When my oldest son left home, family vacations took on a new dimension because they were reunions as well. One summer we went to the mountains where we lived in sheerest luxury in an A-frame chalet.
This was the first year of operation for the resort, and everything in the chalet was new. The spaciousness of the A-frame design and the charm of the decor blended with the natural beauty of the mountains, creating an atmosphere of elegance and charm. Into this we came - seven adults, a baby and three dogs.
"All you need is the capacity for enjoyment," claimed the clerk who collected our sizeable check when we arrived. This capacity we had in what might be, in retrospect, considered too generous a quantity.
Because I knew some of our party would be likely to stay up all night at times, I suggested a gourmet brunch contest. Each day one member of the group would be responsible for preparing brunch at twelve o'clock. An old-fashioned grocery store in the nearby town became the "gourmet shop," and each of us struggled to achieve the most delicious meal served in the most delightful atmosphere with the greatest amount of creativity possible.
We had steak tartare (raw ground sirloin) with German potato salad and beer. We had an international meal with Arabian coffee and curried lamb. We had a mountaineer's meal with black-eyed peas, pork, and hominy grits. The competition was keen.
My second son was quiet about his preparations. We knew that the meat would be trout because we had seen the string he caught. After patient hours of unsuccessful fishing in the stocked pond at the resort, he hit upon the idea of using the food the owners used to feed the fish as bait. That evening he came home with a string of the seven most beautiful trout one could dream about, and spent the evening cleaning them for freezing until his turn to serve came.
We suspected his theme was land-locked also because he needed few funds for his tour of the gourmet shop. Much to our surprise when we assembled at twelve o'clock for his feast, we found the table bare.
"When do we eat?" we asked.
"Wait until everyone comes," he replied. "I have things under control."
We were hungry and glad to see my youngest son, sleepy-eyed, descend the spiral stairs from his room at the top of the A.
"Follow me," said my second son and, grabbing the skillet of delicious pan fried rainbow trout, he led the procession out of the chalet, down the steps of the porch, and around the side. There we noticed for the first time the door to a storage space under the building.
While I held the trout for him, my son opened the door and beckoned us in. As we crawled through the low door we were astounded at the exotic surroundings we found there. He had filled the area with logs, pine boughs, and wild flowers, creating a cave man's bower of beauty. The logs furnished seats and tables, and candles dimly lighted the whole floral array. As the excited comments of the group mounted, some one smelled something.
"Is that smoke?" asked my oldest son.
"No," our host replied proudly, "That's incense."
It was both. His special touch of incense had been one touch too much, and it had caught one of the logs on fire. While we crawled awkwardly out and rushed for water, my oldest son found the smoldering log and threw it out. The water quenched the rest of the fire, but the smoke remained. As we waited up in the chalet for the smoke to clear, we discussed the near tragedy. The summer was very dry, and the entire area could have been destroyed before fire fighting equipment could arrive.
"Why don't we just eat up here?" we finally suggested. "We have seen all your atmosphere and will take it into consideration when we vote."
"No," he insisted. "The smoke will clear, and we can eat down there." Eventually when it did clear enough, he warmed the trout, and back we went. We had sassafras tea, (hot and cold), sumach (none of us was willing to even taste this even though he insisted that it was quite edible), and blackberry shortcake for dessert, all complementing the delicate, delicious, tender meat of the beautiful rainbow trout. A certain uneasiness prevailed, however, because of the lingering odor of the smoke, stronger still than the incense, kept reminding us of the near catastrophe. We were glad when the meal was ended.
My second son has been my "nature boy" from his beginning. When we had a family contest to find the first blossom in the spring, he always won it. Neither my husband nor I are good at directions. When traveling through the countryside, we always depended on him to identify north from south. The gourmet brunch he developed illustrates the best that he is. Also, being the second son, the critique of the fire episode diminished the importance of his creation.
That evening we started conjuring up one word personality descriptions of each of us. It had started with the dogs. "Who can describe Chico's personality with one word?" I had asked.
"Timid" we had decided. Then "maternal" fitted her mother and "loving" our cousin's dog. When we got to the people, we did the best on my second son. "Classical", we agreed.
Although the family makes the man, the patterns are varied. Lean, muscular, patient, persistent, clever, warm and loving, all these things he is, yet "classical" says it the best. None of the rest of us is even remotely so, but he is of us, too. Perhaps he needs us to play against to be this self.