When the Dixons lost eighteen-year old Ashley, the ties that bind them pulled more snuggly together.
I spent yesterday in Mariposa with this extended part of my family. A large contingent had come north from Southern California, so the welcoming hugs took a while when we arrived. The early indoctrination into the hugging practice was apparent when 18-month old William met us with arms spread wide followed by his knee-level hug. William milked the hugging for all he could get as he continued to seek a hug from each person that sat visiting in a big circle of couches and rockers on the porch.
After the initial hellos and check-ins, we all gathered on the porch steps where we were treated to a dog show by cousin Rhonda, whose three pups—Maddie, Hank, and Penny—wowed us with their patience and obedient performance. What's more, at the end of the show, 6-year old Christina got a turn to toss treats and the pups did their leaping tricks for her.
Next we gathered around the dining room table for a photo-slide show of the volleyball game we missed on Friday and the triumphant participation by Aunt Joanne. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, we all gathered at Joanne's thinking this might be her last since she was severely incapacitated by COPD. But after lung transplants last February, Aunt Joanne was able to play 3 games of volleyball on Friday and there were pictures to prove it. In a series of photos, we watched Joanne collide with sister Bonnie as both tried to reach an out-of-range ball. Joanne hit the ground and rolled but rose again, we were assured, to keep on playing. GO AUNT JOANNE!
Then Kenny arrived to collect the giant pile of chocolate chip cookies Aunt Cindy had baked for his return to New York next week. We had a great visit with him, hearing his new passion-- getting rich by investing smartly--while he dipped cookies into a big glass of milk as he ate them.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the disorderly confusion that generally accompanies a large family gathering, i.e. seven conversations going at once that get mixed and mingled until the threads are tangled and one person is answering a question that wasn't posed to him and another is missing the gist of an argument because of an interjection by someone asking for chip dip.
But things do get done, like the retrieval of a photo of Ashley from a cell phone that took no more than 5 minds at the computer and the creation of a huge and delicious pot of chicken noodle soup and dumplings made by many hands.
After consuming big bowls of soup, we piled into cars and drove in the Dixon fashion—a streaming caravan of vehicles-- to the high school to watch Kenny play in the alumni-varsity basketball game. What a hoot watching old and young Mariposa Grizzlies duke it out on the court. The Alumni won by one point. YEHAW Kenny!!
After the game, Dixons et al poured onto the court for hugs all around as we prepared to leave. Our holiday with the Dixons was over and we drove the curving Highway 49 full of familial good feeling.