At noon on New Years Day, it’s Goose’s tradition to gather with lots of family for Lutefisk and an afternoon of card playing. Now, I’ve never eaten lutefisk… and I’m not thoroughly convinced I care to. I don’t have much of a taste for seafood. I have nothing against it, other than the smell and the texture. I am all for other people eating it if they want to. Although, I’m not sure why they want to. But all the same, it seems people have strong feelings about lutefisk one way or the other. Goose assures me though that I’ll really like the way his Uncle Jack fixes it. After some prodding I agree to taste Goose’s serving of Lutefisk. We drove out to a special market on a gravel crossroads a week ago just to get some. The store owner is quite proud that they’ve about sold out of it. Truth be told I’m also not much of a card player. As a child, I remember watching my mother play hand after hand of Solitaire. shuffling the cards over and over. Then laying them out in perfect piles. It was quite entertaining just to watch. She would concentrate as she would sort out her hand and lay the cards one on top of the other. Back when Tammy and I were young mothers, we’d play a card game called 500 while the children napped. It was almost like having an afternoon out. But this way we didn’t have to arrange babysitters, which were expensive and difficult to find. We’d play all afternoon til the kids demanded our focus once again.
Goose and I arrived at his Uncle Jack’s right at noon. There were two other cars there already even with the early morning snow fall. The weather doesn’t seem to dissuade this family from its traditions. We entered into a three season porch that had a table filled with a variety of food and beverages. Opening the main door, the central focus is the dining table. Uncle Jack is seated in his chair and others are squeezed in as they arrive. Every time the door opens, another chair or two are pulled up for the newcomers to join in. Each person seems to bring with them a tray or pan filled with something wonderful to eat. (I’m not the only one who doesn’t eat Lutefisk.) Uncle Jack tells each person entering that the Lutefisk is almost ready.. and it incites an immediate reaction from them. Either for or against.
Goose who is holding my hand, finds two empty seats at the table and introduces me to various cousins and their children. He offers me a soda and a plate to help myself to the spread. Conversations are happening from all points of the room. With any one of them at any time cross-conversing across the room. I’m quite a talker.. but I could hardly keep up. But it was all wonderful. Laughter, teasing, and a lot of story telling from past remembrances. Along with fabrications and truth-stretching of course. Each story ended though in roars of laughter. Then without missing a beat.. someone picks up the deck of cards sitting in the center of the table. shuffling ensues. Goose reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a burgundy velvet Crown Royale bag with a black drawstring cord. Inside it he has rolls of quarters. Then quarters begin appearing from everywhere. The dice appear in a brown leather canister. Everyone is ready. Except me. I had no clue.
Goose agrees to ‘help’ me til I get the hang of the games. There were so many things to learn. Once I got used to how one dice game worked, they’d introduce another one. It wasn’t long til I’d just roll and hope for the best. That strategy is not the best I’ve ever come up with. But it got me through till my quarters were gone. It didn’t happen quickly. There were times I’d actually win a game. But what intrigued me the most were the stories being told in between rolls of the dice. This is a regular family. With problems, and struggles and setbacks. But filled with laughter, acceptance and love. Over the course of the day and evening, I became part of it all. Goose’s grandkids came and took turns sitting on my lap to roll the dice. Or to ask for a shoe to be tied or treats to be gotten for them. For this day, I belonged.