Sunday, July 21, 2013

Clan Gathering July 2013

One week ago was my ex-husband's clan gathering. Here's what I had to say about it. ~~GH

It's funny; my entire what-I-think-of-as-family is in Kentucky at a huge Caudill Clan Gathering, a special event held once every twenty years perhaps. I was not yet a Caudill the last time they gathered, and I am no longer a Caudill this time. 

My children are there. My in-laws, my ex, his new Mrs. -- they're all there. I imagine mountain Caudills and hollow Caudills, cove Caudills and flatland Caudills -- all those stubborn proud Scots-Irish people gathered in one roving band of several hundred souls. 

There are musical instruments, and singing. There will be clogging. Meats cook over open fires -- it is the way of the people. Perhaps there are pigs roasting over pits. Savory juices will sizzle when they drip onto crackling logs, and thick gray wood smoke will drift on the warm summer breeze until it dissipates in the distance. A girl will sniff her long hair and carry the scent of charred oak home with her back to Kentucky.

There are yellow gallons of creamy potato salads, tubs of shiny macaroni salads, coppery trays of tangy baked beans. Deviled eggs will polka dot table tops. There will be berry cobblers, and pools of water will form beneath slick-with-condensation, chilled watermelons. There will be flies buzzing, millions of flies, so happy to be there, drunk from the rich scents and endless eats. Brownies and cookies will materialize then disappear, within moments. There will be contented smiles on consumers’ as well as bakers’ faces.

There will be babies crying, no doubt, and grandparents clucking over how much each little one looks like Great Aunt Someone or Grandpa Somebody. There will be hoary-headed women, and bald men. There will be crew cuts and ponytails. There will be hats. Rough textured straw hats and smooth Panama hats, woven fiddler’s caps, Greek fisherman hats, and baseball caps, Fedoras, and a Stetson or two. There will be bandanas. There will be unruly beards, trimmed goatees, handle bar mustaches. There will be five o’clock shadow at noon.

There will be lanky boys and muscular youths, wisps of girls, and thick girls, women with fat bottoms or no bottoms, and men with skinny hips. There will be new boyfriends and girlfriends who stand around awkwardly or else cling too tightly, and old ones who blend into the crowd. There will be newlyweds, and oldlyweds. There will be kisses stolen, given, offered, turned down. There will be bottoms patted, swatted. There will be hugs.

There will be cell phone cameras, disposable green Fuji cardboard clad cameras, heavy SLR cameras hung around necks by long broad straps. Everywhere you go, there will be memories preserved. 

There will be green-and-white webbed lawn chairs, and camp chairs. There will be flip flops and bare feet. There will be heavy leather boots, and tennis shoes. There will be children running, darting in and out like dragonflies through an obstacle course of humankind. There will be cheap cologne and expensive perfume. There will be fresh sweat and there will be body odor. There will be at least one set of smelly feet. Dogs will run rampant through the woods or obediently heel. Tongues will loll from the heat, and children will mollygrub patient canines that will look imploringly to their masters for relief.

In the woods away from the crowd, Mason jars of clear liquor will be passed around, and pipes smoked. There will be joints rolled and herb shared. There will be joshing and jokes told. There will be lies. There will be denials. Tobacco will be spit and dipped and smoked. There will be tattoos and war stories shared. There will be tales about the ones that got away – and the ones who didn’t. There will be off-color stories, but not too many. There will be bragging and fishing contests. Winners will crow and losers will good-naturedly admit defeat – for now.

There will be gossip shared, family stories told. There will be promises of secret recipes passed along, “but not today.” There will be home remedies revealed, and questions asked. There will be wagging tongues and clucking tongues. There will be joy and tears. Pregnancies will be admitted to as well as infidelities. There will be consolations, and advice. There will be revelations. There will be understandings. There will be wisdom gained.

Friendships will be discovered, created, renewed, and a few no doubt broken. Politics and religion will be broached. There will be debates, discussions, arguments, and I imagine a few fights. There will be posturing, positioning for power, old grudges remembered, old grudges forgiven.

There will be love.

There may not be cell reception, since nobody has answered my texts. But when the weekend is done and the picnic tables cleared, dishes packed safely back inside boxes and nestled in trunks, when the chairs and tablecloths are folded and tucked into truck beds, when the embraces are over and the goodbyes are said -- when the far-flung relatives have kicked up the dust on the roads and made it safely back home -- there will be stories to tell for years to come.

That is what I look forward to most of all. That is what I will miss.
[Tomorrow: Singing in the Life-Boats]

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