What a festive day was Saturday! I feel like we've returned to 'the Old Country.' For my husband's family, Buffalo, NY, is the Old Country, so to speak. This is where the roots spread wide and deep beneath the far-reaching branches of the Lauer family tree. (I had Chris sketch out a family tree for me as crib notes before meeting people.)
Our kids are exhausted on this trip. They're getting so shorted on sleep that they keep falling asleep in random places, including sometimes even the older ones.
|Before 11:00 a.m., the baby had taken two solid naps.|
We visited Cousin C's in the morning again for more tree climbing and general chit chat by the glittering pool.
The weather here is such a relief to the two families here from the South. We find it humorous how the local Buffaloneans are melting in the "humidity" and we are breathing deep the refreshing, brisk winds cooling our skin. Apparently it was 90 degrees today, but I wouldn't have believed you because it felt like 75. (And the cost of living here is so low!)
|There are so many American flags and Virgin Mary statues around this town.|
Then we drove by caravan to the famous Anderson's for 'beef on weck' and frozen custard. After the delightfully overindulgent meal, we drove to Corfu, the tiny village with the grandiose name, where Chris and his brothers grew up for ten years. More naps were taken along the way.
|Joseph passed out from fatigue|
Chris was able to tell many stories, but he moved away from the village when he was 10, so we really appreciated having oldest brother D-- with us, since he lived there till age 17 and could share with us many more memories. Corfu is a bedroom community outside of Buffalo--a tiny village so small it has only one stop light (but two bowling alleys and four bars!). A village so stable that Chris' brother D--- was commenting on which houses had been painted a new color (from his living here 35 years ago).
|The boys' middle school: place of many escapades|
|The 'free' library? As opposed to a library for cost?|
|The decrepit old bowling alley has seen better days and is now for sale.|
After hearing so many stories about Chris' family home in Corfu, I was very interested to lay eyes upon it for the first time! The home is on the right, and on the left is a small building also on the property which the family rented out . . . for a time to an ice cream parlor! Imagine the wonder for little boys growing up with an ice cream parlor next door!
When we pulled into the driveway we met a young married couple who was living there. Chris told them that this was his childhood home and asked if they minded if we snoop around the outside. We stopped to closely inspect where the family had etched their family name 'LAUERS' in the sidewalk and placed all five boys' hand prints, as well as embedding a 1977 penny in the sidewalk. Chris told the young couple that the sidewalk handprints belong to him and his brothers and the pregnant wife almost burst with emotion.
|Cousins by the handprints|
|Children inserting their hands in their father's and uncles' handprints|
|1977 penny--Chris was seven the year Katherine was born|
A small town is full of character. D--- and Chris were able to point out the homes of so many character names I've heard over the years, this family and that family--oh, don't you remember that story? When the boys fell through the ice pond, where they went hiking and camping, the place of tragedy for the child who died in the town, where the escaped prisoner was found, the railroad tracks by the feed mill that were location of so much hanging-out time, the neighbor's home to which the three-year-old brother ran away one day . . . .
Besides the many Virgin Mary statues and American flags (on 20-foot flag poles in the ground) in this predominantly Catholic and conservative area, there are interesting decorations, like the below wooden Statue of Liberty with a sign cheering about the upcoming presidential transition.
We were all curious about this storefront now for rent that advertised (twice) that it is a "sterile environment" where walk-ins are welcome.
We stopped in at the parish where Chris was baptized and received his First Holy Communion: these visits are so special to a Catholic. Next door to the parish was the rectory and next door to that, the home-and-office of the doctor in town.
The three youngest had napped for much of the drive through Corfu, and then any wakeful children had fought like cats and dogs, so we were so happy to head over to C---'s house (a different C) for a back yard birthday party.
Oh--and the back yards here are so charming and beautiful! Generally, I'm not seeing any fences in between back yards, so the huge back yards merge seamlessly into each other and one can see far down the street. If there are fences, they seem usually to be half-height chain link fences, so they create little visual barrier. This creates such huge lawn areas for children to run free!
Some family mystery is being clarified for me. I come from a very different family culture, much more New England WASP, for all its endearing qualities and quirky ones. (Need a primer on WASP culture? Go read "Cold Comfort Farm.") Chris comes from a huge, extended Catholic family, and this entire branch of it all live within three miles of each other: they help each other all the time, grandmas babysit many times per week, they zip over at the drop of a hat ('I've got to dash out, would you come get the baby in five minutes? Great!'). I can't even fathom how different (better) homeschooling-five-children-with-a-traveling-husband life would be with extended family support.
This event was a birthday party for a number four child turning one . . . and I counted twenty-eight cars parked outside for the party, the party which was characterized to me repeatedly as "no big deal, really casual."
The parents did an absolutely beautiful job with this party and it seemed bigger and more welcoming than my wedding. Chris' family members are always so open with hospitality, having people over with no notice whatsoever, cooking up huge amounts, visiting at all hours. This is not my strength (poor Chris' patience has been so tried in this area) and something that has remained a foreign mystery to me for ten years, but I am getting to see this trait so strongly expressed here that it is getting through my hard WASP-y shell. (Combine a WASP and an introvert and you've got a nearly impenetrable exoskeleton.)
The birthday party was baseball themed with darling Americana decorations everywhere (extra fun so close to Independence Day). Activities for the innumerable children were a kiddie pool, a Slip-N-Slide, football, water balloons, a swing set, and a baseball game. The snacks put out were a beautiful spread of chips and hot nacho sauce, pretzel bites, Cracker Jacks, Babe Ruth mini candy bars, red licorice, and so many cold drinks. Later the dinner spread was hot dogs from the grill, chili, pasta and green salads, and a rice dish. The Number One cake was absolutely precious . . . and all went well until Joseph (3) ate so much that he threw up voluminously right in the walkway by the deck where all the food was being served, and then he ran so fast down the driveway that he fell and, for the second time that day, busted open his knee so badly that the blood flowed down his leg.
|John showed such joy playing baseball, |
it makes this mother's soft heart want to enroll him in baseball (and I dislike sports).
I mean, seriously, for our one-year-old's birthday we might bake (buy?) cupcakes and have nobody over. It wouldn't even occur to me to celebrate with 'outsiders.' But look how much fun we had for hours upon hours, and we left with the party still in full swing! (And Chris' extended family wouldn't even recognize anybody being an 'outsider' because everybody is somebody and, hey, join the party!)
|Playing football catch with Daddy|
Mary, the little mother hen, was in heaven with so many babies present (at least eight babies under one, including two sets of twins). Here she made a "baby picnic" where she fed them all Ritz crackers and crooned over them.
Tomorrow is another day of Mass and a BIG family party to welcome us out-of-towners.