Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 28, 2015

It Simply Isn’t Summer without a Long Line of Picnic Aunts – New from Mitchell Kyd

For the first time in practically forever, my family is not having a summer gathering. That means there won’t be any picnic or any picnic aunts. It just won’t seem like summer without them.

   I’m the only daughter of an only daughter so all my my childhood reunion memories came from an older generation of the family I was born into, people who began missing from our photographs decades ago. Eventually, the people remaining to reunite were no longer tied by that same sibling bond and now we’ve gone our separate ways.

   But! My kids and I are fortunate to be part of an extended family. We aren’t related by blood but we certainly are connected. They have all been a part of my life for the past 42 years and my kids don’t know life without them. Our shared Mom is now in her nineties and she has added great-great grandma to her resume since last summer. That family continues to operate in grand style with the infusion of new babies, school honors and life accomplishments to celebrate at every gathering. There are 40-something of us when we gather now and that attracts a lot of picnic aunts.
   The great thing about picnic aunts is anticipating their specialties. In the years when my mom was busy as a picnic aunt-in-law, her signature dish was amazing macaroni salad with homemade dressing. It had a pop of color and a subtle crunch from the shredded carrots and the coolness of cucumbers sliced so thinly you could read through them. Her distinctive touch, spiral macaroni, made it fun on your plate. The game was, do you scoop or spear it. When that splint picnic basket hit the table, my cousin Donna always asked in anticipation if the Tupperware bowl would be making its annual appearance, filled with what she called “Aunt Wanda’s screws.”
   Unfortunately, as regular readers of this column know, that domestic gene is taking the long road home on its way back to finding me. Happily, I am known for my desserts and they are glorious. Best of all, what I bring to the table is wonderfully diverse; it all depends on what looks good at the bakery the morning of the picnic.
   Regardless of my own shortcuts, without other picnic aunts this year, there won’t be a blend of three kinds of beans baked with bacon served up in the crock pot. There will be no huge pan of macaroni and cheese with that yummy toasted topping or even fresh fruit pizza. And sadly, we will all miss out on the big, glass jar of lemonade made by allowing orange and lemon slices to marinate in real, old-fashioned sugar until they make their own concentrate.
   Without picnic aunts, there won’t be any picnic uncles, either. That means there won’t be anyone to churn homemade ice cream or dry off whichever pre-schooler whose turn it is to miscalculate his balance at the edge of the garden fish pond.
   The other missing ingredient of a real summer gathering will be the stories. Sure, there are phone calls, emails and text messages but some things deserved to be shared over grilled burgers and dogs cuddled up in potato rolls. Joys are doubled when shared, like celebrating a great-nephew who was named valedictorian or another whose skills earned him a spot on a traveling sports team.
   The best stories of course are the one siblings tell on each other. There are some perennial favorites that get bigger and grander as the years go by because embellishments are so entertaining. My favorites are the ones that get retold in hushed tones and well out of range of the matriarch. If the topic is bad behavior, no one trusts that any hearing impairment that complicates normal conversation will protect them from 20 feet across the yard and above the voices of a dozen kids and tweeners.
   Even though the events may have happened decades earlier and the storytellers are now in their fifties and beyond, most of us don’t want our moms to know about some of our fondest escapades. That’s proof once again that Mom is a revered and omnipotent title and there’s no statute of limitations on when we’re willing to risk her disapproval. A mom is a force to be reckoned with, no matter what her age.
In truth, most of our extended family will be together to be part of a summer wedding but that won’t be the same as the family picnic. We’ll have to share the day with other friends and family who won’t get our jokes because they haven’t lived our history. Our circle of lawn chairs will be replaced by tables of eight where long-legged cousins will be seated separately rather than sprawled together on patio furniture. The food will still be good, no doubt, but it will come from a stranger’s kitchen and be served from professional warming trays, not the traveling Tupperware.
   Tea lights and tulle may change the feel but the essential elements of our annual day together will all be there. They will simply be dressed up a bit and that will tide us over until next time because nothing says summer like good food, great stories and a long line of picnic aunts.
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Responses

  1. Another gem! I’ve been thinking of you and the upcoming celebration. You’re in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs

  2. I was an adult before I knew Aunt ” Surreys” name was really “Sarah”. Lol. I’m going this day to make your lemonade concentrate. Great piece as usual Yvonne. Thanks, Ami Plessinger:)


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