If you talked with my cousin, Laura, about visiting Grandma Kelley’s house when we were kids, she would probably fill you with stories about jumping on beds which required stitches on my sister’s forehead on Christmas Eve, throwing turkey in each other’s glasses at the kid’s table on Thanksgiving only to be “punished” by my Dad who forced her to eat the turkey that had landed in the lemonade (Mark’s fault). She might also tell you about the creepy basement, the Coke dispenser with the teeny Coke glasses, the swively chairs, the flocked Christmas tree, and seeing who could keep their finger pinched in the hat clip at church the longest. The best part about spending time at Grandma Kelley’s was that every relative was under one roof. It didn’t matter how many of us there were, Grandma and Grandpa pulled out mattresses, couches and cushions to make sure everyone had a place to sleep. (I actually don’t even know where Grandma ended up sleeping; she may not have slept at all). For us, as kids, this was pure holiday time. There was seemingly endless food, television shows non-stop, games, more food, and bedtimes that felt more like sleepovers. I just assumed the parents were having just as much fun as we were but perhaps we didn’t understand the effort it took Grandma and others to prepare and serve all the food (I swear, as soon as all the dishes were done for one meal, we were opening up the big freezer and pulling out loads of homemade bars, cookies and pies because we were already hungry again). I do remember some tension between adults periodically but, again, as kids we hardly concerned ourselves with things like that. And I’m sure Grandma was exhausted (and a bit relieved) when we all left.
All the same, if there were any issues with having so much “family” all in one place, those memories have been repressed by all the good ones: throwing all the gift wrap at Mom when she was trying to keep the gift unwrapping neat and orderly, Grandpa playing his violin at the top of the stairs, hard-sided toiletry bags (one per family) lined up in the bathroom (remember those!), all the cousins spending the afternoon at the very cool roller rink with dark red carpet on the walls and a floor that “glowed” from the black light, the smell of something great baking as we came in the back door.
My Dad’s side was a bit different than that growing up because the age of my cousins is very spread out. It’s more difficult to bond as kids when you are 14 and your cousin is two. But all that age difference disappears when you grow up and getting together for Hoffmeier reunions is one of my favorite things as an adult. I think Tom has fit right in and enjoys it as much, as an out-law, as those of us do that are blood-relatives. That family loves each other like I’ve never seen and I love being a part of it. Any chance we get, we’ll get together. Next up for the Hoffmeiers: a reunion in Lake Tahoe in October. I can’t wait.
Which leads me to the past 12 days. Family together again with my parents staying with us. It wasn’t as big as the gatherings growing up (but neither is our apartment!) but there was still a lot of cooking and baking and lots of doing dishes, taking shifts in the bathroom, sleeping on couches, some moodiness, some crabbiness, and some rolling of eyes (everyone is included in these last categories). But it’s all good because it’s family and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope my kids can say the same in 30 years.
Just a glimpse of our time together…