By Bruce Stambaugh
There we all were. The five Stambaugh “kids” gathered around a common table, celebrating another birthday. This wasn’t any old birthday either. Wait. I better rephrase that.
We were gathered to celebrate the oldest sibling’s very special day, his 70th birthday. All but one of our spouses joined in the merrymaking, too.
We met in a nice restaurant that the birthday boy chose. It was centrally located, which made it easy for us to assemble. Given our ages, stations in life, and individual schedules, it was a rare treat to gather together.
The food was excellent. The fellowship was better.
Despite the din in the open, high ceiling eatery, the conversation around the table was lively and animated. It reminded me of meals at dinnertime at the little brick bungalow where we all grew up in the suburbs of Canton, Ohio.
Craig was the only pre-World War II child in our immediate family. The rest of us were all of the Baby Boomer generation. Consequently, there was never a dull moment in the Stambaugh household. That’s what always made for lively interaction at mealtime in our younger years.
Take the time my older brother bet me a nickel that I couldn’t eat a spoonful of mustard. As I recall, I got the nickel, but Craig really won the wager.
I marveled at the table talk that evening. You would have thought we were all children again by the enthusiasm and joyous chatter. I liked that a lot. Our late parents taught us well.
There was one main difference, however. Instead of acting like children, we talked about our children and grandchildren. They are scattered from New York City to Orlando, Florida and many places in between.
Growing up, it wasn’t always so lovey dovey. We quibbled and quarreled and played together throughout our childhood. But being four years or more ahead of the rest of the clan, Craig’s recollection of times gone by enjoins a wider view of our family history. I’m trying to be kind here.
Take the time when I was a toddler, and Craig was charged with watching me while Mom focused on other agenda. Craig was specifically told to make sure that I didn’t step into our yet to be seeded front yard, which was one giant mud hole.
When our mother heard the wailing from the front yard, she rushed to my rescue. My shoes were stuck fast smack in the middle of the mud, and Craig was nowhere to be found.
I was much too young to remember that traumatic experience. Craig was not, however. To his credit, Craig is the one who told the story.
We always teased Craig that as the oldest he was the favorite in the family. In fact, I bribed the preacher at our mother’s funeral to say that Mom had had an only child and then four children. Mischief sometimes masquerades for love.
Craig may have hit 70, but the rest of us are right on his heels. Our celebrative gathering was far more than a birthday bash. It was recognition of the kinship we all share, and the unspoken affection we all have for one another.
Though it wasn’t a surprise party, I know my big brother thoroughly enjoyed the time. One of his daughters told me that being together was the best gift we could have given him.
Growing up, birthdays were always special days in the Stambaugh household. I’m glad they still are.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014