We did, indeed, do a little of both; we were seven in the booth, with a table socked in at the end to accommodate the out-three. Everybody got to the hotel around three, coming back from the shooting range, and others arriving from their own hours'-long journey.
I'd asked everyone to have an early lunch, for DS#4 had an important interview at seven p.m., and so we had to go to dinner at five. Nobody minded the early hour, and it cut down on the stand-and-wait, though it was Saturday night. And I was latest of all---Cousin Louise, who had driven up with Chris' Mom from the coast, wanted to run to one of the outlet stores out on the highway, just for a quick errand, so we were last to arrive at the restaurant.
When we were shown to our table, all I could see was Chris' shining silver hair in the corner; then I saw his feet perched up high on one of those tall chairs, to my momentary dismay---I'm not fond of perching like a toddler to eat dinner. But they were just at the drawn-up table, and the three guys were in those---our booth was elevated a bit, and so our feet were on our "floor" though our table was level with theirs.
His Mom was propped comfortably in the far corner, with her ubiquitous back-pillow featuring a tapestry of two deer drinking at twilight---we've left that thing from here to yonder, always fetching it back, and once, having it delivered to the house via UPS when we left it in Ohio. She's tiny and fragile, her little dandelion fluff of white hair like a halo, and her shining eyes and smile lighting up every gathering. I've been blessed with two absolute angels as Mothers-In-Law, and she calls all of us DIL's her Daughters-in-Love.
She'd come for the ribs, and ribs it was---she tucked her tiny self into that platter like a truck driver, nibbling and enjoying the meat and the sauce and the enormous baked potato, and loaded was the word. There was enough butter and sour cream and cheese and bacon on that thing to make a casserole for a good-sized Church Supper crowd.
Everybody else had steaks of one sort or the other, with the usual salads and potatoes (Chris always chooses the loaded SWEET---with cinnamony butter and a big puddle of crunchy-broiled marshmallows atop). And I, true to my childhood love affair with caffays and truck-stops and dairy bars and drive-in eateries---I had a cheeseburger. It was a really good one, thick and juicy, with a good slab of rich cheddar melting its corners down like a little tablecloth. The bun had been grill-toasted, and it had sliced sweet onion, lots of tomato and so much lettuce that I took off enough to finger-munch like chips. And, though I've gotten some rather strange comments on my taste---mustard---squiggles of good old French's yellow.
There were wonderful heavy steak-fries, golden-brown and crisp, with the tender center steamy and soft. Nobody wanted dessert, so we just had coffee as we sat talking and laughing way too loud---I love being in a crowd like this, with everyone glad to see each other, and having wonderful food, sitting full and comfortable in the moment, with people you care about. We're so far from most of our Dearies, it's lovely when it happens.
The music was twangy and fairly loud, but then so were we---probably both; we'd come from four states for this occasion, and though we'd all meet the next day for lunch, this was the fun time, the relaxing time, the catch-up time, if you could make yourself heard over all the voices trying to do the same. No real stompin' and no boot-scoot; no two-step, no yee-haw, no dancin' on the bar.
But it was our kind of fun. We coulda had the same time at home, at Hardee's, at our hotel. The memories will linger. It's one of my very favorite GATHERINGS.