After three years worth of trips there, I'm pleased to report that Corb has acclimated well into the ways of my people. My mom and dad own the house with another couple, Cathy and Jim. For a while, Cathy would treat him rather rudely and suspiciously, but this year, she was nice as pie. Something just clicked, I guess. My mother spent quite a bit of time going out of her way to make us feel comfortable and, at the least, well fed.
Part of the enjoyment of this day, for me, are the traditions that have been built up over twenty years. Like eating chili and cold pizza at the two in the afternoon, or going for a ride in the paddle boat, or sitting on the beach watching the fireworks, watching the bonfire crackle in front of us. One year, we burned an outhouse, with the toilet seat hanging from the top.
Some of the traditions were broken this year. First off, no bonfire. Lenny is the man behind the bonfires. Each year, he comes to the beach house loaded with discarded wood, enough for at least an hour's worth of entertainment this year. Not so this year.
"Lenny's been banned from the beach house," my dad informed me, with a grin on his face. "His wife divorced him."
"So quickly?" I asked. "What happened?"
"He had an affair two years ago," replied my dad. "Joanne found out about it. Cathy refuses to let him come to the beach house."
(Now that I think of it, this isn't the first time we've not had a bonfire...back in 1998, there was too much rain, and it raised the shoreline so that the beach part of the house was about the size of a postage stamp. I drove my grandmother home early that year, and she tripped on the way in, and hurt herself. That was when I first started getting worried about her health.)
Other things were different, too. Cathy's mother didn't come. She's the last of the silver foxes. Every year, she'd sit on the deck with my grandmother, and they'd trade stories. At some point, Cathy's mother would always bring out a playlist of songs from the twenties, and try to whip up a sing-a-long. Not so, this year. Also, Jim's brother, and his silent family weren't there. They usually travel from New York to be a part of the fun, although they don't say much. his wife just had her stomach stapled, and has lost 35 pounds. I was looking forward to seeing that.
And, as a result of the drizzly rain that fell all day, we didn't sit out on the deck, watching fireworks. However, we did watch them from inside the porch, drinking champagne and sharing stories. And I have to say, that might have even been better.
You know me. It's the stories that I always love. We sat there, between fireworks blasts and sips of champagne, swapping stories about my father and the kids, and Cathy's long-ago rivalry with another teacher, back in the days when my dad was a principal in Warren and Cathy worked for him as a first-grade teacher. Stories of lost pets, like the time Corb fed oatmeal to the fish in his mother's aquarium. And, of course, stories about my grandmother. How she had a talent for trading in on her senior citizen status to get refunds on anything she wanted from store managers. Basketballs that were two years old and deflated. Battered card tables that has seen years of use. And, of course, one infamous time where she was at the grocery store and tried to sneak in a ten dollar off coupon for a turkey into a five dollar purchase.
They don't sound like much, writing them down like that, but they've kept us laughing together for quite some time. Huddled in that small porch, I felt an incredible sense of belonging, and that's something that keeps me coming back, year after year.