When I talk of my family I most times bring up my dad’s side of the family first. That is because we all lived close to each other and farmed on each other, attended church and school together. So we saw each other a lot. A few here and a couple of relatives there almost every day. Now my mom’s parents and a lot of her side of the family lived around Owensville. My grandparents were Paris and Louisa Benton and they lived appropriately on Benton Road. That where moms family began and like a huge tree they spread roots in all directions and distances.
Mom made certain that we made the 45 minute drive from Fruit Ridge to Benton Road at least monthly. In those days the roads were anything but strait so the drive over and back could be longer and never really comfortable. But mom had packed foods to eat when we got there and loaded our trunk. What made all the time and distance along with discomfort was the fact we were going to see almost always the entire Benton family and that my friends is a lot of family.
So on the way over we all would talk about just who we might get to see and visit with. I of course wanted the cousins my age so I had kids my age to enjoy the day with. As we got closer to Benton Road the anticipation was growing for all of us. There were certain cousins that Peg liked to visit with and Ben had a group he likewise enjoyed being with. I do know based on Pegs’ complaining to mom and dad was that if the friends Ben wanted to be with didn’t show up he would then hang with Peg and her friends and she declared him to be a very pesky brother and way too nosey for his own good. Ben would of course deny this and Peg would declare it more until mom and dad would place a fair warning on my brother to keep his distance. He would of course agree to this (but he always got closer than he was supposed to.)
Since I’m much younger there wasn’t any interest in bothering them and cousins their age so I was in the clear. When we would turn onto Benton Road we all began preparing ourselves for arrival and the nearer we got the harder we looked to see whose cars were already in the driveway. When we turned into the drive I know I could take a quick inventory and see If Aunt Laura was there and Aunt Verona and Cousin Jerry Carlier. If I saw all these cars I knew I was going to have a pretty good day as that was where the cousins my age mostly came from.
Of course as we left the car we helped carry in whatever mom wanted us to and we were instructed of course to give our grandparents a huge and a hello and then the aunts and uncles before breaking ranks to get to those you had put in your top ranks to play with. When you entered the Benton house you walked into a home filled to the brim with family and a person could feel the warmth and love that only families somehow radiate. The warmth of the house and the sounds of conversations and laughter that was so very real. There of course were the aromas of so much food that each sister had brought to add to what my grandmother and her oldest daughter Mabel had already cooked. Try to think of the horn of plenty and that was what you were seeing in this home except there was a little more.
But first and for most was everyone talking to everyone and hugging each other and being truly sincere about each other and their wellbeing. Even as a little boy I could see and feel all that I have said. Once the greetings and salutations had been done I began gathering with my cousins Mike, Kenny, Tommy Joe, Debbie Wee Gee and Tim and Connie. We in a small way checked with each other as did the adults as we weren’t to wander too far since lunch would be soon. When lunch did arrive we were all called in and most times my dad was ask to give the blessing. As he spoke one could look around the room and see just how thankful they all were to be there together once again and see each other at least one more time. That always stuck in my mind for some reason.
When we all finished our lunch we headed out into the yard or on the porch or most times in bad weather to the big old barn. As we played those Sunday afternoons away our parents and grandparents wasted no time just sitting. They talked the afternoon away. There of course was politics, religion, finances and world affairs along with what was happening in their own worlds. It seemed my grandpa headed up what I call debates around the kitchen table or those seated near. This family was very intent on being current on the world and the place they lived in. I think what I found to be interesting was that it seemed that they all talked at the same time and one couldn’t be too sure if any listened to the others. But it was guaranteed that they all spoke their pieces.
As we all enjoyed the afternoon carrying out what they felt was the best way and if my brother had cousins that kept him away from Pegs group the afternoon would come to what had been a great gathering. It took at least an hour for all there to pack to make the return trip back home. My mom and sisters with children always found some time to swap hand me downs in the clothes division. Weather we the recipients of the hand me downs wanted them or not didn’t really matter. We were going to get them and be darn glad we had cousins that out grew them just so I could have them.
Finally we would pull out onto Benton Road and I would hear mom telling all of us when we were scheduled to gather again. As we kids lots of times would fall asleep and dad drove along I guess running the day back through his head I would hear mom almost all the way home making plans for the next visit to Benton road and maybe she would bake a couple pies and do some deviled eggs. Those gatherings were the definition of how a family should be.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.