I come from a little brood of 2 kids. Merle comes from a major tribe of 7 kids, all boys, by the way. I can only imagine. . . well, no, I really can’t.
The photo above is from the early years on the farm when the 7 brothers lined up to sing, which they always like to do. Merle is second from left.
Anyway, both kinds of families have their own particular advantages, and how lucky am I to have a toe in each!
A good many years ago, when Merle’s folks were still living on their farm but were starting to slow down a little, somebody in the family got a Christmas gift idea for them. Instead of giving them stuff when they were clearly starting to slim down their household, we decided to do fix-up projects around the homestead. Things they weren’t getting done or needed to hire people to do: painting, cleaning out the shop, fixing spouting, repairing mortar in the little stone smokehouse. . . those kinds of projects. Here we are in those early years painting the corn barn.
We were kind of efficient.
We were all feeling enlightened and generous as we searched for a 3-day block during the summer when we could gather at the farm to work.
What we weren’t thinking about very much was the fact that we were 14 adults (all 7 sons and spouses), plus a raft of kids, about to descend on Dad and Mother Good for 3 days of eating and sleeping and taking up lots of space. Most of us aren’t quiet, retiring types. And we like to eat. A lot.
I’m pretty sure we brought a good bit of the food. At least in later years, we mapped out food assignments for our days together. But, hey, I get a little touchy when my kitchen’s over-run with people and helpers, even if they are my family. Mother Good graciously made room for all of our containers of food, and our ways of cooking, and our manifold opinions.
Some of us brought tents and campers, but we all had to share 1½ bathrooms in the old farmhouse. Those with the littlest kids took over the bedrooms, so, you’re right, there were no peaceful corners.
Here’s a picture of “Generation 3.” (There are a lot more in this bunch now!) Our 2 daughters are in the front row, left: 1 with stripe-y socks and an open mouth; 1 looking compliant with folded hands.
Hey, we were doing good, yet we swarmed the place and these aging people.
But, boy, did we have good times. Each year we did a little less work and had a little more fun. We began to recognize that as we had more kids—and as they grew bigger and needed more space—that we had better look for a different place to meet. Along the way, too, Merle’s folks moved off the farm and into a one-story house that better matched their stage in life. (His older brother and family bought the family farm and live there now.)
We found a great sprawling lodge on the Chesapeake Bay, and we went there for 3 glory-filled days summer after summer. Sure, there were bugs, and scraps to settle, and a soggy volleyball court.
We also had to take and make all of our food. The place had a half-adequate kitchen, but we figured it out. The Goods are very organized (thank you, Mother Good), and each family was assigned a meal to bring. Plus each person (over the age of 5 or so) was on either a meal-prep or meal-cleanup crew, so the work was shared.
Those crews were deliberately intergenerational so that we each got a chance to go elbow-to-elbow with people we may not otherwise have talked to quite as extensively.
Feeding 40 people at each meal, and then cleaning up afterwards, sounds like sheer drudgery when you’re on a kind of mini-vacation. But it didn’t turn out that way because we shared the load in fairly fun ways.
That gorgeous setting eventually couldn’t support all the sleeping-eating needs of this growing family. So about 5 years ago we moved to a well-established camp where we now sleep in air-conditioned motel-like rooms and eat camp-prepared meals in a dining room.
Our kids lament leaving the wonder and intimacy of the spot on the Chesapeake. But they wouldn’t miss the weekend. We were just together in late June, and nearly all of the kids (known as Generation 3; Merle and I are part of Generation 2) came, along with their families. On Saturday night we sat in a big circle and told memories from past summer family weekends. Pretty soon our kids took a hold of the conversation, telling stories about stuff we Generation 2-ers had no idea had happened.
I was in that territory between laughing and crying most of the evening.
What a gift to belong. And to have had good parents and sibs.
All of this reminded me of one of the meals Merle and I made for the whole bunch one year on the Chesapeake. Summer was at its peak—and so were the tomatoes and fresh basil.
I love this recipe because you don’t cook the sauce. And when you eat this sauce, you feel like you’re sitting in the garden right next to the tomato plants.
Summer Garden Pasta Sauce
from “Fresh From Central Market” Cookbook
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 11 minutes
Chilling Time: 8 hours, or overnight
Standing Time: 1 hour
1½-2 lbs. fresh plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
10 black olives, chopped or sliced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
4 tsp. capers
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. dried oregano
1¼ Tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 lb. cooked pasta, preferably tomato-basil fettucini
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large bowl, gently mix together tomatoes, onions, olives, parsley, basil, capers, paprika, and oregano.
2. Stir in vinegar and oil. Mix well.
3. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow tomatoes to draw their juices and all flavors to blend.
4. One hour before serving, allow mixture to come to room temperature.
5. Cook pasta according to package directions.
6. Combine drained pasta and sauce ingredients and serve.
7. Make cheese available for each person to add as they wish to their filled bowls.