Monthly Archives: April 2011

Field Trip and Foreign Exchange

by Colleen

It seems to me that I do have the misfortune of being too city for the country and too country for the city, as Kate has said of herself as well.  This fact was made even more apparent to me this past weekend when I traveled to Wisconsin’s capitol, the great and liberal city of Madison,  for the State Forensics competition (for those who think I am talking about cutting up bodies and analyzing remains, forensics is basically speech/debate competition).


A busload of Cashton kids was unleashed on the city for a day under iron gray clouds, spitting out bits of cold rain and occasional hail. (Ah!  Beautiful Wisconsin spring weather….but wait ,that is another issue entirely.)  My beautiful Ukrainian friend, Kseniya, was along for the trip, and throughout the day, she was to prove to me just how country I was.

Kseniya is from a large city in Ukraine, and despite being in a place where she is not a native speaker, she can get around better than I can.  Several times throughout the day when we didn’t know where to go, she would simply walk up to the nearest person and ask where something was or how to get into a place, absolutely confident, despite her accent.  This was amazing to me.  Here I was, a person who’s lived in Wisconsin all her life, unable to sum up the courage to ask which way up even was.  Kseniya was astounded, saying, “That’s the reason I love cities!  You can ask anyone a question and they will tell you what you need to know,” and, “Don’t you love being able to smile at random people on the street?” Ummmm, no, because I live on top of a ridge where the main population is Slatterys.

Although I wasn’t used to not being able to jaywalk across the streets and the sheer amount of people all around me, I did love the city.  I loved walking down the street and looking in shop windows, filled with everything from popcorn to high fashion.  Cafes populated almost every corner and spread warm light and the luscious scents of rich coffee and sugary pastries into the rain darkened afternoon, a sore temptation for a Catholic girl with a coffee and bakery fetish in the throes of Lent.

I ultimately returned home late that night with a gold medal for solo acting in Forensics, a severely lightened wallet, and a new appreciation for the braveness of my city friend, Kseniya. I liked the glimpse into city life, but I still don’t know what I am.  Country?  City?  Can I have both?

The Downtown Department Store

by Kate

The presence of a downtown department store in Pittsburgh has always been one of things that makes me feel as though I live in a Big City.

Growing up in the middle of dairy country without a tv made it tough to imagine what a life in City would be like, but plenty of old fashioned books and catching half of Miracle on 31st Street at a holiday party assured me that it definitely involved catching a streetcar and going downtown for the afternoon to visit the Department Store and have a milkshake at the soda fountain. Last Friday, that is (more or less) what we did.

In the absence of streetcars, we went around the corner to catch the bus. It was a glorious sunny spring day, meaning it was time for me to pull out my sunhat.

About the hat. A couple years ago, when I still lived down south, it occurred to me that my Irish skin and the searing summer sun didn’t mix.The problem was that I have an an aversion to the various heavy and nostril assailing sunblock concoctions out there. This did not faze the southern beau I had at the time one bit. “Git you a hat, woman!” said he, and so I did. It was surprisingly good advice. Do I look like an idiot? Yes. A picturesque one, though. It keeps the sun off and the sunblock too.

Today, The Downtown Department store (and our destination) is Macy’s.

This has only been true for a few years. From 1877 until 2006, it was the flagship operation of the famous Kaufmann’s Department store chain. With 12 retail floors, spanning an entire city block,  referred to simply as “The Big Store”. This remains an apt description.

Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann to design the executive offices on the top floor. The exterior of the building is a striking Neoclassical Style Revival. Perhaps the most iconic detail is a huge ornamental clock. This clock has been a popular downtown meeting place  for almost a hundred years.

It is the clock that really makes me feel like I have stepped into the storybooks I read growing up, the clock that makes a trip to the department store seem magical.

The clock was much more alluring than the window displays, which hinted that perhaps I would not find my magic inside as they promised. Certainly there seemed to be no chance of finding my magic in knits.

Trenches did not seem promising, either.

Spring 2011 appears to be all about neutrals.

Pale neutrals are a lovely concept, but the sad fact of the matter is that they dramatically reveal coffee stains. This is a deal breaker for me. Also my aforementioned Irish skin is pale enough without being swathed in shades of oatmeal. This color palette tends to make me into a sort of six foot pale neutral person.

