Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Big Bone And Rabbit Hash

Jesse's second cousin, Nick Metzger,
married the girl of his dreams on Saturday
My perpetual friend and former husband, interior designer and architectural model improvisseur Jesse Turner, had received an invitation to his second cousin’s wedding in northern Kentucky. Jesse asked if I would like to tag along.  I jumped at the chance to visit with Jesse’s wonderful sisters and their families, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives, some of whom I had not seen since our own wedding in Boone County, Kentucky, almost twelve years ago.

This 1/16th scale model of a shopping center planned for
Cincinnati was constructed by Jesse Turner of LIDCM Corporation
So on Friday we caught an early morning flight from Baltimore, Maryland to Columbus, Ohio, where Jesse had an appointment to repair a portion of an architectural model his company, LIDCM Corporation, had built in May to depict a state-of-the-art shopping center planned for suburban Cincinnati by the esteemed Steiner + Associates.  As I lent assistance in the lobby of Steiner’s impressive corporate offices where the model is on permanent display, Jesse unpacked the tools, wiring and miniature high-tech lights he had shipped ahead of our arrival and made short work of repairing an electrical malfunction in his incredibly detailed masterpiece. To see a computer-generated 3D animated fly-through of Jesse's Liberty Town model, click here.

What better way to spend a warm
summer evening than at the county fair?
Soon we were zooming south on a pleasant, two-hour drive from Columbus to Cincinnati, where we crossed the mighty Ohio river into the Bluegrass state. Our first stop was for lunch at an ubiquitous Gold Star restaurant so that Jesse could indulge in one of his favorite foods: Cincinnati-style chili, a faintly sweet, cinnamon-scented chili typically served over spaghetti with various condiments including shredded cheese and diced onions.  

Jesse, left, rides the Fireball with
Michael, one of Tawny's foster adults
We were joined by Jesse’s youngest sister, Tawny, who makes my active life seem lackadaisical in comparison. A single mom raising her two sons, Jake, who will start his first year at Northern Kentucky University in just a few more days, and Justin, who is already perfecting his linebacker moves with the rest of his team in anticipation of his freshman year at Covington Catholic High School, Tawny is simultaneously working on her master’s degree in social work at NKU while participating in an intense nine-month internship at the prestigious Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  By gaining acceptance into Ohio's Leadership Excellence in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at one of the top three children's hospitals in the country while completing her graduate work at the Kentucky university, Tawny has inadvertently created a groundbreaking relationship between NKU and CCHMC that is already turning heads at both institutions.

Because this region operates on east
coast time but is very near the central
time zone border, it still looked like mid-
afternoon at almost 8:00 p.m.
As if all this wasn't enough, Tawny is also fostering two developmentally challenged young adult men in her home who need near constant supervision, numerous medications and, for one of them, frequent epileptic seizure intervention. Tawny’s chosen path is definitely not for the faint of heart, but she handles it all with grace and self confidence, organizing her hectic days with a color-coded day-planner highlighted in so many hues it was dizzying to behold.

After lunch we relaxed at Tawny's well-appointed and amazingly tidy home for the rest of the afternoon.  Before Jesse could ask if Tawny and the boys would like to go out to dinner, she eagerly offered us a hearty, home-cooked meal of mouth-watering sirloin tip roast she’d been braising in a crockpot all day, along with a medley of freshly steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots and a pot of mashed potatoes sprinkled with rosemary grown on her kitchen counter. Tawny used to run her own catering company, preparing nutritious school lunches for distribution all over northern Kentucky in addition to catering custom parties and preparing gorgeous wedding cakes (she and another sister, Sherry, prepared all the food, decorations and the wedding cake for our nuptials in 2001).  No insalubrious fast food for this family!

Tawny, center, stands with, from left, her
son, Justin, who broke his ankle in football
practice, Tawny's foster adult, Jacob, her
oldest son, Jake, her other foster adult
Michael, and Jesse and me at the
Boone County fair
After dinner, one of the boys noted that the Boone County Fair was in session, so we piled into two vehicles and drove less than five minutes to the sprawling fairgrounds.  Tawny’s sons, Jake and Justin, are attentive caregivers in their own right, cheerfully accompanying Tawny’s two foster charges, Michael and Jacob, on the carnival rides so that everybody would feel included in the family outing.

Jesse and his younger sister,
Lynn, are the two oldest of
the seven Turner children 
The next morning Jesse and I met another sister, Lynn, for breakfast at the tiny Anchor Grill in nearby Covington, a longtime diner known for its deft handling of one of Jesse’s favorite hometown foods, goetta, a breakfast sausage patty similar to Pennsylvania’s scrapple but made with ground pork, steel-cut oats and savory spices, which is traditionally drizzled with pancake syrup and served alongside eggs and toast. After breakfast, Lynn, Jesse and I drove all over Covington and Latonia, stopping in front of various childhood homes (or where childhood homes used to stand) to reminisce about events that took place at each.

