Growing up as the only child of an only child, there weren’t any brothers or sisters let alone close cousins with whom I could share holidays. I don’t mean I was ever lonesome for relatives of a sort. My grandfather had two sisters, one of whom had a daughter, and my grandmother had scads of siblings too. But it wasn’t quite the same as when I married Brad nearly 55 years ago and discovered lots of his close relatives.
Start with a brother and sister who lived and still live close by with their spouses and five children. He also had two uncles who were in business with his father, their wives and four children. And there was an aunt and her husband and their three children. The neat thing about it: They all lived within a few minutes drive, if not walking distance at times.
And they all loved to get together and entertain each other as well as a lot of other close friends who I learned quite quickly weren’t really Aunt or Uncle “so and so.” We just called them that because we were too close to stick with formal Mr. or Mrs.
The point of all of this is that while some have passed away during this last half century, the remaining ones and their spouses and children have stayed close and for the most part, close by. All lead interesting and exciting lives of all sorts, and when it comes to a holiday like Labor Day, a whole lot of them make time to get together.
There is actually a monthly family dinner faithfully organized by Brad’s brother Bruce that somehow got nicknamed by our two daughters, Leslie and Amy, as “The Family Food Fight.” I don’t know how that came about because, while there is always food at a different restaurant each month with many separate checks (yikes), there is never a fight. You haven’t lived until 30 of us descend on a restaurant and inform an unsuspecting server or two that there will be 17 separate checks.
But I digress. On Labor Day this year, cousins Kurt and Mary Broecker who live on a spacious farm near La Grange held their annual potluck picnic, and the weather was spectacular. They have two children, O’Brien and T.K., who with their respective spouses, Dan and Shari, along with their three children, Taylor, M.E (Mary Elizabeth) and O.K. (Olivia Katherine), collectively form the host committee for this event. But this year, Dan was MIA doing some work on a musical composition, and their daughter Taylor was off to her first year of college at Belmont in Nashville. I swear, they really do call them M.E. and O.K.
The event is a culinary extravaganza. In addition to organizing the whole thing, Mary, with a little help from a certain colonel, provides the main entree. Kurt, who has not been in the best of health, lovingly supervises. Cousin Janet Leusing traditionally brings a heavenly appetizer of breakfast sausage in filo dough cups. Michelle Payne, daughter-in-law of Kay Broecker Payne, who is Kurt’s sister, made absolutely deliciously evil Buffalo chicken dip.
Nobody makes deviled eggs like Linda Davis Broecker, Brad’s brother Bruce’s wife. And O’Brien (remember, she is Kurt and Mary’s daughter), a semi-professional farmer and cook, made the prize of the day: a French tomato tart, and she will share the recipe. Curiously missing were any pasta salads this year. I could go on and on, but I am afraid my editor would say STOP!
On a bittersweet note, Janet Leusing (the one with the sausage tarts) announced that she is moving back to California where she is originally from later this year. She, along with her late husband Richard “Smokey” Leusing (he was Kurt’s cousin), ran an office management business here in Louisville. Family ties were calling, and the whole crowd will miss her.
I am sure by now you can tell we are quite a wild, diverse and loving crowd, and we are never at a loss for a good time. VT