Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 25, 2003

Sunrise, sunset

Art, the girls and I traveled to Wellington last weekend to help my father-in-law Ken celebrate his 78th birthday. It was at his son Dave's house and it was a typical, chaotic Johanning affair. Two of his sons, eight of his 12 grandchildren, eight of his 12 great-grandchildren and all their families - 28 of us in all - plus 17-year-old Spuds the cat, a couple of other felines, a baby python and a Doberman joined the party.

The last time so many of us got together was three years ago when Ken's oldest grandson got married. I was struck by how much the "kids" had changed. They couldn't believe Mariya is now a senior and how tall Katie had grown.

"Sunrise, Sunset," a song from the play, "Fiddler on the Roof," came to mind. It describes how amazed the parents are when they realize their children have grown up, seemingly as if overnight.

"Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?"

It was 24 years ago this month that Jerome and I got married and I joined the rambunctious Johanning family. Jerome's twin nieces were born the same year. Now, both are married, both have 3-year-old sons and both are expecting their second children in February. I was just a little younger than Jerome's oldest niece is now when he died.

"I don't remember growing older
When did they?"

The noisy get-togethers don't happen as often as they used to because of the busy lives that all of us lead. But when they do, they're something else. It's a good thing Dave and Joyce have a large home because we filled up most of the rooms and spilled out onto the patio, where Dave grilled what seemed like an endless stream of hamburgers, brats and wieners.

"Geez, Dave," Art commented, "it looks like you're making enough for four armies."

Baked beans, taco salad, a corn casserole, chips and bean dip, JELL-O, a rice and broccoli casserole and many other side dishes were a good complement to the meat. My personal favorite was the homemade chicken and noodles that Jeanie, Ken's granddaughter, made from my late mother-in-law Rita's recipe.

The youngsters produced a buzz of non-stop activity which frequently interrupted the adult conversations. A pretty young girl arrived looking for Dave's daughter Stephanie. Neither Art nor I realized she was Jeanie's daughter Brianna because she had grown so much.

"When did she get to be a beauty?"

Austin showed off his baby python, taking it out of the mayonnaise jar he was told to keep it in. He was equally proud of the plastic bag of frozen white mice which would later become the snake's dinner.

"When did he grow to be so tall?"

Big kids and little kids shot hoops and got hit by basketballs. Little kids climbed walls, the doghouse and onto the hoods of vehicles. One big kid rode up on his motorcycle.

Three-year-olds Ethan and Brandon tore up and down the steps trying to find their older second cousin Becca, who hid in various spots around the house.

"Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?"

Just-turned-14-year-old Stephanie moved the family's car and parked it across the street, defying her parents' orders not to drive, but obviously pleased with herself.

"Sunrise, sunset.
Sunrise, sunset,
Quickly fly the days,
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as we gaze."

We left around noon on Sunday. All the way back home, I thought about the many Johannings we've added since I joined the family and of those we've lost. - and the words kept going through my mind.

"Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset
Quickly fly the years.
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears."

Dave Johaning, left, grilled enough food for an army. Ken opens his gifts,
right, on his 78th birthay. Twenty-eight of us helped him celebrate.

2003 Index