Three years ago, my entire extended family on my Mom’s side gathered over Labor Day weekend in a single house to celebrate the 70th wedding anniversary of my grandparents, along with my grandfather’s 93rd birthday. More than 30 gathered once again 18 months later at the same house, and now this event has happened a third time. Each time, we’ve rented the phenomenal Rock of Ages house in Marblehead, Ohio, which is on Lake Erie and has plenty of room for all of us across 7,000 square feet.
We arrived on Friday and got settled into our second-floor room with a great view of the lake. Leah, not present at our last visit to Rock of Ages, grabbed a bowl of Ruffles and explored a bit.
The house is just a short distance from a long pier and gravel belt that is used to load limestone onto freighters and barges, which meant plenty of activity throughout the weekend.
As the rest of the families started to arrive, the kids gathered into feral packs to reacquaint themselves with the property and with each other.
The adults and adult children also began the nearly constant laughter that signals togetherness in our family.
As this weekend was also the 200th anniversary celebration of Commodore Perry’s naval victory during the war of 1812, we had several men arrive featuring facial hair true to the period. Whacky stuff in Ohio, I tell you. Meanwhile, Doug and Will both hung out online on different staircases, though I have no direct evidence that they were chatting with each other.
One of the featured guests on this family weekend was the newest Stratton, young Caroline. She begat a game of pass the baby that ran until sometime on Monday, and Leah was particularly pleased to hold wee Caroline, despite the fact that they weigh nearly the same.
Caroline is a very good-tempered baby, though I believe I discovered the secret reason why, but that comes later. There were games going on inside and outside the house constantly.
The kids had been badgering us to let them into the lake, then they finally discovered some adults that were brave enough. The bottom is all rock, and very slippery thanks to an algae coating, so the lucky adults escorted the kids into the water.
Dave makes the classic “water just reached the parts that don’t like to be cold” face.
This time exposes an interesting phenomenon as we watched the kids swimming. The grandparents, none of which were helicopter parents, became helicopter grandparents, stressing when a kid without a PFD moved more than two feet from one of the swimming adults. I pointed out that this stressing was needless, as their kids (read: us) had survived our childhoods just fine without such levels of supervision, but to no avail. To wit:
Leah was a bit upset that she didn’t get to go into the lake with the other kids, but was a pretty good sport and continued to explore the area.
The smart kids took advantage of the hot tub, reported to be much warmer than the lake.
Cocktail hour featured beautiful weather to match the great location, and was followed by a great dinner prepared by the Baker clan. Leah had a nice visit with her Uncle Rodney the next day.
Saturday was another great day weather wise, with high temperatures, high humidity, and tons of sun. Footballs, baseballs, frisbees and soccer balls flew around the yard all day and into the evening.
Will took the punchball and made it into headwear, a style sure to catch on in suburban DC.
Saturday brunch and dinner were prepared by the Strattons, including some California rolls and stuffed peppers.
Sunday arrived to reveal another nice day, with more comfortable air temps and more of the same fun. Swimming and games occurred all day long.
Will spotted a snake under the bottom of the stairs, which he tried to retrieve with Rodney’s help.
Meanwhile, Doug threw his 85 soaking weight pounds on Dave’s back to help him build up some lower body strength.
Dick braved the reach under the stair and retrieved the Lake Erie water snake:
Will and Aly were pleased to see the snake, but Mary Lou and Maggie not so much:
The snake took a short flight back into the lake and swam off to the east, likely heading for the Flats in Cleveland to meet the rest of the in crowd.
Before dinner on Sunday (the Goudies were responsible for providing pizza), we gathered along the lake to celebrate Bapa’s 96th birthday. The grandchildren each spoke a short memory or two about what makes Bapa a special man, which apparently involves something about two feet long, at least according to the pictures:
Our parents also each shared their memories, and the great grandchildren were also offered a chance to share if they wanted.
Rodney also served as a somewhat-willing chair during this time:
Doug also displayed deft footwork and a delicate touch tiptoeing back into the gathering after meeting the pizza man:
Remember my earlier reference about why Caroline is a happy baby? Here’s my evidence:
As we broke up and headed inside for dinner and birthday cake, there was some photobombing.
After cake and ice cream, it was nearly time for the conveniently timed fireworks display that was part of the 200th anniversary celebration. We made our way back outside to send up some lanterns and watch the fireworks. Everyone was especially proud of Abbey for sending off her lantern with such a flourish.
Around this time, I was summoned to the house because a cry of “Oh no, Mr Bill” was heard after my dad took a header on the granite after tripping over the hot tub stairs. He’s sore and banged up a bit, but he’ll be fine after a while. Aly was rather fascinated by the blood trail we discovered in the daylight of Monday morning.
The weekend included tons of fun, many of which cannot be printed, even on this site. Suffice it to say, if someone near you yelps “It smells like Bluffton” while someone gets teary-eyed while saying “it burns! it burns!”, you may want to want away a little bit. We had great food, great drinks, great weather, and great people, which of course led to great fun.
Oh, and you may also be interested in the new Chronicles of Will, a new WordPress blogger.
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How did lighting farts on fire not reach the blog?!
Well, first off, I didn’t take any pictures of that, though others may have. Secondly, I mostly avoided reporting on late-night/early morning antics, for several obvious reasons, chief among them Gus’ shame.
Ted, You captured the week-end beautifully! Thank you for the delightful photo album and narrative that sums it all up and shows the fun and fellowship that we all enjoyed so much!