This weekend I get to partake in a Miller family tradition – it’s progressive dinner time. The family on my paternal grandmother’s side is huge! My grandma was the oldest girl of many and throw in a couple of brothers and things grow very quickly. The day would start pretty early in the morning at one aunt’s house and progress throughout the day to another and another and another. It’s traditionally been held the Sunday after Christmas but when it falls at New Years the date gets moved a bit and that’s what happened this year.
There are so many people there – all related and laughing and eating and chatting the day away. You might find a card game pop up and there’s almost always occasion for a raucous cheering about some sports game. Kids rarely ride from house to house with their own parents – it’s much more fun to scamper amongst the relatives and pick up rides with cousins. I must admit, after all these years, I really don’t know everyone that comes anymore – I just know if I look at them I can probably figure out which branch of the tree they are swinging from – Hauser, Lipps, Frolicker, Busse, Miller, Polking, or Fischesser (gosh – did I miss any?). It’s a big gang for sure, and boy can it get loud. But every once in a while I’ll sit there quietly (not for long mind you) and just take it all in. It’s the loud that comes with family that is familiar and close and comfortable with each other. I like that kind of loud, actually!
And you just never know what’s going to happen – through the years we’ve had to push cars, pull cars out of the mud, park down the street and hike through the snow – but it doesn’t matter. We all know we’re family and there’s always a helping hand and a supervising committee of uncles around to help out and “manage” the crisis.
These memories of progressive dinners gone by are precious ones. They evoke feelings of closeness of family and joys of childhood for me. The best progressive dinners in my memory are from my junior high years. My great-uncle, who was a priest, was affiliated with the Fenwick Club here in Cincinnati. Oh my goodness those were great days. We would wind our way through the myriad of homes until we landed for the evening at the Fenwick Club. The dads and uncles would gravitate towards cards, football or billiards. The moms and aunts would chat and refresh the food and look after the little ones. And us kids – well we had free reign of the place. We would gleefully bounce between the food tables, swimming pool, racquetball courts, listening to the adults, sneaking a swig or two and just randomly messing around. We would catch up on all the stuff at school and foreign exchange students and who got what for Christmas. Someone was always bringing a friend so there were of course the long discussions of whose friend was cute and who was a dork. We never ran out of places to play and explore. We never got bored. We would tease and compete and giggle and simply and completely wear ourselves out.
It’s a good tradition, this progressive party. I can almost taste the goulash, coney dogs, deviled eggs and grandma’s famous German potato salad with the warm bacon dressing. Yum! And yep, someone will always be looking for a purse or glove. Ahhh – I love my family!