It was almost bedtime when the white van pulled into the driveway, towing a big black trailer loaded to the brim.
I didn’t hesitate. Turning to the children, I said, “I’m going out to meet them.”
How delightful to see two out-of-state uncles on Dad’s side.
They planned to come for the next two days to help us out. When they heard that our house needed more insulation and new windows, siding and a roof, they promised they’d come and do what they could. Here they were; the trailer was loaded with siding, windows and the like. When the trailer was unhooked, they scattered to other community Raber families, with plans to return the following morning at 8 a.m.
The weeks before, I had this stubborn worry pop up repeatedly as I imagined 80 people (including children) gathered to help us, only to have it rain. Again I’d pray for sunny weather to be compatible with the projects.
Now it was the night before the first big day; it rained all night; in the morning, the clouds mercifully broke, and the sun warmed all who came to help.
By 8:30 a.m., it was a hive of busy bees. Dad’s four brothers, their partners, children and grandchildren created an amazing team. Ladies sewed dresses and curtains and did mending; others mulched our fruit trees and flower beds. Sister-in-law Mary, who was also here, took charge of the kitchen where they made cookie bars, hundreds of energy balls, cake mixes, pancake mixes, a stock pot full of soup, hamburgers, meatballs, granola, cookie dough shaped into balls, all for the freezer for future use.
In the meanwhile, Dad assigned the guys to their specific jobs. Two cousins who specialized in putting up siding replaced the old white with gray-tannish vinyl siding, a brother-in-law who does construction tied the new deck roof with the house, and another who does guttering put it up. One gentleman who does roofing took charge of putting new charcoal metal up, two uncles who excel in working with windows replaced most of the windows throughout the house, the list goes on.
Hosanna played with dolls on the trampoline with her little friends while the boys spent endless hours playing pitch and catch and riding their bicycles.
It was amazing to observe. I had fun floating around from one project to the next, answering questions and trying to make decisions. There were so many little things I naturally looked to Daniel to make the final decision. Perhaps it was good for me to see that it’s all temporal, and for most items, there’s not a single precise answer on what will be the best.
The big bay window in the kitchen, donated to us, gave our kitchen a dramatic facelift. I marvel as I am next to it and watch the children outside at play. I never expected to have a bay window, and here it is! It has a way of making the kitchen look more spacious.
I could fill the entire column about how much I enjoy it and the air movement gently flowing through the kitchen from those side windows, but no doubt, you’d get bored.
Let’s move on to the second day. Now that was unreal. I never knew things could come together so swiftly and smoothly. We picked out a stain for the wooden railings on the front porch; someone went to town to pick it up, and the next thing I knew, it was all stained, not to mention all the block around the house that was painted a charcoal color to match the roof. It all looked so fresh and nice; it felt like a farm girl like me doesn’t fit into what looks like a castle to me!
I had never really considered our house as old. I remember when my Daddy built it, but when I stopped to consider, that was 26 years ago. Things don’t last forever.
At any rate, as the house began wearing its new look, my mind kept going to how God brings new things into our life. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good, but if he’s in it, it’s always good in the end. In a way it was sad to make so many changes while missing Daniel so, yet I knew it was the next step and of course, was thankful beyond measure to everyone helping.
Take this, as the last jobs were wrapped up, it began sprinkling a bit, and that night it rained in torrents. Surely God not only answered our prayers but also showed that he really is in charge.
Feeding 80 people for four meals is no small task, so each of the four Raber brothers took turns serving the meal their family had planned and prepared before their arrival.
One of my twin cousins declared that if this was to be a Raber gathering, it would not be complete without a snack twice a day! It was a plan. If you know the Raber family, there was lots of fun and laughter, but then there was also the serious slant as we all keenly felt the loss of our dear Daddy.
Precious memories were tucked away to be relived after that last van pulled out of the driveway.
The last meal was perfect to wrap it all up — hot dogs, sloppy joe sandwiches, cobblers and ice cream.
My mom’s recipe for sloppy joes is similar to what we had on that Saturday night, so I’ll pass it on to you. Enjoy!
2 pounds hamburger
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon seasoning salt of your choice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
In a large bowl mix hamburger, oats, onion, salt, pepper and seasoning salt and then cook in a large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup flour and stir.
Add 1 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, 2 tablespoons mustard and 1/2 cup brown sugar (or maple syrup). You can adjust any of these ingredients to satisfy your own taste buds. Simmer 10 minutes of medium low.
Gloria Yoder is an Amish mom, writer, and homemaker in rural Illinois. The Yoders travel primarily by horse-drawn buggy and live next to the settlement’s one-room school-house. Readers can write to Gloria at 10510 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427