During the week between Christmas and New Year, some of our cousins visited for a couple of days. The kinship relationships are a little complicated, so I’ve learned from my friend to call everyone cousins. It captures the essence of the relationship, no matter what the genealogists might say.
The house always seems to embrace the presence of numbers of people, and this visit was no different. There were eight of us staying here, with an additional five who came for dinner that first night.
I realized later that five generations of our family have touched down at one time or another in this house. At dinner that first night, with a wonderful cassoulet made by my sister in law, three of those generations were present, with our ages ranging from the lower 70s to the almost 1s. Some of us were being introduced to the house for the first time, others of us had a more glancing relationship with it, while still others a deep and complicated one, but we were all received by the house, and the multi-generational, somehow related mix was part of what made it all so deeply joyful.
The house was built at a time when many generations living together was the norm, not the news-worthy exception. I can imagine other grandmothers and grandfathers, other nieces and nephews, along with the friends, servants, and hangers-on of the past adding to the intangible patina of relationships that have imbued the whole place with human meaning and fellowship. It seems that each lively and animated conversation around that dining room table builds on all the conversations that have gone before, so that one can almost imagine an incredible cacophony embedded in the walls of the house, carrying the thoughts, aspirations, agreements and disagreements of the centuries in the very fibers of the wood.
I look forward to the opportunities of other families, for generations to come after our own five, to add to this patina of memory, sound, meaning and relationships.