Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

This past Monday, here in Ontario, saw us observing a relatively new holiday, begun in 2008: Family Day. Before this holiday was officially named, there was, for the employees of a lot of companies, a “floating holiday” in February—because this one, everyone knew, was coming, thanks to the long, drawn out, government debates.

I don’t think one should read into this day any great reverence, on the part of the provincial government, for the Canadian Family. I think it was more a question of everyone complaining that we had to go from New Years Day all the way to Good Friday without a paid “holiday”.

Some communities hold special family-oriented events on the third Monday in February. We never bothered to attend any, of course, because by 2008 all of our children were grown and gone. This year, actually, was the first time we did anything in honor of the day, and it came about in a backwards sort of way.

It’s rather fascinating how a lot of the things we Ashbury’s end up doing happen that way.
Our second daughter has a great love of “family dinners”. I don’t believe she ever enjoyed one until she became a part of our family. In fact, I remember with a lot of fondness her first one here, and so does she.

The dinner was for our middle child, Anthony’s birthday, the first year the two of them were together as a couple. Now, his birthday was July 5th. This particular July 5th was a hot one. Regardless, the birthday boy (well, birthday man as he was over 21) had expressed his dinner preferences: prime rib, baked potatoes, and cauliflower and broccoli. And cake, of course, as it was his birthday.

My house didn’t have any air conditioning.

So there we were, 7 of us, around the dinner table, perspiring, as you can imagine. I cooked the roast in the oven, so the entire kitchen was sweltering, and the kitchen is the only place here to eat.  And then Anthony asked where the cheese sauce was. I told him I just couldn’t manage to make a cheese sauce that day. That comment was followed by my daughter’s then boyfriend, whom she’d been with a couple of years, asking where the gravy was. I explained that with cooking prime rib, one doesn’t have gravy, one has “au jus”. Of course, all the jokesters in the family had fun razzing me about “no cheese sauce” and not even a real gravy, just “au jus”, saying I was falling down on the job, that I should get a demerit put into my folder, and so on and so forth.

Our second daughter was sitting beside me and getting angrier and angrier—until I took pity on her and told her that they were all just teasing me—and that it was something that happened a lot around here.

This past Family Day family dinner was on the other end of the spectrum, so to speak. My second daughter wanted us to have a family dinner, since we hadn’t had one since Christmas. I told her, and my daughter, that if they wanted a family dinner, I would be happy to provide the venue and the food, but they would have to help. I’m not up to the big productions I used to do, and that’s just the way it is. They agreed. Then I asked (foolish question because I knew the answer) what they would like to eat for this meal. The answer? T-Bone steaks. There would be 8 of us eating steak, as my youngest grandson doesn’t care for it and prefers a couple of hamburgers instead.

When I pointed out that the only way to cook these steaks would be to do so on the outdoor grill, my daughter said she would be happy to do that. And she did, wonderfully, after her son cleared the mountain of snow leading up to and around the grill.

The girls were true to their word about taking on the lion’s share of the work. My contribution to the meal was minimal—I prepared the veggies, including that heart-shaped potato for my beloved.

This year, at least, the Ashbury’s lived up to the hype of the holiday. We had supper on Sunday with the girls and their crew and then went to our son’s house Monday mid-morning to have brunch with him and his.

These days, I cherish every opportunity I get to spend time with my loved ones. It is, in my mind, the most fulfilling time I spend.

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