May 16, 1983My grandmother wrote that small paragraph in her journal. We have two dozen or so journals that cover eight to twelve months each of her life. In between writing about weeding the garden, the price of milk, cutting the lawn, and so on, she also wrote some amazing, insightful truths about our world, about her belief in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and about her family. "Our family parties are so important. I wonder how these kids growing up will remember them."
"Another full Monday. The grass was too wet to cut this morning, so I baked bread, sewed, washed. Keith and Bryce for dinner. Then I cut grass as fast as I could push it. My shoulder likes aspirin tonight, but the lawn got cut. Then we had an impromptu birthday party for Jay, at Bryce and Mary's. It was good to be inside. Our family parties are so important. I wonder how these kids growing up will remember them. Also wrote some letters this a.m."
Grandma, those parties are some of the best memories of my childhood.
Almost every Sunday when I was little, all of the cousins that lived nearby would go to Grandma's and Grandpa's house. From my early childhood, I can count only three friends with whom I played regularly who weren't my cousins. We used to play "Run, Sheepie, Run" in grandma's backyard. We played house underneath the giant pine trees. We sneaked into the big yard to play on the derelict farm equipment. We used to swing so high on the swing set that we could catch the branches of the trees with our feet. When it got dark, we sat in a circle to play "Murder in the Dark" or we played "No Bears are Out Tonight." Inside, Grandpa popped popcorn and made grilled cheese sandwiches while we watched the "Wonderful World of Disney." Grandma kept an old cookie tin full of dominoes in a cupboard in the kitchen. I was twenty years old and living in Brazil before I learned that playing dominoes meant more than weaving a trail of upright, unstable dominoes around the kitchen table. Grandma also kept a cookie jar in the kitchen, and it was nearly always full of cookies.
When I was a teenager, my grandmother suffered a stroke. Overnight, she went from gardening, baking bread, and taking care of her neighbors every day, to being locked in a wheelchair and unable to make herself understood most of the time. But we still went to Grandma's house. During college, I would frequently go home to Idaho for the weekend. Before I could leave to go back to school, I always stopped at Grandma and Grandpa's place to say goodbye. Most of the time, I wasn't the only one there visiting.
Today, the tradition of family parties continues, even though my grandmother passed away over ten years ago, and my grandfather only a few years later. On the first Sunday evening of each month, the family gets together for an extended family home evening. Sometimes it's at someone's home. Sometimes it's at a family park. Someone teaches a gospel lesson. Little second cousins run around the house playing tag. There's usually dessert. And its usually a three- or four-hour event when its all said and done.
When I was young, my grandfather promised me that, if I lived right, I could have a home where my children would want to bring their children to come visit. Of all the promises, wishes, and hopes I have ever had, that one is my favorite. I do hope that my children and my grandchildren will want to visit. I want them to play games and run around with their cousins. I hope that as we raise our children our home can be a place of safety, of fun, of teaching, and that it can be a place of many happy reunions.