Anyway, when last we met I was talking about my family reunion (post-traumatic 20-mile run). And now, I can hardly even remember it, except I do know that the lights went out.
Not long after I arrived back at the lake house, it was time to head to a restaurant named The Stroudsmoor. My grandfather used to love this place, which sits atop the mountains and has these breathtaking views from every which way, especially in the fall when all the leaves are making everything that much prettier. It's a quaint "country inn" and, to be honest, a bit of a wedding factory. Being the only granddaughter left that wasn't (isn't...) hitched, my Poppop used to not-so-subtlely suggest, "Erin, this would be a wonderful place to get married, wouldn't it?"
Umm, yeah, sure...if Prince Charming ever appears then maybe we'll consider it. But, for now, it was a fantastic place to catch up with Strouts that I hadn't seen since apparently I was a baby.
I can safely say I come from good people, though I already knew that. As we mixed and mingled over drinks at the bar, it was fun to see faces I could remember...even if I couldn't remember all of their names.
And as we made our way into the dining room, a post-20-mile-run miracle occured. Yes, it was true: an all-you-can eat buffet was mine for the taking. How lucky can a marathoner get?
These are the moments when I know that I am forever genetically linked to my Poppop, that I wasn't actually adopted as my older cousins and brother had told me more than once as a child. My eyes were so big, my pure joy written all over my face as I plowed through the salad bar and then headed straight to the entrees. There was nothing more thrilling for my Poppop than food -- good food and lots of it. I could not agree with that philosophy more.
As I sat next to my cousins, catching up on lost months and years of time while stuffing my face with a variety of chicken, fish, and beef concoctions, a storm was brewing outside. Not just a small, passing thunderstorm, as advertised on the weather forecast. This one included claps of thunder that cut through the noisy chatter of the room and bolts of lightening that seemed way too close.
A waiter passed by and joked, "I hope the lights don't go out."
He had to say it, didn't he?
All of a sudden, the power was out. That glorious buffet of food went dark, and we continued to eat by candle light in that quaint country inn. We theorized that the jokester Strouts who have long-since passed away decided to play a practical joke. Perhaps my dad and my Poppop decided this was their way of getting in on the party.
The lights stayed dark for the rest of the evening and it just added a certain charm to an already beautiful event. I'm a sucker for family events. I find it fascinating to sit in a room and know that I share such a bond with everybody in it. The old stories and photos being tossed around just give me a sense of belonging...of knowing where I came from. I find it fascinating and comforting and fun all at the same time.
The next day the sun came out in time for a family picnic at the lake. Our lake house holds some epic family history, so those who had not visited for a while were overcome with warm memories and sentimental recollections. My grandparents had a summer cottage here, and my cousins and I spent some of our happiest childhood days at Saylor's Lake, as did our parents and even our grandparents and great grandparents. Now my cousins' kids are carrying on the tradition.
Maddie -- master inner-tube balancer!
As we passed around ancient photos of the earliest generations of our family, we came across one of my Great Grammy (Daisy Mae) and her husband--who I imagine we would have also called Poppop had we known him--sitting next to the lake as a young couple, what seems like a million years ago. We found another photo of Great Grammy probably taken around the same time and it finally hit me: there she stood, this tiny woman with curly hair and a skeptical look on her face. Somebody held up the photo and looked at me and said, "Oh my gosh, I never saw it before, but you look so much like her."
Weird how that happens. As a child, I just remember my Great Grammy as the warmest, most patient woman in the world. When we were all gathered for family events, she would shoo my grandparents and all of our parents out the door and babysit a flock of her great grandchildren. We'd watch Lawrence Welk with her and she let us eat ice cream. Much like her son, my Poppop, she relished any opportunity to let us kids just be kids. I may have been young, but I have such vivid memories of her, and now I know that she gave me my curly locks and petite frame, too.
My favorite part of the Lawrence Welk show was at the end, when all the bubbles cascaded on the stage and they sang:
Good night, until we meet again.
Adios. Au revoir. Auf Wiedersehen 'til then.
And though it's always sweet sorrow to part,
You'll know you'll always remain in my heart.
Good night, sleep tight and pleasant dreams to you.
Here's a wish and a prayer that every dream comes true.
And now 'til we meet again...
Adios, Dobranoc, Auf Wiedershen.