|Families gather on the soft front lawn, the most important part of the property. Fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and carefree cousins younger than seven, and friends of the family attend. Two Sugar Maple trees stand majestic and old on either side of the yard and shadow the entire lawn. Branches sway, leaves caressing each other with fondness, but in a strong wind sound like leaves clouting each other.
Anniversaries, birthday parties, and just for fun are all reasons to get together, and all four generations turn out. Children run through a water hose held by Aunt Helen, who holds her thumb across the opening to get a spray wide enough to squirt as many kids as possible. The garden hose resembles a snake, and is often mistaken for one.
The women have been cooking most of the day. The men roll a keg of beer underneath the lower branches of one maple. Picnic tables hold food and other items such as paper plates, plastic eating utensils, ketchup, and a pile of napkins held down by a heavy rock to keep them from blowing away. When the meal is ready, the adults come together and sit in their Adirondack chairs and folding green and white nylon and aluminum chairs, and kids sit on blankets on the ground. They talk while they eat, many conversations going on simultaneously. Uncle Ed moves from group to group to catch what each is saying, not wanting to miss anything of importance.
Once the food has been eaten, the women tidy up. As the evening turns cool, they trade their pedal pushers and sleveless shirts for slacks and sweaters. The kids get their second wind and begin catching lightening bugs, putting them in glass cages. How many brilliant yellow lights can we fit into a jar they ask each other.
When night falls into place, adults sit beside a fire pit. The eldest are ready to go to sleep, and like clover, go home and fold up for the night. The children are shooed away so the adults can gossip. Eventually, the young ones tire out and seek out the lap of their chosen adult, where they fall asleep.
As the fire dies down, so do conversations. The kids are swapped to the proper parent and put to bed; chairs are folded, good-nights said.