By Barbara Malloy
The tan stoneware bowl with the familiar chip on the rim sits empty awaiting my still-hot potato salad. That bowl could tell a lot of stories of family banquets past. As I sprinkle the final seasonings into the salad, a wave of nostalgia washes over me, for it is our family reunion day. But with my Jimmy Buffett CD cranking out tunes in the background, my mood turns to carpe diem, so off I go.
Summertime is reunion time in my family, a time to go home again. For our family, home is Fairhaven on the Bay where the Malloy, Langevin and Shriver families convene at the familys old summer place, our Cottage on the Hill.
The Malloy family fell in love with Fairhaven in the late 1930s. At that time, the family included Jack and Anastatia and their three young children, Sheila, Regina and Kevin (who would later become my husband). Jack and Anastatia rented a summer home at the beach to distract their restless children from the hot, muggy days in Washington, D.C. Before long, they bought the Cottage on the Hill, where the family has been gathering ever since.
The cottage a simple white frame structure with a sprawling front porch perches high on a hill overlooking Chesapeake Bay. From the large, three-tiered lawn, I look with contentment over quaint cottages onto the Bay.
The official family reunions started over 30 years ago when our matriarch Anastatia, known to all as Grumma, began celebrating Christmas in July. Everyone exchanged gifts. Her grandchildren would squeal with delight as they unwrapped their new yellow and red buckets and shovels and then skipped to the beach.
At first, Jack and Anastatias clan including their own three children, their spouses and 17 grandchildren gathered in the cottage. But when the family began welcoming the first of its 32 great-grandchildren, we graduated to a billowing tent on the lawn.
That tent was a welcome relief from the blistering heat at last years reunion. Most of our 70 family members live in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, but we converged from as far away as Austria, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. Everyone wore a T-shirt proclaiming the family genealogy.
The older folks relaxed in the shade and reminisced about the old days: impromptu late-night rides to Chucks Ice Cream in Chesapeake Beach, when 14 kids and adults squeezed into Uncle Kevins 1965 Mercury convertible; bonfires on the beach where the older teens sneaked a beer or two; daily trips to the net, a large, barrel-shaped float, for swimming and checking out the opposite sex.
As usual, everyone ate well. Every year, each family contributes its own specialty dish. The table groaned with platters of barbecue, mounds of Old Bay fries and my big bowl of potato salad.
The children knew they were in for some waterslide fun when my son, Mike Malloy, unfurled a gigantic roll of plastic at the top of the hill. As the ancient garden hose sent the first trickles of water down the slide, the kids nearly burst with anticipation. The heat was quickly forgotten as they descended the 150-foot waterslide over and over.
This reunion as all our reunions made everyone appreciate each other more. For we are as similar as we are different, adding flavor to the recipe of life.
Sadly, Jack, Anastatia and their daughter Sheila are no longer here to celebrate this happy occasion. However, their kindness, Irish humor and gentle grace remain, endowing us all with a precious legacy of family and friendship that binds us together.
At our Cottage on the Hill, we go home again.