We’ve been attending the Meriden Y’s Men’s annual spring picnic for many years now but this year the event, chaired yet again by the ebullient Len Cheerman, was a truly perfect occasion. The weather was exquisite in a week of rain, the food was delicious and the company engaging.
In years past, I prepared my usual wine, cheese, grapes and crackers for the social hour before the huge picnic meal offered, but when I found myself sitting with the spread as my husband roamed about mixing and mingling, the only social part for me was when friends sought me out to chat.
Then there were years when I made sure he had arranged ahead for us to sit with good friends so we wives could visit while our husbands did their thing. That worked well until I found myself having trouble hearing in the din of 120 or so people gathered together in the pavilion at the YMCA’s Mountain Mist Day Camp on High Hill Road.
When I fell and broke my tibia and fibula last year, it put me pretty much out of action and with my husband hampered by a bad back, we were both on walkers and grounded for this year’s event.
On our arrival, we were seated at a table right in the center of the action. When supper was served we were among the first in line to choose from the hearty spread set out by Gus and Mindy Esteves, former owners of Rick’s on 5, assisted by their daughter and son, Julia and Noah. Y's Man Peter Burch arranged for them to cater the event as they have for the past several years.
I loaded up my plate with a huge cheeseburger topped with sliced tomato and onion, a piece of grilled chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, garden salad, rice pilaf and, my favorite, eggplant parmesan. Luckily, our gracious host, Len Cheerman, was standing by to carry my plate back to our table while I grabbed a bottle of water to wash it all down. (Soft drinks were also available.)
While we ate, we had a chance to visit with other members and their wives waiting to pick up their supper in a line that passed right by our table, and to chat briefly with others on the way back to their tables with plates piled high with food. This was one of the few times so many of the friends we have known for years but rarely see and whose company we cherish were all together in one convenient location.
And it was indeed a happy evening. At a brief, not too businesslike meeting, the gavel was passed from chairman Paul Scollan to Mike Rhode who will now head up the group and who recited a poem he had written for the occasion. Not to be outshone, Bruce Burchsted, who always has a witty rhymed offering to contribute, took his place in the limelight. Awards were given to top bridge and cribbage players and then it was time for dessert.
Once again, Len Cheerman, the host with the most, brought my husband and me wedges of watermelon and fancy cookies to top off an enormous meal.
Following all the food and the meeting and especially the camaraderie, people seemed reluctant to leave the premises but as the tables were cleared and pavilion put back in order, the party started to break up. Even then, as we were leaving (with a lot of help from our friends to maneuver the uneven parking lot en route to our car) we came upon knots of folks still standing about and chatting outside on one of the season’s mildest evenings.
When people are reluctant to have an evening end, it’s a sure sign that the party was a big success. So as we were leaving, my husband told Len Cheerman he had provided a lot of joy to the entire membership and their wives. But Len pointed out, with a twinkle, that the more appropriate word, for him, was CHEER.