The “For Sale” sign stood prominently near the edge of the lawn as we pulled into the driveway of the house on Wall Street for an annual family spring gathering we call Maymus. The day we celebrate all birthdays in May and surrounding months with so many presents on the hearth it reminds us of Christmas.
We drove straight back to the ‘parking’ section behind the house and the shop. I smiled as soon as I saw the familiar scene. Children playing on the patio and driveway with sidewalk chalk, Tonka toys, badminton sets, nerf guns and Legos. Juice boxes and snack cups formed an obstacle course for the adults as we moved to greet each other. Grandparents, parents and their little ones – four generations once again gathered together on Wall Street.
The original house on Wall Street is two doors down. We drive past it to come to this one and the fond memories of growing up and bringing my own little ones there flood my heart each time. How many Christmases, Thanksgivings, Maymus’s, September gatherings, and in-general visits have we made to Wall Street? Too many to count, and that doesn’t include the times we’ve gathered with extended family for weddings, funerals, graduations, and milestone birthday parties.
My sister, brother and I had our six children all in just under three years; each had boy and girl. Several of the cousins were only months apart and two of them missed sharing a birthday by 10 days. My mom was covered up in grandbabies back then. The house on Wall Street was where they came to see Grandma, have birthday cakes and pumpkin carvings, play on the swing set assembled just for the 6 of them, and play with cousins. Always the cousins. They dressed each other up, cut each other’s hair (sans adult permission or supervision), and drew countless colored chalk hopscotch squares. They rode Big Wheels and tricycles on that long stretch of driveway.
I remember the Thanksgiving when the oven timer dinged right as Uncle Billy Bob said “Amen!”; my youngest sister’s high school graduation celebration; gathering with my cousins to go to my grandmother’s 80th birthday party, then again just six months later for her memorial service; and the one we all wish hadn’t happened, gathering for my stepfather’s funeral. He was a special, beloved man, taken from us decades too soon. I never walked into that house afterward without sensing his presence. Neither did my mom, and a few years later the house on Wall Street was sold.
For the next twenty years we rotated our family gatherings. Maymus was held at Mom’s – the house on 44th, then the house on 1st just a few blocks from the house on Wall Street. September we gathered at my brother’s. Christmas was celebrated by starting a new tradition, gathering at my sister’s on Rolling Hills, and we made lots of good memories there.
Now I’m the grandmother. My mother, great grandmother of 11, is in her 80’s and still going strong thank God. My siblings and I are the ones whose children are bringing the little ones. Diapers and high chairs and crawling babies are behind us now, but we still wrap presents and offer carefully selected greeting cards. Usually we prefer funny cards; we are, after all, a hilarious bunch with an unparalleled sense of humor, but there is always at least one mushy card. We still play washers, compare vehicles, and watch the children at play as we relax in lawn chairs.
Two years ago my brother bought his house on Wall Street. It wasn’t the same of course, wasn’t supposed to be. Nor was it intended to be his ‘forever’ house. But our family loves and laughs the same regardless of the street address. It’s been fun to sit out on his deck, look at the original Wall Street house and talk about how it has changed and what remains the same. To know that all these years later we are so very blessed to be physically close enough that most of us can make the gatherings. Most importantly, we all want to.
Last weekend we had our final family gathering on Wall Street. We enjoyed its hospitality and gave it a good send off. We might have more Christmas’s at Rolling Hills, and we might return to Mom’s for Maymus. But I’m excited that we are beginning a new tradition as the oldest of G3 (the designation for my children’s generation) will have the September gathering at his house. It’s time. Time for the youngers to share in the hosting, time for us olders to take life at a slower pace. Time to give Wall Street a rest. It’s time.