Any one who knows me very well knows how much I hate doing housework. I was always thankful that I was the oldest because I was Dad's helper outside while my sister got stuck in the house doing the cleaning. To this day I would rather be outside mowing the grass, pruning trees or working in the garden rather than dusting or doing dishes! People laugh when I say that I clean my house twice a year, whether it needs it or not, on the 4th of July and at Christmas. But it's the truth because those are the two times that we have company, on purpose.
4TH OF JULY REUNIONS
I'm not sure when we began having our 4th of July picnics but I remember one in 1982 so it's safe to say we've hosted a picnic for at least the last 38 years. Mom and Dad had always hosted hayrides for our church at the farm and Grandpa Wilson insisted on a family reunion for the Wilsons annually at Pike Lake. So, I guess it was only natural that since Andy and I had a great location we should have a family picnic also. Any one was invited, family, friends, and often there were people I didn't know and that was okay with us. We had plenty of space and after 1985 we even had a swimming pool. What set our picnic apart, however, was the canoe trip down the Little Darby. There were a few years when the water was either too high or in most cases too low to offer the Creek Float but not very many and for the most part we spent part of the day paddling, floating or walking in the creek. One picnic in particular comes to mind as the longest duration of any trip on record. We always began by taking a head count of interested participants and then loading the appropriate number of boats and floats in several trucks and then would transport the floats and floaters upstream. We put in at Buzzards Glory, that's what Uncle Walter called it any way, just north of Rt. 42 on Darby Road. Everyone would then situate or squeeze themselves into a kayak, canoe, raft or inner tube, wherever there was room and float on down stream to our house.
In 1982 Sara was just a baby so I did not to go on the canoe trip. That year we had about 15 eager paddlers ranging in ages from 4-64 who could not wait to get to the water. Most years everyone wanted to go canoeing but no one ever brought their own canoe or kayak. I take that back, Uncle Kenny brought his hand-made kayak one year. Lucky for the canoeless, Andy was a master at finding pretty much anything he needed at yard sales or flea markets and over the years had amassed quite a fleet of flotation devices. On this particular date the water was pretty low but everyone agreed that they wanted to go anyway. I dropped all the paddlers off around 3 o'clock and drove the truck back to the house. Around 4, at the house, we began putting the burgers and hot dogs on the grill in preparation for the arrival of the flotilla. At 5 o'clock still no paddlers, then 6, then 7 o'clock and still not a canoe in sight. Of course this was way, way, way before cell phones so there was no way of contacting them. It was starting to get dark so I took our lawn tractor and drove it down near the creek with the headlights shining on the water upstream and nearly 5 hours after they began they came straggling in. For the most part they had walked the entire way. Trish, 4 at the time, was sound asleep in the bottom of one of the canoes pulled by my brother and Gary Jainshig was sitting in a raft that Andy was pulling. My dad and his brother were still giggling as though it were an adventure from their childhood. This trip that, under normal conditions, would take about an hour had stretched into a marathon of 5 hours. Unbelievably, everyone that went came back for more the following year with a "did you hear about the canoe trip last year?" story of their own. My cousin, that now lives in California, still has fond memories of his canoe trip, although, I'm not sure he was on this trip.
|Uncle Gary (Jainshig) no worse for the wear.|
|Uncle Walter and Dad|
They would giggle and laugh the entire trip
They had actually fallen in twice before I took this photo
and this was at the beginning of the trip!
|Andy paddling some unknown guests|
not the marathon trip
|Andy, Trish, Dad and my sister, Judy|
The years change but creek stays about the same.
|Bob, Daniel, Spencer and Trish|
|Sara with her cousins Courtney and Amy|
If I remember, the mosquitoes and deer flies were bad that year, hence the frowns!