The window displays inspired in me the usual terror and qualms that I experience every time I am in or near a department store. I love the idea of these stores, in books, but the reality makes me feel like an awkward ungainly impoverished coffee stained wild haired country bumpkin. Perhaps this is because I am. Taking a deep breath, I bumbled my way through the revolving doors and into a vast expanse of mirrored glass, marble, gleaming surfaces, and a spectacular amount of pink.

There is a wedding coming up (in case you missed it, read more here) and this means that I have given myself permission to go to a real live makeup counter. Due to a mixture of shy terror and complete poverty, I only purchase department store makeup when an upcoming nuptial event gives me the excuse. The last time I bought eyeliner was just before my own wedding two years ago. As a bellydancer who paints on vast quantities every other week, I recently decided to face the fact that my paint pot was drying up and decided this wedding was the perfect excuse to invest in a whopping $21.50 in real makeup, thus earning a Clinique gift bag which would instantly transform me into a chic, clean, classy person ready to attend a wedding.

I am scared of the fancy ladies at the makeup counters, and the men too. The first time I gathered up the courage to visit one and have my face done I was 23 and I will never forget my makeup artist, Bruno, telling me that indeed it was crucial that I wax my eyebrows or I would look like, well, him. His thick black eyebrows were impeccably waxed but that did not disguise the fact that without intervention they would clearly have taken up at least 1/3 of his forehead.

This time, the fancy lady who finally found time to fuss and flutter and dab my lips with various lipsticks was very sweet, and kind. No mention of eyebrows. There were various experiments in the world of color.

I have to be honest and say I am not quite sure how I walked away from the counter with a lipstick called Ginger Flower. It is… bright pink. Very bright reddish pink. Perhaps the word coral is appropriate. Coral lipstick is another thing that sounds great in books, but is a bit challenging to pull off in real life. However, the makeup counter lady assured me that it was stunning. I decided that a springtime wedding would be a great time to look stunning even as I (accurately) predicted that my husband would instead choose to describe the effect as “clown-like”.

My secondary goal on this trip was to sample Chanel No. 5. I recently read a book chronicling the history of this perfume. It was a great book, and a fascinating history full of passion, monasteries, nazis, great escapes, espionage, chic, and luxury. I realized while reading it that I had no idea what the scent born and causing such drama smelled like, so it was imperative that I try it.

Not bad, is my verdict, though I liked the book better than the perfume. Thankfully my husband who was not raised in a free range manner on a farm recently taught me how to sample perfume while loking civilized and avoid spraying it heavily on my body and random passerby while sort of jerking spasmodically in an attempt to wave the scent around. As a result this scent sampling session was almost entirely unembarrassing. I liked the Issey Miyake featured in the picture, too.

The cosmetics and perfume counter is only the beginning of the first floor of eleven at the downtown Macy’s. Although my eyes were already beginning to gloss over and my breath come short at some point, I decided that I must make some attempt to dig deeper into the retail jungle. This meant taking the escalators up to the fifth floor to glance over the 2011 crop of prom dresses. As a harpist, I am always on the lookout for extravagent poufy formal dresses. You never know when they’ll come in handy for an upcoming gig. Sadly, my research revealed that the current model of prom dresses are absolutely useless for a harpist.

Or for someone who would like to sit down at any point while wearing one.

Or for thousands of young women who will deeply regret their prom photos years hence.

Ah well. There are plenty of other formal dresses with skirts in the world, and I almost never buy them till they get to the thrift store anyway.

The prom dresses were more than enough to round out my department store adventure, and I decided it was time to make my way down the escalators, past the soda fountain, and out the revolving doors. The directory reminded me that there are far more mysteries to be explored at a future date- including the Fur Vault, which I definitely don’t have the courage to broach at this point.

Just before I left the store, I spotted a man in a fedora at the bus stop across the street. Just for a second I saw the past juxtaposed on the present, and I felt less lonely in my sunhat.

I am sure that I will return to the downtown department store again someday in the future. Will you meet me at the clock?

Till we meet again,

-Kate

Post Voting Nostalgia

by Mary

One evening last week I drove the three miles down Hwy 33 to our local Town Hall to vote. Before going inside, I halted and knocked mud off my boots. Not that it really mattered, but I had been euthanizing a bed of dreadfully ugly graveyard flowers (aka, day lilies), and I didn’t want to track mud into the building. When I entered my local town hall, I took a second to reflect on what the environment would look like from a 3rd party perspective.
 
