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"That's right," Dad answered in kind. "I get no respect." Despite their Statler and Waldorf routine, the men obediently rose to their feet and walked to the table.

It would not have been practical to wait for every last person to settle into their seats before eating. Regardless, Ency and Robert waited patiently, as if for some kind of signal, to begin. Some were already eating. Finally, Ency asked no one in particular, "What should we do?" and I answered, "Eat," and took a bite of chicken to encourage her. Once she was convinced that enough people were chowing down, Ency allowed herself the first bite.

During the meal, Dad managed to slip in a suppository joke. The chandelier above grew bright and dim, bright and dim, as Bella, on tiptoes, conducted scientific experiments on the rheostat. Like my sisters, I jumped in and out of conversations, keeping up with several of them at any given time. I intermittently glanced at Ency and Robert to see how they were holding up and often found them quiet, smiling, trying to take it all in.

When my sister Jane finished eating, she stood, grabbed her plate, and disappeared into the kitchen. Her husband, Simon, soon followed, then my cousin Jane, followed by her husband, Roger. Heather and Sean never even made it to the table; they had stayed in the kitchen, where they could see the dining room and still keep an eye on the children, who were parked in front of the blaring TV in the family room. "Where's everyone going?" Ency asked. In her house, people request permission to be excused before leaving the table. My family, accustomed to eating on TV trays or laps, sees no reason to regulate who stands or sits.

"They'll be back," my mother answered breezily.

Some wandered into the other room to check on the kids; a few returned to the table with their Easter baskets and nibbled on candy. Ency and Robert remained seated. Mom announced she was making coffee, and when Robert said he would like a cup, she asked, "Would you like regular or decaf?"

"Regular, please," answered Robert.

Mom guffawed, and said, "That's great because I don't even have decaf. I was going to lie! " She continued to laugh all the way into the kitchen, leaving the few people left at the table to stare after her in bemusement.

My family was scattered to the four corners of the house when Ency and Robert began to say their goodbyes. In her authoritative, no-is-not-a-word manner, Mom said, "So now you're going to do every holiday here, right? You're coming back for Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and then Easter again. Okay?" Before they had a chance to answer, Mom said, "Great, then it's settled." David and I caught each other's eyes, and agreed silently, There's not enough wine in the world.

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