Over the years our picnic evolved and the children of those early years now have children of their own. We've added a Scavenger Hunt for the kids and an annual wiffle ball game and have even had a rubber duck derby. Some years we will send up a few fireworks but mostly we just enjoy seeing everyone again. Andy was always the one to get the fun started and he enjoyed listening to the stories of the older generation. Things changed a bit after the accident and Andy wasn't able kayak and didn't play with the kids as much. I missed that. And, we've lost a lot of family since those early years. Mom and Dad and all of my aunts and uncles are gone except Mom's youngest sister. Now it is just the cousins, our children and grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren and friends. It's a new generation but we will carry on because Grandpa Wilson and Andy would have wanted it that way.
|Daniel is now pulling instead of being pulled.|
|Lily was my passenger on her first canoe trip|
|Matt running the rapids|
|Asher directing traffic|
|The kids found the treasure|
Scavenger Hunt 2016
|The Wilson Clan|
|Mini Corn Hole|
Lily & Evie
|Bichlers vs Wilsons in Wiffle Ball|
|Cousins from Atlanta|
The other event during the year that required house cleaning was Christmas. Christmas actually was worse because I couldn't keep my guests outside so I had to remove the cobwebs that had been growing since July. Mom and Dad stopped having Christmas at their house when they started going to Florida on December 26 for three months. It seemed as soon as the last present was unwrapped, they were on their way. I recall in 1981 they were less than pleased that I had not had "that" baby yet and they didn't get to leave until the 29th! But they soon forgave Sara for coming late as she became their favorite, according to the cousins, because she wrote cards and letters regularly to her grandparents.
I'm guessing it was assumed that I would take over Family Christmas Dinners and so it was decreed that Carol and Andy would now open their semi-clean home on Christmas night for dinner. And so it has been with the exception of 2011 when I was in Hawaii for Evelyn's birth. Much like our 4th of July celebration it included family and friends and varied from year to year. I was usually pretty calm but as the day wore on and it neared the "Magic Moment" when dinner should be ready, I would predictably have a melt down. Andy fondly called it a "tizzy". He would call out to the girls, "Mom's having a tizzy girls you better get down here and help!". There were years that I can recall clearly, like the year we found the cat on the stove lapping up the gravy from the gravy bowl or the year Trish brought a boyfriend sporting a nose ring and tatoos. I joked later to a friend, that we would be having a third vegetable at dinner this year. I was reminded of this just recently by that friend. Sorry Trish, for being so judgmental! (your time is coming). Uncle Gary would always bring a new board or card game and we would play late into the evening. The girls looked forward to that each year. One Christmas, Gary did not show up so we assumed he was out of town. Two days later we learned that he had suffered a stroke. I don't think Andy ever forgave himself for not checking on him sooner. That was a very difficult Christmas.
|Andy and Gary swapping black powder gifts|
|The Cabbage Patch Christmas|
courtesy of Grammie Bichler
|Christmas wasn't complete until we had|
Sara's birthday cake
|All 7 of Mom and Dad's Grandchildren|
Courtney, Amy, Matt, Trish, Daniel, Adam & Sara
|A few years later|
|All hands on deck, the "magic moment" is quickly approaching|
|A game of euchre just for Betty!|
|Andy, Sara and Kissy|
As your children grow up it seems a little of the Christmas magic disappears and time seems to slow a bit. And then come the grandkids and it begins all over again. Excitement, it's what keeps us young!
|Lily, Evelyn and Luke|
|Our new little addition, Arthur James|
Christmas this year was a little emptier and somewhat subdued but everyone put their best foot forward. The Christmas spirit shone through although an empty recliner reminded us that something very important was missing. I didn't have to make the ham and roast that Andy always requested and I didn't even have mashed potatoes and gravy, which would have been a major no-no, according to him, even if we didn't have a cat any more! The Magic Moment came and went and no "tizzy", at least not a visible one. People often say after the death of a loved one, that "they are in a better place", and that may be true but the chasm of emptiness, for those left behind, can be quite consuming and the effort to live with only memories can be exhausting. I sit here surrounded with more than 15 photo albums, and more in the closet, that contain the life we shared, filled with so many happy memories. Of course we don't take photos of the unhappy times or we would certainly have at least one additional album. What I find in all of this is an appreciation An appreciation for having been given 45 Fourth of July picnics and 45 Christmas's to plan and share together with our family and friends. Those are the true treasures of our marriage and I will cherish them forever.
The video is of little Arthur this past Christmas. He is just like his Pop Pop, ornery as can be! And this past Christmas he was just what we needed, a reason to smile!