or from the bank of Yellowstone River. The gals, well, my three sisters-in-law, cooked breakfast over an open fire.
I don’t think they realized it, but all of them, being campers were prepared, had their menus, and went to work. They knew if they wanted to eat any time soon it was up to them.
Now my four sisters and I weren't lazy. We come from a long line of work-a-holics. But some of us have a problem. We don't prepare meals well when we people talk to us. If guests arrive early at our houses, it is no telling how long it will take or how the food will turn out.
 Marge was great at entertaining, but she was no camper. Clara was getting the hang of cooking outside, but I think she did best when she was in charge. Erma was a good cook, an occasional camper, but she wasn't an early riser. She wouldn't venture outside until every hair was in place and her makeup applied. Joan and I are no good in the outdoors.
She and I, germafobes and clean-a-holics, couldn't seem to keep our campers clean. Every time someone stepped outside and came back in, we cleaned the floor. The tiny kitchen with kids and husbands coming in and out on the two-foot-or-so walkway made it almost impossible to prepare anything. I don't think I had an oven.
The smell of coffee permeated the campground. If I remember right, whoever brought the big coffeepot forgot the innards. My sister-in-law, Millie, simply dropped the coffee grounds into an old nylon woman's hose, tied a knot and dropped it in the pot.
"They put a dirty sock into the coffee!" Earl, Erma's husband yelled. The boys laughed and joked about that warning for years to come.
I imagine my sisters and I helped some with the cleanup, although I'm not sure. I do know when all the family gathered at Mom and Dad's house I did plenty of dishwashing. As the youngest of the eight siblings, they didn't even figure out I could cook until I was about 40. But they knew I could wash dishes.
That was the job Mama always gave me. I washed. Joe dried and in between he snapped me with the wet dish towel. I never could figure how to snap him back very well.
Yet, there wasn't a lot fussing among us. Truth be told, I think my sisters-in-law were quite happy with doing the cooking at our reunions, although later on we went to pot lucks since the tents disappeared and almost everyone had a camper or motor home.
These days we rent a room in a motel and eat out. Yet, planning reunions where we'll rough it a bit at a camp where we rent rooms with an indoor bathroom and shower. The food? I'm still wondering about that.
Some families argue and fight when they get together. Laughter, stories from the past or present, and singing punctuate our conversations. Only one time did someone shout out in anger, and that was when an uncle couldn't hear above the racket when he took an emergency telephone call about his son's health.
But everyone quickly understood. All was forgiven as we stopped to pray for our ill cousin.
Love binds us together.

©Copyright Ada Brownell 2014