The hall is very small and always warm. The heat is generated by a old cast iron wood burning stove that even in April was still being utilized. The curtains which hover over the three or four voter booths must have once been white, but are yellow from age. Looking at them made me wonder if a farm wife had sewn them in the 60’s or 70’s? What is most famous to me about the place is the ballot machine that I swear is bulimic! In goes my vote, out it is spit. After one regurgitation, my vote went through, and I was back in my car processing things. From an outsiders view, my world must appear so small.
 
However, I don’t look at it that way at all. The best way of going about explaining this, would be to start off by stating the I am the daughter of a former journalist. In a sense, my father gave me the world and simultaneously brought it to our door. He did this in many different ways. First off, he introduced us kids to the key that brings the world to life anywhere and everywhere. It’s free (well actually, I have had up to a $40 fine on mine), is less than an inch in length and plastic-a library card. All of my life, I have followed my parents example and read and read and read, That very morning, I had risen at 5:30 with the addiction to squeeze time into my day for a fantastic novel on Nepal and it’s civil war. Through pages of books, the world has been introduced to me in such a raw way.
 
Being a reporter enabled my Dad to take us kids out into the world with him. Growing up, I attended meetings, conventions, long masses that I had had a notorious time sitting through, and other assignments with Dad. Typically, a few of us kids would pile into a falling apart car with him. We would bring our substance of survival-books, and hope that the place or places we were going would have good food to rush at (Slattery kids are always first in food lines, it’s like a survival thing I think), and that we wouldn’t get into too many scrapes from frowning adults while we “free ranged it” for the day.
 
My parents exhibit a certain charisma that welcomes the world to their very own doorstep. A quick list of a few of our more cultured (and less crazy) guests would include: My Dad’s best friend, a former American resident, who has been serving overseas with the Peace Corps for the last 20 some years, many Muslims and Hmong families have frequented our farm. Also, Dad has a ton of priest friends who have come from all over. India, Africa, and Mexico are the places of which most would tell you is their home origin. One of my favorite group of guests ever, were 4 Landless Peasants from South America, who came to the States to protest Monsanto. Talk about a learning experience under your very own roof! In the days before my birth, Dad and Mom had somehow befriended a Polish refugee who lived with our family. After Robert was born, he moved out, so I never really got to learn much about his country until later on when my Dad started inviting over Victor Lugalis. Victor was a Orthodox Priest from Lithuania who had wife and three children. The Lugallis family taught my family a whole lot about Soviet History and Mom and Kate even performed in a play that he wrote on Poland.
 
As a young girl, I was uncomfortable and even resentful due to the level of “weirdness” that I was constantly exposed to. I didn’t get why I had to spend time traversing about the diocese or beyond with my Dad, lugging his camera case and having what seemed like every Priest in the area know my family’s name. I was absolutely confident that knowing poultry words in Hmong and being the only white kid at their celebrations save my brothers, was not fun, nor anything to be proud of.
 
As the years have ebbed by, I am increasingly grateful for the gift of the world given to me by my Father. I am proud of being able to vote at a tiny town hall that has an ample supply of firewood and a certain peace to it. My roots are here in Wisconsin, I am not and never will be a city person. I hate elevators, can’t drive in city traffic and am in a general state of confusion over how to cross a street in a busy city. But the world as a whole is something that I hold a sacred reverence for…it’s a beautiful puzzle, and I am not afraid of it. Thank you Dad!

(Raw) Milk and Cookies

by Kate

I quit baking throughout my entire 20’s. Oh, now and then I would make my mom’s famous biscuit recipe for a holiday party, but those moments were few and far between. The thing that struck me when I began baking again after getting married was how incredibly effective baking is as a form of bribery. Baking something is such a simple way to make other people happy and create a moment of peace amidst chaos. Mad at me? Have a chocolate chip cookie! Works every time.

Chocolate chip cookies have become a daily staple in our household, at least for my husband who has the metabolism of a roadrunner and insists that he desperately needs the oats I add to the mix. I send half a dozen (small) cookies along with his lunch and he often has milk and cookies at night before going to bed. Which brings us to the second part of this post. Milk and cookies is an incredibly comforting phrase, conjuring up domesticity, children’s books, Santa Claus… until you start talking about RAW MILK. Dun dun dun DUNNNNNNNHHHHHH.

Raw milk brings up a great deal of raw emotion, between horrified opponents and embarrassingly passionate proponents duking it out with language on an apocalyptic level. How far we have come from the comforting biblical concept of the land flowing with (raw) milk and honey. Today, the mention of raw milk conjures up for many a vision of milk flowing with listeria and other dangerous micro-organisms. Here is the milk that is currently on tap here in my household.