Eventually we made our way back to Tawny’s house, where we hung out with Tawny and her family until it was time to repair to our hotel to dress for the wedding.  I chose a sunny yellow and white dress by UltraPink for the occasion, which I found at my local JCPenney store back in Baltimore for $10.  I wrapped a stretchy white belt from Urban Outfitters around my waist and paired a bracelet and earrings from JCPenney with a gray and yellow necklace of Lucite beads from Nordstrom. I completed my look with strappy stiletto heels from Aldo and a yellow leather handbag by Rosetti that was roomy enough to use all weekend long.

Over a hundred guests took their seats
for the lovely outdoor ceremony
The wedding took place in the northern Kentucky hills at picturesque Meadowview Farm, which was not unlike the bucolic setting of our own wedding all those years ago (see Once Upon A Time).  The beautiful bride, Brooke Dailey, was resplendent in a white satin gown with iridescent crystals and beading from Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Bridal in Covington, Kentucky. Jesse’s third cousin, little Cecily Metzger, was absolutely adorable in a beaded white flower girl dress by American Princess, while the mother of the groom, Jesse’s cousin Lora Metzger, was a knockout in a gorgeous short dress of coral lace by Jessica Simpson from Dillard’s.

A tent erected in a high meadow lent
an elegant touch to the reception
From right, Jesse's sister, Lynn,
me, his cousin Susie and Susie's
best friend, Kathy, at the reception
Following the lovely ceremony, more than fifty cars formed a happy procession along Big Bone Church Road which proceeded to the bride’s uncle’s farm in the mountains above Rabbit Hash, an historic river enclave some eleven miles away that reputedly got its name from the town’s drunk, who became known by that moniker during a devastating Christmas Day flood in 1849 after telling his fellow townsfolk that he would be having rabbit hash for his Christmas dinner since the raging waters had washed away all hope of finding a plump goose or turkey.

Little Cecily was
an adorable
flower girl
The groom
dances with his
mother, Lora
Interesting appellations aside, the setting for the reception, a high meadow known as Rabbit Hash Hill overlooking the Ohio river far below, adorned with a log cabin in whose back yard had been erected a sixty-foot long white tent outfitted with a parquet dance floor, a full bar and a dinner buffet, was at once elegant and charmingly rustic. A van and a pickup truck shuttled guests from the brush-hogged parking area to the reception tent which itself overlooked a scenic pond.  A disk jockey introduced the wedding party and then a fine dinner of roast beef and chicken breast was served (no rabbit hash for this party), followed by hilarious and heartfelt toasts by the maid of honor and the best man, a traditional cutting of the cake and dancing into the wee hours.

Nick and Brooke cut their
wedding cake
Lynn and Jesse stand in front of a
mural on the wall of the Anchor Grill
on the morning after the wedding
On Sunday morning, Jesse treated himself to a second goetta breakfast with his sister, Lynn, at the Anchor Grill, only this time we emerged from the diner to discover that my large tote had been stolen from our rental car.  We drove slowly around the neighborhood peering up and down nearby alleys while I made arrangements via cellphone to file a report with the local police.  But before an officer could respond to the scene, we found my black tote splayed across a nearby parking lot, its contents rifled through but all intact, a most fortunate outcome.

Jesse poses with his father, Jim, who
was brought to the reunion
from a nearby nursing home
Cousins Tasha, left, and Jessica
share a laugh
Despite her hectic schedule, Tawny had arranged to host a Turner family reunion in honor of her brother’s visit, to be held at her home on Sunday afternoon. Almost fifty people came, bringing potluck dishes, folding chairs and numerous children.

Jesse's deceased brother, Jay,
was stepfather to Christie,
second from left, who attended
the reunion with her two
boys, Zach, left, and Bryson
Tawny awoke early to bake a German chocolate cake, a favorite of her sister Sherry’s husband, Geoff, as well as fresh corn and tomato salsa and a delicious and beautiful trifle layered with angel food cake, mixed fresh berries and vanilla-infused whipped cream. Jesse’s sister, Lynn, a busy real estate agent, brought a pan of yummy homemade enchiladas. His niece, Jessica, made a fabulous balsamic-cucumber salad with walnuts, while his cousin, David Durr, brought a savory onion pie, one of my favorite flavors of the day. Much-loved foods from other family members, including Jesse's aunt Juanita's famous baked beans and bacon, quickly filled Tawny’s kitchen countertops.  Soon everyone was as busy eating as they were catching up on each other’s lives.  Aunt Juanita passed a binder of notepaper for relatives to record their contact information, while Jesse created a rendering of the Turner family tree on a paper plate, adding to it as we made the rounds through Tawny’s large back yard to visit with various family factions.

Everyone at the reunion gathered for a family portrait
on a beautiful summer day in Burlington, Kentucky
As evening fell, all the guests departed, leaving Jesse and me to relax with his sisters and the boys in the waning daylight while fireflies flitted on the lawn.  It was a perfect summer weekend of celebration, merrymaking and memories in the state of “unbridled spirit”, giving Jesse a hefty dose of nostalgia with a supersized family “fix” that will surely carry him through to his next visit home.

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