It is summer, and that means one thing, Family Gatherings. These come in a variety of types and purposes. There are the great big conclaves, in which family come from the four corners of the globe to attend; much planning is required to pull of such a large events. My wife’s family had one of those in the middle of the country a few years ago. It was such a large gathering and there was one gentleman in attendance who was suspected of not really being a family member and just wanting to partake in the delightful picnic. After many quiet conversations and questions to one another, it turns out, he was truly a family member.
Beloved’s family had a reunion of sorts at the beginning of the summer. It was a regional conclave, which are not quite as large and involved as the national ones. The young people at this reunion refer to themselves as “The Cousins” and range in age from 7 to 18. They played hard outside in the muddy, wet, sports fields. They gleefully splashed in the squishy mud that lay just below the green grass. There were organized games, but children simply use organized games to make mud splashes.
My wife has an uncle, who was at this reunion. He can speak multiple languages. I pointed out, proudly, that Middlest is taking both Latin and Spanish in school. The two of them then began to make noises at each other for quite some time. I think they were speaking in Latin, but never having been to Latvia, I couldn’t be sure.
As I think back to the family reunions I attended as a child, a few memories stick out. First, is one particular grand Italian aunt, with hair piled sky high on top of her head, a pair of cat-eye glasses sliding down to the tip of her nose and held by a chain around her neck, and lips painted bright red with lipstick. This dear aunt would always grab my cheeks and marvel aloud at how much I had grown since the last time she had seen me. She finally ceased this practice when my beard got so thick she couldn’t grip my cheeks that well.
Another favorite memory of family reunions is the food. It seems there was always a cheese tray at family reunions and one of my favorite cheeses was the cubes of Jalapeño Jack, Monterey Jack with Jalapeño cheese. Oh, how I loved that tingling burn in my mouth after I ate a small cube. I was introduced to this dairy delicacy by a dear cousin.
To this day, that is one of my favorite cheeses. Littlest and I put that cheese, along with a myriad of other toppings, on our burgers. The flavor reminds me of happy family gatherings and my dear cousin.
This past winter, family gathered to mourn the passing of that cousin. It was a reunion that wasn’t as festive as the ones I remembered growing up, but it was a reunion and family reconnected.
And yes, we had food, including tripe. Which I ate with great enjoyment. I am not sure if I actually like tripe. (If you aren’t sure what tripe is, I suggest you Google it before you read any further.) My grandmother used to make tripe for special family gatherings, and I have a gut feeling that tripe just brings such warm memories that I am tricked into thinking I like it.
So, from my family to yours: Talk (in Latin if you can), Laugh (in any language), and Eat (tripe or Jalapeño Jack, whichever you prefer).