Oh that label. It sears my farmer marketing soul. I spent years working with farmers to help them create clear,beautiful, recognizable labels for their products to help them sell as much local produce as possible. I spent years working with the brilliant minds at the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (follow that link! I took the picture on the bottom right of the Local Food Guide!) to create the most effective and aesthetically pleasing local branding and labeling possible, and here I am buying a product designed to strike fear into the soul.

Let me type out the small print.  The legally required label for raw milk here in Pennsylvania reads in uncompromising and unaesthetically appealing language:

RAW MILK -Whole unpastuerized milk-rBST free-Soy free-Grass fed

GOVERNMENT WARNING

Raw (unpasteurized) milk may contain disease causing microorganisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants, the elderly, pregnant women, those taking cortisteroids, antibiotics and antacids and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”

Pretty bleak. However, although I have aesthetic objections to the labeling and to the fact that raw milk producers are forced to display warnings on par with cigarette packaging, I am grateful that I can purchase this milk, in town, in a grocery store, legally. Pennsylvania laws allow raw milk production, and inspect the farms that sell raw milk here in the state. As a girl from the deep dairy country of Wisconsin, I am pretty realistic about milk production, the constant battle against tides of cow manure, and the vast ranges of cleanliness and animal health at different farms. I am happy to know that my raw milk comes from a local and legal small farm. I am also happy to consume locally produced pasteurized bGH free milk.

The reason that we drink raw milk is that last summer at a glorious party on a neighboring farm on the ridge, my husband was captured for a long and intense conversation with Vince from St. Brigid’s Meadows about the glories of raw milk. Vince is a passionate guy, and an intense salesman, and in the course of his pitch he mentioned that among many other things raw milk cures eczema. Now, Casey had been battling a patch of this for a while, exacerbated by his mixed martial arts hobby that has him rolling around on sweaty mats on a regular basis. He’d used steroid creams that had him warding me off and staying far away from the baby so we wouldn’t grow hair on our chests, and the creams had limited success. For months he begged me to try raw milk. I scoffed at this notion, sure that it was a pipe dream. However, I finally picked up half a gallon and lo and behold, it worked. As long as he drinks a glass of raw milk a day, the patch of itching miserable irritated skin subsides, stops itching, and looks normal. As soon as he quits the milk, it is back again. So that is why we drink raw milk. It works for us.

Whew. What an intense topic. Maybe you’d like some raw milk right now, and maybe you believe that it is the devils brew, but I bet that no matter what, you like cookies. I will now share my top secret, totally amazing, never fail, completely healthy (oats!) chocolate chip cookie recipe. Have some milk (raw or pasteurized or goat or almond if you absolutely must)  and cookies, and I promise that all will be well.

Kate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable oil (or more butter if you are a WI fanatic with access to an Organic Valley bucket of butter)

1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs (ideally farm fresh brown eggs, but any eggs will do)

2 cups flour

2 cups oats

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

chocolate chips to taste (I use 1/3- 1/2 of a bag at most with this recipe)

Preheat oven to 375 while you combine softened butter, oil, and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Add dry goods slowly, then chocolate chips. Drop with a teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Enjoy with a glass of milk.

A City Walk

by Kate

Unlike my two middle sisters, I am not a runner. They both glory in pounding the pavement of  the rough ridge roads, spinning gravel and leaping across the ridge leaving a trail of dust in their wake while breathing far more easily than should be possible and catching up on all the latest ridge gossip in a breathy chat back and forth as the wind whips by. I have always preferred to take it more slowly, and am a huge fan of the walk. I love the idea that I am setting out on a meandering adventure with a whole world to discover. I will admit that as a home schooled teenager reading Tolkein, this did sometimes involve wearing a cape and setting out with some sort of walking stick and a bag of bread and cheese. Passing farmers shook their heads and my brothers begged me to stop pretending that I was in Narnia, or Middle Earth, or Ireland and to please remember that I was firmly located on a ridgetop in dairy country in a solidly German settlement in Middle Ridge, Wisconsin.

Now I am living halfway up a ridge in the midst of a solidly Polish block in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and I love walking through the city. City walking offers not only scope for the imagination, but the practical benefit of running errands while walking. I have left my cloak far behind (in fact it is located in the dress up bin at my parents farm) and exchanged it for a new accessory- my 20 lb baby slung in a sling.

