Cousins by the Dozens
It often seemed like were there hundreds of people who gathered at my grandparents Ray and Rebecca Miner’s house during many of the holidays or when it was time to cull the flocks of chickens, to butcher a bull or several hogs. At the holidays, every family brought pot luck dish while Becky baked bread and buns. She also cooked whatever meat Granddad and Gram decided to use: chicken, pork, but most often beef.
A story I’ve shared before was when the family gathered and Gram’s refrigerator couldn’t hold the cold meal offerings. The cold front porch was pressed into service. Gram made her usual presentation, orange Jell-o and sliced bananas. One year it was in a pink enamelware pot. One of the cousins mistook it for her pink potty at home and deposited some small tootsie rolls on it. Needless to say, the meal went on without Gram’s usual contribution.
Another cousin gathering that I recently wrote about happened at Easter. The cousins’ game of hiding real hard cooked and dyed eggs at the Easter egg hunt went afoul. One of the colored eggs fell down into a cinderblock pillar. It was unable to be retrieved. It rotted, rendering that portion of the porch inhabitable for several weeks. We were no longer allowed to hide real Easter eggs.
Like most farmhouses, Gram’s sitting parlor was off limits to children. It was the “good room” for adults only; more specifically for guests. Aunt Rachel investigated the boisterous sounds of children laughing. She found a jumble of kids in the parlor and scolded them, chasing them from the room. She was chagrined to find a sheep-faced Granddad Miner at the bottom of the pile.
Cousins had to walk carefully in the T.V. room. It was Granddad’s favorite spot to relax and at the side of his chair was a tin can spittoon. He chewed Cutty Pipe tobacco, a leftover habit from working in the coal mines. The tobacco juice reminded the miners not to swallow the coal dust. Occasionally a passing child would kick the can and make a mess on themselves and the floor. Gram almost always had a quilting frame set up in the T.V. room. She was able to make a hand stitched quilt wedding gift for each of the nearly 30 grandchildren.
Outside games included rolling down the hills beside the farmhouse. One side had obstacles of a large pine tree, a clump of lilacs, and a bush that had dusty red flowers that smelled like strawberries. The other side had a privet row of peonies at the bottom. Large family gatherings are a rarity these days and too often kids don’t even know their cousins.