I would never have predicted that the Party of the Season would be tonight–with my family– in “the deep midwinter”.  But it was.

My brother and sister in law, Grier and Kim, threw a party tonight on their farm, while my family was all gathered for the funeral of my dear aunt,Betty.  It was a party full of good will, humor,and reminiscence.  I don’t expect to see its match for a long time– until we are all gathered again.  Tonight would have been the 50th birthday of my cousin Homer Harris Ragan– Hobey.  He died at 48 of lung cancer.  I remember the wonderful party when he turned 30.  Tonight we celebrated him again.  What a commingling of sadness and gratitude for good fortune.  With a lot of laughter, over a variety of carefully prepared  southern food and drink , we toasted to our memories of both my aunt and my cousin.  As the evening passed  many stories of grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins were pulled out for sharing–especially the funny ones.

There was lovely delicate she-crab soup, and catfish stew, as well as barbecue.  Tracey, Hobey’s true love, brought wonderful green beans.  When we asked for the recipe she said you “just cook the fool out of them”.  There were  babies, and little boys lost in wonder at the stars hanging over the bonfire.   We wrapped up, two or three to the blanket, for the hayride, bundled against the fierce cold, seeing the farm all blue, black and gray under that clear sky. 

There was shared wisdom about the next generation of cousins we are raising.  There was a lot of humor over the bar, set up in the workshop out back, alongside the woodstove and hundreds of tools.  My precious young first cousins–once removed– Hobey’s beautiful daughters– shared their  wit and humor.  I got to see their enthusiasms and their talents.  Their father and grandmother would be so proud– with good reason.  What miracles of grace and warmth they are.

It occured to me, in our serious mutual enthusiasm for tonight’s gathering, how lucky we are.  We are about the business of setting in motion the future trajectory of our family.  We are establishing the bedrock of comfort and strength, love and respect.  We will  see one another into the new times to come with the same love, loyalty, and connectedness that was given to us by our flawed but open-hearted parents.  I hope our open hearts trump our flaws as well, and that we are no less human and  no less funny than our predecessors.