they get along -- so everyone gets together for a meal at one family's house or the other. This time, my grandparents were in town visiting, so it was a large gathering: parents, grandparents, great uncles and cousins.
These dinners aren't about the food, although the food is always good. They are about sitting around on the patio or porch, talking before dinner. They are about playing dice games around a long table. They are about laughing, and catching up, and being annoyed at one another, and taking lots of photos. Just like any other family.
A few hours before dinner, my parents were setting the table for 14, grabbing chairs from every room in the house. We were short a few chairs, as usual. So they called my grandparents, who were staying at my great uncles' house to ask them to bring chairs and a bag of ice. "What? Isn't dinner tomorrow night?" was the response.
Suddenly the chairs and ice weren't that important. There was now a big hole in the menu in the form of the potato salad and ambrosia that my grandmother was supposed to bring. We had no side dishes to go with the massive ham sitting in the refrigerator.
To the grocery store!
Dad grabbed his keys and Dan and I piled in the car for a side dish shopping spree. This was no time for complicated, multi-ingredient salads. This was a potato salad-from-the-deli-type situation. Thankfully this happened in South Florida, where you are never more than 10 minutes away from a grocery store.
On the drive, we somehow got on the topic of recurring dreams and we shared the things we dream about again and again. (Dad: having his truck stolen repeatedly, Me: wandering my college campus looking for a classroom that doesn't exist, Dan: having to take a test for a class he never attended.) Steely Dan was on the radio, the car windows were down and it was a beautiful Florida day.
There's a specific type of happiness I feel when I go home. It's hearing a laugh I've heard all my life, listening to songs from my childhood on the radio, seeing the same-as-it-ever-was scenery through the car window -- the ocean, the palm trees, the strip malls. Suddenly everything feels unchanged from when I was a kid. I am in the past, but I am also right here, driving to Publix with my father and husband.
We got the potato salad and I even had time to make homemade cole slaw, using the recipe on the back of a bag of pre-shredded cabbage. Dinner was saved. I celebrated by drinking too much wine.
It was a special night. Who knows when we'll be able to get everyone together again? As I get older, I appreciate how rare these moments are. But it's that drive I'll remember.