Of course I don’t mean it’s nice in the same way polished hardwood is nice, or even in the way rock tile is nice. But it earns a bit of appreciation, maybe even respect, in the course of a long afternoon including 30 children, a handful of grownups and a small but very excited dog, a sliding glass door left standing open and another door turning on its hinges like a lazy man or an insomniac turning on his bed.
Occasion: Sunday. Date: mid-October, when standing in the shade is frigidus but keeping busy in the sun feels like summer again; the grass still green, and the mud minimal. Menu: a pig roasted in a pit in the ground. Expectations and Appetites: high and rising.
If you haven't noticed yet, things don’t always happen as they should. A pig shot and bled, relieved of its innards which are replaced by 20 pounds of vegetables, can come out of a fire pit only about ½ as raw as it was 24 hours ago. It might look disturbingly close to alive but with a large incision down its middle ready to spill potatoes and carrots, and with a shriveled apple in its mouth. It just might.
It is what we do with these moments that decides what kind of memorable our Sabbath feast is.
Large butcher knives came out. Big hunks of hams (still legged) were stuck in a hot oven. Long loin roasts were laid on the grill outside. Sizzling happened for an hour or more while the men continued to rid the carcass of meat. Children eventually stopped standing at elbow-distance and dispersed to play in the chicken yard and let about half of the hens out, hold babies, whack each other with shovels, and coax a bonfire into life. Everyone pressed cider. Snacks held off the grumpies. The door swung, and boot-, sandal- and converse-covered feet tread and re-tread the way from the patio to the snack table to the kitchen sink to the other door and out again.
By four PM lunch had happened. I'll skip over the fabulous salad generously studded with blue cheese and craisins, the stuffed potatoes, the fruit bowl, the hummus and crackers and cantaloupe, the three scrumptious desserts, and just mention the pork – hot and fresh, a bowl of cubes chopped for the toddlers, plates of thin slices just done, piles of it still there after the dessert platters were reduced to crumb-holders. The kids kept cycling through the kitchen (and the adults weren’t much better), snagging a slice with their fingers and tooling off to the bonfire or the slide or the hay shed again.
It wasn’t until the sweeping-up happened that I wondered if it was possible for what was brought into the house by the feet to equal the amount of meat consumed. During the mopping (somewhere around switching the mop-end out because it was no longer the correct color), I stopped and looked over at the living room, comfortably carpeted in greyish shag, then back at the mop. Linoleum is awesome. No question about it.