The ominous mid-afternoon clouds drifted away as our barbecue guests drifted in around six.
Two brothers and partners; two sisters, one with daughter; other with second husband and three children from first marriage; son and partner with their three girls; mother.
We sat outside at tables covered with white linen and watched the sun sink between the massive conifers. The children sat on a tartan rug spread on the lawn under the fruit trees.
The calamari was a hit (marinated in garlic and lemon, tossed with continental flour and dried oregano and fried very, very quickly in very hot oil) as were the lamb kebabs (marinated in garlic, oil and lemon juice, skewered with alternate onion, red and green bell pepper sections), bratwursts and fresh turkish and lebanese breads with eggplant, spinach and chickpea dips. Forgot the olives, they were behind something in the fridge and forgot to dress the mustard greens ('Hmm, they're a little bitter,' someone said). To add to the mix, sister brought along spring lamb chops - we threw a sprig of rosemary on the grill for those; niece contributed another salad and mother turned up with an apple crumble and her version of trifle. The men brought beer and wine, and my brother's partner presented a large jar of her signature home-made tomato chutney. Tangy and delicious on bratwurst sausages. She modestly suggested I could give it away as a Christmas gift if I didn't want to use it. - Are you kidding, I replied, whipping off the lid.
Afterwards, my son's youngest daughter, baby Aria, sat on my knee and ate, slowly and carefully, a whole small sausage, spitting out the skin. She is nine months old next week! Underweight for most of this time, she is now going ahead in leaps and bounds.
One of my brothers was taking photos as he always does. He has documented every family occasion for about the last twenty or so years, maybe longer; started with a Super 8 film camera, moved to stills and now uses a digital.
Later, inside, when we were having dessert and coffee, baby Aria sat on my younger niece's knee and ate most of four orange quarters in the same slow, methodical but very intent manner. She thoroughly enjoyed herself. The other girls, 7, 3 and 3, contented themselves with the basket of soft toys and box of books that had been their dad's and uncle's.
The adults had more tea and coffee and another tiny sip of Sambuca Lucano. My older niece surreptitiously passed out tiny invitation slips to her mother's upcoming 50th birthday surprise party. Ha! That will be fun.