Chapter XXXIII - Harvest Festival, A Trophy
At the end of the summer of 1976 a new experience was in store for me. Since I had had the accident that broke my hip I always had to close the doors of the apartments at the shore promptly on Labor Day and return home. I would have had to live alone at the shore, since everybody had to return to their jobs. I protested that it was all right for me to stay a little longer with two good neighbors on each side and there was nothing to fear, but the children declared it might be okay for me but not for them. They would worry about me, so promptly on Labor Day I returned home. If weather permitted we would usually go to the shore on weekends. That means Marie and I and Irma and her family. Irma always occupied one of the apartments the last two weeks of the season, and when it was possible she would take advantage of the good weekends. After the season was over we would do enjoyable things together.
This was 1976. I did not plan to return to the shore the weekend following Labor Day because Tony was planning a big celebration at his farm for that weekend. He had established a custom of having a harvest festival during the month of September. Approximately 200 people would attend, including members of the Serra Club, relatives and friends. Sometimes it was cold at the end of September, so the festival was planned for the second week of September.
The festivities started with a Mass celebrated by the pastor of the church and this was held on the terrace in front of the house. Tony had chosen a spot with a beautiful view, so the Mass was always inspiring to us. The beauty always touched me to the core and there, in front of my son's home, we felt the full majesty of the Lord's creation. There was a harmony of the physical with the spiritual as we viewed the flowers in bloom, the foliage of the trees and the corn ripe with their luscious kernels. The dogs roaming around and sniffing at us, the cows peering over the corral fence and the horses prancing on their own added to the serenity of the place.
We would all kneel together as the Mass started, humble and grateful to the Lord who had brought us all together to enjoy the splendor and majesty of the hour. As we worshipped, our hearts were full of thankfulness for his love for us. Then every one would line up to receive Holy Communion and the moment was a mystical blend of the terrestrial and heavenly. One felt the presence of the spiritual in the air and there was the knowledge that the spirit of good would remain.
Following the Mass we would have a splendid picnic prepared by my daughter-in-law and her children. All of this I would not have missed for anything.
So in September, 1976, when the decision had to be made as to whether I'd spend another weekend at the shore or go to the harvest celebration, the choice was easy to make.
I was surprised when, toward the end of the festival, Irma called me from the shore. She wanted me to go to the shore that very same night. I told her she must be kidding and she answered that I must come because I had won a contest!
"What contest?" I inquired. "I haven't entered any contest." She said, "The committee has tried to get in touch with you all day. A trophy is going to be awarded tomorrow and if you are not here it will be given to the runner up." I still didn't understand and asked for more details. She told me that Seaside Heights had run a beauty contest for senior citizens. They were looking for the most beautiful grandmother, for the grandmother with the most grandchildren, and the oldest grandmother. I asked her who had entered my name and she said Debra, my son Richard's daughter. She had forgotten to tell me about it. I had been chosen the grandmother with the most grandchildren and the trophy was to be presented by the town mayor.
I said to Marie, "We have to go to the shore tonight." She said, "Ma, you don't really mean that!"
I said, "Yes, I do. If you can't go I will ask one of my grandsons to drive me." She couldn't understand why I wanted to go the same night so I told her what Irma had told me.
She said, "We will go home for a couple of hours to rest and then I will take you."
We excused ourselves and left. We reached Seaside Park at midnight.
The awards were to be made the next day, Sunday, at 3:00 p.m. My daughter had to furnish all of the names of my grandchildren and their parents. I was anticipating the pleasure of my new experience and I wanted the whole world to know how proud I was of my progeny, especially when there is such a trend to the suppression of life. My grandson Henry Jr., Lucy's son, was also at the shore and helped clarify the situation with the committee. The same afternoon I was to attend a wedding shower for my granddaughter Mary Jane, my daughter Lee's daughter. Therefore, I requested that the presentation of the trophy to the grandmother with the most grandchildren be awarded first.
A decorated platform had been set up and a band was seated on it playing loud music for the pleasure of the young.
Irma was with me and I climbed a few steps and sat at a table with my back toward the beautiful ocean. The sound of the waves and the pure fresh breeze coming from the ocean was like brandy inebriating me. What pure joy it was to be alive on this glorious Sunday afternoon! The blue sky and warm sun were doing their share to make this day memorable. Others were beginning to arrive waiting to hear the decisions of the judges who were seated at a long table. The mayor was to present each winner with a trophy and present.
My name was the first one to be called. I went to the microphone and it was announced that I was the winner of the grandmother with the most grandchildren category, since I had 40 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. The spectators clapped, and I was asked to speak. I was not prepared, but I thanked the committee for the honor I had received because I felt very proud of my grandchildren and great grandchildren. Then the mayor presented me with a trophy and an envelope that contained $75.00. A picture was taken for the newspaper. I left the stage and while walking to my daughter's car, a woman said, "I didn't have any chance with my fourteen grandchildren."
I said, "No, you didn't."
On the way home Marie and I reviewed with pleasure the past 24 hours and at my granddaughter's shower they made a fuss over me because of the honor I had received.
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