“Good morning, love,” Robert said, reaching over and kissing Grace. “Ready for church?”
“I will be, eventually, I suppose,” Grace said, kissing him back but making no move to get up. “We’re not in a hurry, are we?”
“Oh, no, church isn’t till eleven. I heard Ben and Beth up a while ago, and some of the cousins and things, but no one will expect us anytime soon. I suppose we could even skip church if we wanted.”
“And have everyone sit there the whole time thinking about what we are doing here? I don’t think so. No, I think we should put in an appearance, at least. And I think if we don’t get up soon we’ll have your littles, followed by a bunch of cousins, coming in to jump on the bed or something.
She got up, leisurely, and pulled a robe over her pajamas. “Let’s go downstairs and get some coffee.”
“OK,” Robert said, pulling on some jeans and a sweatshirt. “Hello, girls!”
Two of his little cousins had been standing outside their door, no doubt listening, and jumped back in surprise when he opened it. “Robert!” they said, coming back and hugging his legs. “Breakfast time!”
“Oh, did Mom send you up?”
“No,” they said, shaking their heads, “but we knew you’d want breakfast.”
“Oh, you did, did you?” he asked, putting one of them on his shoulders. “I guess I am a growing boy!”
The three raced down the stairs, with Grace following more leisurely.
“Hey, Mom,” Robert said.
“Robert, Grace,” Mom said. “Robert, would you mind putting the drinks on the table?”
“What can I do, Mom?” Grace asked.
“Oh, Grace, if you could Scramble up a dozen eggs or so?”
“Sure, Mom,” she said.
“Boys! Calm down!” Mom said, as half a dozen of Robert’s cousins, in dress ranging from BVD’s to one already in his church suit, raced each other in and out of the kitchen, with Ben toddling eagerly behind. Suddenly a piercing whistle came from the stairs and three of the boys stopped, dead in their tracks, causing the other three, and Ben, to pile into them.
“Boys! Sit!” a male voice said, and one of Roberts cousins turned the corner around the stairs, pointing to the living room. The three boys who had stopped trooped immediately off and the other three cousins, rather awed, watched them.
“What’s with that?” Grace asked, as the cousin, ignoring his charges, came into the kitchen and asked Mom what needed doing?
“Oh, those are the other ‘Smiths’,” Robert said. “Dad’s brother’s kids. Strict disciplinarians. Kids are lucky it wasn’t there Dad that caught them, or they’d all be getting switched. Not that Samuel wouldn’t switch them, but he tends to be a bit less quick to do it.”
“I’d hate to be in that family,” Grace said.
“I dunno,” Robert said. “They seem happy enough. They’re always going places. Some families are afraid of taking their kids places, but these kids are so well trained you can take them anywhere. Watch.”
Suddenly Robert began whistling a sea shanty and one of his cousins looked up from the couch and came racing over. “Gideon, this is Mrs. Smith, my new wife. I want you to stand here and do what she needs you to do.”
“Yes, Robert,” the kid said, and turned toward Grace, with an expectant look on his face.
“Ummm, could you find me some eggs?” She said.
“Yes, ma’am,” the boy said. “How many?”
“I need a dozen,” Grace said.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and turned toward Robert’s mom, who had watched the whole exchange with amusement. “Where are the eggs, Aunty?” he asked, and, following directions, he got the eggs and gave them to Grace.
“Thank you,” she said and stood, waiting for her next ‘need’. Grace gave Robert a funny look, shrugged, and started cracking the eggs.
“I love your church,” Grace said, as the two, arm in arm, walked down the aisle to sit next to Jenny and his parents in a row that filled up rather quickly and dramatically with the rest of the Smith cousins and those from Mrs. Smith’s side of the family. “It is so pretty!”
That was true enough, Robert thought. He himself felt rather challenged when he went with Caleb, however. The preaching at his church was always technically correct, but not very challenging.
The singing was wonderful, though. The choir, led by the same man that Jenny studied under, practically filled the enormous choir loft, and sang in full polyphonal harmony. Few choir directors, nowadays, could recruit men to their choir; but this man, with his consistent emphasis on songs that employed the male voice well, always filled the bass, and often the tenor part.
Robert would have joined the choir but, before college he had been too busy and now, during college, he was away too often for practice. Maybe once he got his wife settled in Grace would join. She had a nice voice, if untrained.
“Hey!” Caleb said, from the kitchen, as the Smiths finally came home from church.
“Hey!” Jenny answered, coming up and taking his hand. “You should have heard the choir today. They did ‘When Peace Like a River’, and it was wonderful!”
Robert watched them for a second, and then turned Grace, whose arm he was holding, back toward the stairs and, in the process, turning toward his Dad. Dad, who was staring, and grinning, at the oblivious couple. “It’s about time!” he muttered. “I thought that boy would never figure it out.”
Robert grinned at Dad, and then he and Grace went upstairs. “Finally some peace,” Grace said, unbuttoning her shirt. “You sure have a ton of cousins.”
“Hopefully we will make them some more,” Robert said, taking advantage of catching her in mid-shirt and kissing her.
“Do they need any more?” Grace whined. “I’m surprised they didn’t put any on our floor!”
“They probably will, next time,” Robert admitted. “Mom and Dad often have some.”
Grace groaned, and Robert laughed. “Don’t you have any cousins?”
“Oh, yes, but most of ours live halfway across the country somewhere, so we never see them all at once. We have one set that lives in the mountains of Colorado. I will have to finagle an invitation.”