Thursday 14 July 2011

The Family Picnic

The sun is shining, the sky is a crystal blue, the silos rise in the distance, the corn is just about ripe and a slight breeze is blowing on this perfect summer day.  A little girl clad in an orange bathing suit swims with her brother clad in a black suit with red flames on it.  The little girl wears a bright yellow life jacket.  She dips her head in the water like a little duck.  The boy whips down the water slide for the tenth time; then he does a cannon ball off the diving board.  The mother looks at the horizon and is struck by a sense of peace:  her cup runneth over.

This is an excerpt from my journal dated July 13, 2008, the day of the Tufts Family Picnic.  Every year we meet at the Kirkton Woodham Community Centre on the second Sunday in July to converse with our cousins and second cousins and great aunts and great uncles and grandparents.  I remember when my Grandma and Grandpa used to come in their old white Torino with the navy blue roof.  They used to drive all the way from Toronto.  My Grandma couldn't drive and if she got too tired and asked to go home, but my Grandad wasn't moving fast enough, she would say, "I guess I'll just walk home." 

On the cloth-draped table are many foods including potato salad, pasta, turkey, cold cuts, devilled eggs, dinner rolls and fried chicken.  This year we almost didn't bring the chicken, because I chose to make Cottage Cheese Pasta Casserole instead.  However, on our way through Paris, Ontario, Jacqueline asked:  "Are we going to stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken?"  We responded "No, we're eating pasta this year."  And the crocodile tears sprouted.  We stopped.  Luckily we did because once we got to the picnic, we found out that Jacqueline's third cousins, Maya and Savannah, look forward to the fried chicken tradition every year.  When their Dad said that there might not be any fried chicken this year, the girls reassured him that the bucket would definitely be on the picnic table.  We wouldn't want to prove them wrong. 

After stuffing our faces with homemade pie, ice cream and cookies and squares, we play games like Guess the Number of Jelly Beans in the Jar.  My husband Rob came within one of getting the right answer this year.  Last year my Mom won and she gave the jar to my kids.  I remember when my Grandad, a mathematician, used to play the jelly bean jar game; he would used a complicated formula to arrive at his answer.  Later, we head outside for the kiddie games where the children carry eggs on spoons or tie ropes around their ankles and run with a partner or throw water balloons at each other, which of course is their favourite game.  Some of the "big boys" play soccer; you can hear Rob screaming from a mile away when he scores a goal (or misses).  Others play football or even baseball.  My children finish off the afternoon by taking a dip in the community pool, the highlight of the picnic.

The Family Picnic wasn't always in Kirkton.  When I was little, in the 1970's, we used to go to my Dad's cousin Edwin's cottage in Bayfield and we would eat lunch at picnic tables, play games, and then descend the steep cliff to the rocky beach below for a dip in Lake Huron.  The picnic tradition has lasted for decades and I hope it will last for many more.  Giving my children a sense of history and roots is invaluable.  I look forward to the bucket of KFC and the jar of jelly beans on the table next year.  Thank you, Tufts Family, for a great tradition!

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