That sling has been the most amazing child rearing tool in the world, making it possible for me to hang laundry, make breakfast, nurse the baby on the go, and accomplish innumerable things while walking about the city. I fear the day when I must succumb to the stroller. I am so not a stroller person, and can’t figure out how to become one. We have a big, beautiful, capacious stroller that has the storage space to provision a team hiking the Appalachian Trail for a month. Last year I hauled it out of the basement to take it to the farmers market so I could use it to purchase and transport a bushel of apples. I was wearing the baby in the sling, and as I twisted to lock the front door I accidentally let go of the stroller which hurtled down our steep set of stone steps and flipped end over end before settling on the sidewalk in front of the street full of horrified rush hour commuters in cars. I waved at them, pointing at the baby who was safe on my body, and contemplated the fact that I really shouldn’t use the stroller to transport a living creature until I was a bit better at it.

Let us continue on our walk, with no stroller in sight. I live across from Arsenal Park, a fact which delighted my sister Clare when she visited last year. Her class had just been studying the role of the Pittsburgh Arsenal in the Civil War.

I fully intend to learn more about the Arsenal and the great explosion there, and to share it with you. In the meantime, you can learn more at the Carnegie Street House Restoration blog which has some great pictures of the historical Arsenal. These days the old Arsenal spot is a park with soccer fields, play sets teeming with children, and a baseball diamond. Looking across the partk you can see the spires of St. Augustine’s Church, a beautiful red brick German edifice.

The red brick church and ball diamond soothe me and remind me of home every day, since I grew up on a ridge across from the red brick St. Peter’s church with a baseball diamond on our side of the road. Granted, the basketball courts here are flat and even. My brothers played and still play on the bottom of a hillside, with the ball bouncing crazily down into the pasture regularly.

Onward and up the hill! Just around the corner is the Carnegie Library of Lawrenceville.

This library opened with great fanfare in May, 1898, as the first branch of the Pittsburgh Carnegie Library system. It narrowly averted being closed last year due to severe budget shortfall. The residents of Lawrenceville fought hard to keep the library. It is an incredibly beautiful building, rich with history. There are soaring high ceilings, marble floors, decorative iron curlicues on the stacks. There is also an amazing children’s room.

We spend a lot of time here. In fact, Olympia is convinced that she is actually the Library Assistant.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe Olympia could help (un)shelve something for you?

Oh dear. This is tiring. Time for a rest.

Moving along away from the libary and up the hill, we leave behind the Polish people of Lawrenceville and enter the gloriously Italian neighborhood of Bloomfield. This is where I holy cards, pasta, coffee beans, and homemade doughnuts. Well, no doughnuts during Lent, but it is still a great adventure. Casey is a religion teacher, and now and then for some reason he needs holy cards, a holy water font, or an obscure book of some sort. Luckily, I can pop into the Sacred Heart of Jesus store where there is always a pot of coffee and a heap of religious items to face any conceivable needs.

I always enjoy talking to the two sweet and surprisingly energetic ladies who run this store. I was surprised to learn that one of them was a bellydancer in her youth, before she became a nun. She makes undulating hand movements at Olympia and Olympia dances back while I browse through the holy cards.

There are heaps of obscure and useful books in the Sacred Heart of Jesus store.

They are musty and beautiful and besides inspiring me to step up my Spiritual Life, they remind me of the fact that Ikea and Anthropologie keep sending me catalogs full of stacks and stacks of hardcover books. They also remind me that we badly more bookcases at home. The nuns are not particularly orderly bookkeepers, but they have my current system beat.

Onwards to Donatelli’s, the little Italian grocery where I buy my anchovies, my pasta, and my coffee beans.

I always have a strange desire to buy the dried fish, but have no idea what to do with it. The little old Italian lady  with the black kerchief, camel coat, and white tennis shes does, though.

They have the cheapest and some of the best bulk coffee in town tucked in the tight aisles. After procuring my groceries, it is time to head down the hill and back home. I like to explore the allies, many of which are still cobblestoned. They have beautiful names. Here is one of my current favorites:

Bowery Way! These street names always conjure up visions of romance for me, especially as everything begins to blossom. I love finding bits of wildness in the midst of the city and cobblestoned history in the midst of the present. I also love that the dramatic ridges of my neighborhood remind me of the ridges of my Wisconsin home.

