The annual Cooke Family Reunion was an event anticipated as the highlight of some of our lives. The ancient park pavilion was reserved yearly on the second Saturday of July in a breathtaking scenic trail-filled glen for an entire day of eating, reminiscing and playing together unequaled by any other rental of the season.
Eldest cousin Rosie was the present keeper of yearly schedules, the responsibility passing down through each generation’s successors.
“Only once, my child, will you gaze and feast upon such a spread, so make the most of it while you can,” my Father had advised me a month earlier. I quickly got in the advancing line, eyeing the array of table-laden food spilling across the red checkered plastic covering with salivating pleasure. On the way, I unobtrusively sampled inviting drips of lemonade and coffeecake crumbs.
“Careful there, Suzie, that caramel icing can be hazardous. Just shimmy around the edges so your fingers don’t get too sticky.”
I was so overwhelmed by the vast aromas of culinary delights, I almost bypassed the huckleberry pie tucked away between the oatmeal cookies and rice-krispie treats on the saw-horsed overflowing side board at the opposite end of the gazebo. Speeding between the fingers of a swatting hand, I managed to grab up fallen morsels of banana bread before arriving at the targeted sweet.
“Wow, they didn’t tell me how dangerous this can be,” slipping off the side of a deviled egg’s edge, “but, oh, so worth it!” my lips smacking together like a pinched vacuum cleaner hose (which, busy as I was, brought to mind great-grandma Olive’s brush with death at an unpleasant encounter with said sweeper).
“Chocolate-covered cherries over this way,” beckoned another trail-blazing bevy of fellow conspirators to my left.
Sidetracked by another intersecting colony of strangers nudging their way over to the molasses-laced baked beans, I was compelled to object,
“Hey, we were here first! Go find another picnic to forage.”
I knew our territorial rights and I refused to give way, snaking between their ranks like a belly-crawling soldier under a barbed wire fence.
“This way, guys!” assuring my siblings and young cousins were playing our game of ‘follow-the-leader’.
To my chagrin, by the time our clan reached the stranger’s caravan headmaster, they were at the veggies table, a stop we had previously made not sweet enough for our palates. Making an abrupt about-face, we traveled over our own steps back to our previous destination. Grumbling and threatening mutiny, my followers chose to be forgiving when we came upon some crunched cheerios trailing from behind a baby stroller in transit.
Blinded now by the sun, we followed our instincts to a honey-covered biscuit that had slipped into Junior Cooke’s jeans cuff, causing him to shake and dance around in circles!
“Looks like Junior’s got ants in his pants again,” his peers doubling over in guffaws while we bounced on top of each other and landed in dismembered heaps between the blades of grass beneath his feet.
“RUN FOR THE HILLS!” I shouted, “before he tramples us to death.”
Unfortunately, Granny Mae didn’t make it, her arthritis acting up again.
An hour later, our bellies full, we busied ourselves making a fort out of pretzel sticks while cries from the Cooke family’s ongoing touch football game rang through the air. Other people were gathered around a picnic table for the ritual of the second repast, so we made ourselves scarce for awhile.
“Don’t fret, Suzie, there will be plenty of leftovers,” a conspiratorial wink and an elbow nudge from cousin Vinny.
Following his gaze, I watched, dumbstruck, for, as dusk approached, the reunion was drawing to a close, and shaken tablecloths threw crumbs and pieces of cake, cookies, crackers, chips, candy, chicken scraps, and salad parts through the wind, landing on and blanketing our play area with supper.
While we feasted, like at a drive-in movie, we had a panoramic viewing of the long good-bys, the hugs and kisses, the hand-shakings, tears and laughter and waving hands as dozens of cars took off in the distance, their wheels churning up sandy clouds of billowing dust like whirling dervishes.
All in all, although saddened by our one casualty, the day was a huge success. Cousin Rose entrusted next summer’s schedule to me to pass down to Little Suzie who would in turn give it to Baby Suzie for the following generations to again grace their presence at next year’s Cooke Family Reunion.
INTERESTING ANT FACTS:
The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days.
Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. Instead they swallow the juice which they squeeze from pieces of food.
The ant has two eyes, each eye is made of many smaller eyes.
There are over 10000 known species of ants. Each ant colony has at least one or more queens.
Each colony of ants has its own smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized immediately.
When foraging, ants leave a pheromone trail so that they know where they’ve been.
When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months.
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