My mother and father were opposites: she the eldest of eight children, he the youngest of nine.
Assigned to cooking family meals at age eleven, Mom cut her teeth on the cookstove. Dad grew into manhood with every bite of food handed to him.
Domestic to the bone, Mom could’ve cared less about sports. Dad watched the Tigers, sponsored a boys’ baseball team, and bowled in a league.
The glue that held my parents together for twenty-two years was their love for my sisters and me and our Appalachian kin.
I remember the lilt in Mom’s steps when she packed our suitcases for a family reunion. And nothing could please my father like bragging on the miles he shaved off our trip.
My dad took home movies of my mother passing around their babies to relatives on McCoy and O’Brien sides. Dad didn’t overlook one family member, even Old Shep, the collie we left behind in the McCoy Bottom.
My parents molded “the more the merrier” sensibility into my soul. If it wasn’t a reunion out of state, it was a Kentucky cousin looking for a bed and meal in Michigan. We moved over and made room for another wanderer in search of a job.
I thought everybody welcomed family, neighbors, and friends with spontaneous hospitality. Embracing this misconception, amongst many others, I married a Michigander–the second-born twin of English/Lithuanian heritage without a trace of hospitality in his personality.
Yes, he’s loved my kinfolk and their cooking from his first white-knuckle drive through Kentucky’s hairpin turns. Alas, I’ve learned “the more the merrier” trait is not contagious. It’s bred.
Recently, I’ve witnessed hopeful signs in my husband and his family. Mel’s cousins gathered for a reunion two summers ago. We drove north to Grand Lake and took our dish to pass.
Three generations showed up! Babies slept on sofas and in fancy infant contraptions. We talked with second cousins we’ve not seen in almost fifty years. I almost blundered and hugged a few.
And of all wonders, after declining countless high school reunion invitations, my husband at last mailed his RSVP with a check for the 55th reunion of the Grand Blanc graduation class of 1964.
Mel’s always felt awkward because his parents moved the family from Grand Blanc to Grand Rapids between his junior and senior year. “I didn’t graduate from Grand Blanc,” he’d say.
“They wouldn’t send you an invitation if they didn’t want to see you.”
“I don’t know.”
“Listen, you went to my fiftieth. It’s just fair I go to your fifty-fifth.”
The entire night I observed the surprise of recognition on strangers’ faces. I heard stories about my husband and his twin brother worthy of blackmail. Dancing with the Stars and Downton Abbey couldn’t compare.
Among the last to walk out the door, we left behind a huge piece of pink modern art cast upon Mel as the last item in the raffle.
Dear Reader, there are times to make exceptions to “the more the merrier.”
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