I had a huge extended family. Most of them are gone now, as the years have separated us on this planet and now separated by dearth’s door. My best memories as a wee lad come from the great reunions at Aunty Olive’s and Uncle Charlie’s farm in Northern Saskatchewan. After a huge dinner cooked by Aunty (she used to be a cook in the lumber camps in BC), the dishes would be washed and cleaned in an assembly line of aunts and women cousins (sorry, sexist I know) while the men would gather and tell stories. Then we would bring out the fiddles and the music would begin. We would sleep wall to wall in the great room of the old log cabin as the chatter and laughter slowly faded into the night.
uncles and aunts
their faces barely remembered
yet still imprinted on my child mind.
the father of fifteen children,
cousins I never met.
He loved his horses,
the teams of clydes he used to drive
as a young man so long ago,
riding his palomino in his ninety’s
at the head of the annual parade,
finally forced to give up his horses his dreams.
with a tee, heee, heee, laugh
and stories that he enjoyed more
with each glass of rye whiskey.
The jokes were not funny
but watching him tell them
brought tears of laughter.
He was the only one
who could make mom laugh.
the old log farm house,
wall to wall bodies
in the old living room.
We rise to a day filled with laughter.
Round happy Auntie Olive,
works four frying pans
on the old wood stove.
French pancakes, crepes,
stacked a hundred high,
smothered with farm cream
and homemade syrup,
the young cousins competing
to see who could eat the most.
Off to Green Lake.
freshly caught pickerel fry in butter.
Back home the night fun begins.
Cousin Charlie on the guitar,
Paul plays the fiddle,
someone drums a rhythm with the spoons.
Charlie and long tall Paul dance the broom.
His knees touch his chin
as the broom passes back and forth
beneath his long legs
in time to the music.
Mom laughing and crying,
at home, safe, in a hostile world.