• Last modified 543 days ago (Nov. 30, 2022)


Another Day in the Country

Surviving get-togethers

© Another Day in the Country

Precarious health seems to have become the norm with one bug or another infecting the population.

The school has to shut down early for Thanksgiving vacation because so many teachers and staff members are sick.

The teachers and staff are sick because there’s a bug going around, and too many infected children are coming to school.

What’s a body to do?

In the midst of this dilemma, we decided to invite 16 family members to dinner.

“Why this year?” someone asked.

“I guess because we can,” I said. “Having a big crowd for a meal and a ‘stay over’ may not be something I’ll always be able to do.”

I remember when we came back to Ramona for a family event. Most of our aunts were octogenarians and freely admitted that their days of playing host were over and done with.

“Where will we stay?” I asked my sister, as we watched our family aging. “How long will they even still be here?”

So, this was the year — for a variety of reasons — we invited cousin’s kids to come back to Ramona. They hadn’t been here for 15 years — in fact, since their Grandma Fike had died.

In the meantime, they’d all got married. They’d all had children of their own, and a couple of those children are now teenagers. That’s what 15 years can do in a family. So, this was the year for a certain amount of nostalgia.

There was a flurry of chores to be done before everyone arrived. The Ramona House was going to have guests again. We’d already closed it down for the winter, so on short notice we had it up and running again.

Lucky for us, the weather was nice and we could open the doors and air the place out. We hung bedding on the line and went hunting for flannel sheets, polished the furniture, wiped up the floors, vacuumed, and swept leaves off the porch.

Company was coming.

In the midst of dusting bookshelves, Jess opened a family album from 2003 and found pictures I’d taken at Thanksgiving that year.

Here were these cousins the last time they’d been here for this family ritual.

At my house, we planned menus and activities after everything was made ready for guests.

“Whew, this is a lot of work,” I admitted to my sister.

“In between times, you forget just how much work,” she said, with a certain look in her eye.

Would you know it, a few hours before the arrival of the first wave of guests, one tested positive for COVID and couldn’t come.

“Now what?” we looked at each other. “Abort or proceed?”

Everyone took COVID tests. The rest were OK. Under the circumstances we decided to proceed with caution.

We set the tables for 18 minus 1, baked the turkey, mashed 10 pounds of potatoes, thawed the corn, and creamed the peas.

There were too many salads, and I ruined the first pan of rolls, but we gave thanks and sat down to eat.

The guys took their kids around Ramona.

“The merry-go-round is still there,” Tyler said, “and the park looks good.”

He remembered spending happy hours in that park as a child when the family came to visit Grandma.

More than 20 years ago, Mrs. Sondergard — a Ramona stalwart — taught us to play a card game called “Chase the Ace.”

We hadn’t played that game in ages, but I thought this Thanksgiving crew might enjoy learning about the game.

It’s easy to play and, because quarters are involved, kids join in quickly for a chance to win money.

Fourteen of us crowded in around Aunt Anna’s old dining room table (with all the leaves in) to play Chase the Ace.

Josh won the first round, and all his kids and nieces, nephews, brothers and cousins groaned.

The kids wanted to do it again, each one hoping he or she would be the winner.

Would you believe that 40-year-old tech whiz Josh won both games, and then it was time for everyone to head home?

“You have to tell us how you spend your winnings,” I said.

After he won the first round, he said, “I think I’m going to buy $9 worth of chocolate Neccos,” a favorite candy of his.

After he won the second round, he said, “I think I’ve changed plans. I’m going to take all the kids out for ice cream. I’ll send you a picture.”

After all the dishes, tables, chairs, and toys were put away, they headed home. The house was very quiet.

That turned out well, the California Sisters agreed.

This morning, early, the phone rang.

“Someone else came down with COVID! Tested positive this morning. Wanted you to know.”

That’s the chance we take, every time we gather together, trying to survive the holidays on another day in the country.

Last modified Nov. 30, 2022