And so, down the hill with my bag full of coffee and sling full of baby, I reach my front door and my adventure is over for the morning. Thank you for virtually coming along  on this walk with me. Until next time,

Kate

 

A Combined Disaster

by Mary

Last Saturday I went to a square dance that was held at Leo and Leona’s. My Parents, Robert, Colleen, Clare, and a Ukrainian exchange student friend of Colleen’s also were there.

The fact that the dance gave me an opportunity to wiggle into wranglers and put my cowboy boots back into commission, made me a happy woman. Drinking a gin and tonic and ordering a second against the advice of Robert also brightened my spirits. Although my spirits were high, my memory wasn’t. Generally, a few helpful skills for ones success at square dancing are: Memory, a attention span that is longer then like 20 seconds, rhythm, and a crazy bright IQ that knows the directions right from left.

Oops-all of those slight skills were sorely lacking. Giggling nonstop and kicking up my heels were the only fortes that I amply possessed.

Somehow, I managed to forget that I had run 6.5 miles and declared war on my garden and raked the muddy yard earlier on. Therefore, drinking was a very very bad idea.

The extreme challenge of detecting right from left wasn’t the only challenge that I faced. I also had the problem of John. For those of you that don’t know John, he is the 50 something year old developmentally disabled foster son of a couple that my parents are friends with. Because his foster parents own the greenhouse that my Dad rents space at, I have had many  run-ins with him. He is obsessed with my hair and has gone as far as to write a letter to my Father asking to date me. His affections towards me are like mean karma. Long, long ago he liked my sister Kate. At this time I found his interests in her a most amusing comedy. But after Kate grew up and moved to the city, his interests boomerranged and came right back to the family tree….. me. Now Kate’s entirely unsympathetic towards my plight from him and tells me that I am getting just what I deserved.

A few weeks ago, I was at the farm he lives at helping a crew of guys to get the green house up and running for the season. I had my hair braided and a power drill in my hand. At this point being a pretend carpenter was more of a problem then John’s presence.

But not at the dance! By the time I finished dancing a call with John, I was cured of my laughter. Suddenly, square dancing, the extreme complexity of lefts and rights, and John’s own laughter and hugs didn’t hold much amusement.

I think that wise women sticks to what she is good at. I am pretty decent at playing at sports. I also am a fantastic water chugger.  Also, I have super natural instincts of telling up from down. Maybe I should stick to these skill sets in the days to come. Plus, with the weather becoming absolutely beautiful again, I don’t have to find an excuse to wear my boots and wranglers. Now I can swoop around the fields and pastures on my quarter horse without the added distractions that I listed above.

Dasvidayna all!

-mary

More about Mary’s adventures at Leo and Leona’s here:

Bud Light and Amish Boys

More about her Russian Mission trip here:

Snow Memories

Population 8, Average Age 44

By Colleen

As you’ve no doubt seen from Mary’s last post, The Slattery Oklahoma Suburb Rush of 2011, the house in which we live is filled with many differing characters.  But, one characteristic is slowly, insidiously, becoming the same.  Yes, like the rest of aging America, the people in our house are getting older.

As the seventh child, I’ve been used to being the littlest, the youngest, but lately, it’s gotten ridiculous. In fact, my younger brother James and I crunched some numbers the other night and found to our horror as well as chagrin that the average age in our household of eight is exactly 44.  What is the reason for this?  Do we have an abundance of forty-somethings residing in our home?  The answer lies in the old folks.

Peter Drake, earlier described in a post about Peter’s Sunday Dizzy Disease, my elderly Grandma Cummings, and both my parents drove this statistic up, and there wasn’t a thing us young uns could do about it. Where skateboards, broken bicycles, and rollerblades used to abound, now the floors of our home are clear lest Grandma (or even Dad who’s been dodging these obstacles doggedly for years) trip on them. The bathroom is held up for (what seems to be) hours. In fact, Raphael suggested that we buy a three foot tall slow moving vehicle sign to hang on the door when it is in use by the older generation. Mother did not buy the sign, needless to say.

It’s odd, this changing of the gaurd. Where are the “manlly” shouts from wrestling matches on the living room floor? Where are the loud arguments, spiked with Irish wit and sarcasm, and the even louder laughter? My brothers and sisters, the instigators of this beautiful cacophony, are spread across the map. And soon, I’ll be out there, too. But, never fear! The summer is coming, and that means that, at least for a little while, the average age will go down, and the noise level will rise!