We met up with our aunts, uncles and cousins for sure twice a year – we had a family Thanksgivings and Christmases the Sundays before the actual holidays. My mother and her two brothers rotated the holidays – one year someone had Thanksgiving, the next year Christmas and the following year was a “bye.” We would get quite dressed up… after-five wear. One year I made myself a velvet “cage” dress: the under-dress was a pale celery heavy velvet with sequin straps, and the long-sleeve “cage” over it was in a matching lace. My youngest cousin, then about two, managed to dump his plate of spaghetti all over the front of it. I should have never gone near that high chair.
There were sixteen of us all together: I have five first cousins, all boys, ranging from nine years older than me to twelve years younger. Those parties were wonderful – my uncles and their wives were all kind and fun-loving. After dinner the men would gather by the fireplace, light up cigars, and talk “man-talk” while the women cleaned up and chatted in the kitchen. We kids would hie ourselves off to whatever basement to play. My uncle Ted had a pedal-driven player piano in the basement, along with a slot machine. The player piano was loaded with Rossini’sWilliam Tell Overture, and we would tire ourselves out pumping hard on the pedals to make the music go as fast as we could make it. My uncle Gene lived on Indian Lake in a lovely log-cabin home he built. It had a built-in eating area in the kitchen – I liked the built-in bench that ran along two sides of it. That house had a cathedral ceiling in the living room with a gorgeous, rustic stone fireplace that had a deep hearth for sitting. They always had the biggest tree! They also used big, old-fashioned Christmas lights every year, even though my mother and my aunt Midge had graduated to the mini-lights.
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