It's an old farmhouse in Maryland: the central core dates to 1750 and is all stone porches and open hearths and rough painted wooden cupboards and floorboards and impossibly steep and twisting and hidden staircases. A perfect place for children to play hide and seek. It even has an attic, accessible by one of those steep and twisting staircases and full of that indefinable smell of old heated wood and forsaken stuff--a smell that immediately took me back 30 years to the attic of my grandparents' old house in Ohio. I'd completely forgotten about it until that instant.
Himself's sister and her husband bought that house a few months ago, and live there now with their two sons. The older is about Petunia's age, and the younger a couple of years behind them. They have held a wine and cheese tasting party every year for the past few years, and Saturday they used it as the occasion to unveil their new home to the masses. Drinking being the order of the day, we planned to stay over: after dropping the dog off with her beloved dogsitter (a 13 year-old boy from the neighborhood), we loaded up the car with inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags and pillows and enough other assorted stuff to make it look like we were leaving town for a week instead of a simple overnight visit and headed out on Saturday morning. (Isn't it always the case that it is time to embark on a trip right around the time that you realize that it would have been simpler and less stressful to stay home??)
My kids were in pig heaven when we finally got there. A whole new house to explore, a pool to swim in, bikes and other toys to ride, and cousins and friends to play with. There were a lot of guests we didn't know, mostly work colleagues of my BIL and SIL's. But soon enough, the more casual friends went home, and the core of oldtimers were left, mostly former Army buddies of my BIL's and high school and college friends of my SIL's and their respective significant others. We've known all these folks for years, and most of them were staying over as well...I think the total was 15 houseguests, plus the actual residents. Two of the upstairs rooms held a total of seven kids in sleeping bags and they loved every minute of the bedtime (and post-bedtime) chaos!
Once we finally got them down, it was truly fantastic just to sit and chat with these people. To hear the gossip and the old stories of debauchery and the takes on who's marrying whom (or previously slept with whom) and why. To laugh about the former highly-decorated tank driver who managed to crash a dirt bike while doing timed loops in the driveway, which was only funny because the crash was truly spectacular (and accordingly uploaded to Facebook immediately by one of the spectating guy-types) but did not result in any major injuries.
And it was even educational: my SIL's college roommate is married to a policeman, and somehow he and I got on the subject of how he can tell when people are under the influence. You know how they do the whole follow-my-finger-with-your-eyes field sobriety tests after a traffic stop?? Well, he grabbed the tank driver of the infamous aforementioned dirt bike incident on the spot, dragged him into the kitchen, and set him up under the kitchen light, with me parked behind his right shoulder so I could see what he sees when he administers the tests. Which the tank driver then proceeded to pass with flying colors, leading to much additional grief from the other guys about his lack of coordination even when sober (!), so Pete the cop had to find another willing victim for me later. The test is called horizontal gaze nystagmus...basically, they are looking at whether the person's eyes can smoothly track along with the fingertip and remain focused on it, or if they move jerkily. It sounds weird, but you can absolutely see the eye jerks in someone who's been drinking...very cool. And since everyone involved was staying over, it was a purely academic exercise!
Yes, it hurt to get up this morning. Badly. And we were sleeping in the man-cave over the garage, too, so we were spared the worst of the early-morning kid enthusiasm...I hear that they were up and outside on bikes and the trampoline by 6:30AM! Ah, the energy (and non wine-drinking habits) of youth: quite effective birth control for the two or three childless pairs of adults involved, I would imagine. :)
And now Himself wants to find us an old house to move into as well. Which will happen right about the time one or the other of us becomes handy, which is to say probably never!
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