Family Business – Chapter 1

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Cynthia Stewart busied herself around the kitchen organizing for the upcoming thanksgiving celebration with family. Her husband Albert tried his best to stay away from her during preparation for this event as she seemed to have no end of things for him to do on her husband-do list. Not that there was any serious tension between them. They’d been married now for a very long time and were quite committed to each other with rarely a strong disagreement, but his peace was marred at thanksgiving time more than any other family celebration of the year. The only other celebration coming close to this testing time for him was getting things out of storage to prepare the home for Christmas celebration.

Fortunately, he had his youngest son Brian a student still at home and attending the local high school and Brian was unflappable. Brian was strong and dependable nothing was too much trouble for him to do for his parents and Cynthia took full advantage of his personality when it came to celebrations. His father marveled at his son’s calm acceptance of every emergency he was called upon to help with.

Audrey their second youngest was back from college for the weekend and had bought her special young man with her to meet the family. His name was James and he immediately submitted to Cynthia as she organized preparations. Audrey and her mother had an immediate disagreement over Cynthia taking over her man and complained to James, but he deflected her irritation and made it plain he wanted to be part of the family and if pleasing Cynthia was the way to accomplish that goal, he was all for it. Nevertheless, Audrey made a point of possessing her man quite visibly in front of her mother to make the point clear. If James was to be bossed around it would be she, who did it and not her mother. All this went completely over the hear of Cynthia who had a clear vision of what she was about and oblivious to the little dramas being conducted around her.

Their eldest son Tony, his wife Dawn and children Bill and Andrea were to arrive that evening and Cynthia could hardly wait to see her grandchildren and pour out her love on them. Tony lived a three-hour drive away in another city and had established himself professionally there and was well off. Dawn’s parents were in real estate, so they’d been gifted a home on marriage and were very comfortable indeed. They’d be bringing their motor home to take pressure off available beds in the home. Two Christmases ago they’d found increases in families had made accommodation difficult and there’d been some tension over who was to enjoy the best of what was available. That’s when Tony had decided a motor home would serve vacation times in future.

Their second daughter Susan and husband Don Amos and young child Thomas would be arriving a couple of hours after Tom’s arrival and Cynthia was delighted at the expected arrival of yet another grandchild. Susan was a teacher and Don was also in education but working toward a PhD, so their finances were always tight as they tried to juggle Don’s studies, paying off a mortgage on the home and living expenses. Susan was envious of her brother Tony’s good fortune and unfortunately it showed at family celebrations like this.

Albert Stewart had watched the interactions between his children at family gatherings with a mix of amusement and concern. He’d not experienced sibling rivalry in his growing up years. His father was a no-nonsense man who organized his family and taught them to value time spent. But there was love in the home and his siblings had gladly made their contribution as they grew up and one by one departed to follow their careers.  Albert as the eldest inherited this estate and took out a mortgage on the property to give his siblings a fair settlement on their parent’s death. Grandfather had established this large citrus orchard and his father had bought out neighboring properties and extended the orchard to what it was today with residential buildings for seasonal workers largely empty today but with a regular staff who tended the trees at all seasons.

Albert had introduced mechanization of the orchard in his time, so a huge group of seasonal workers was no longer necessary explaining why most of the worker buildings were now empty. Albert was considering converting some into modern motel style units and using them for people booking tours around his orchard with guides to explain growing and harvesting techniques. Perhaps the work during all seasons could be captured on video with explanations? He was in the initial phase of looking at the viability of this added business income. Such a facility would take pressure off home accommodation when the children visited, and Tom wouldn’t have to bring his motor home. Perhaps Susan wouldn’t be so envious if her family and Tom’s had equal accommodation when they visited together.

Most of the work at the orchard was handled by his foreman now and Albert concentrated on planning, business and overall supervision as required. So, he had time to spend on golfing with Cynthia as he got older and liked working in his hobby shed where he was now engaged in making sleds for the grandchildren. It was to be their Christmas presents from he and Cynthia this year, so he had to keep these partly completed sleds under wraps somewhere when his grandchildren came. He was now storing them in a concealed attached storeroom which he could lock up and was preparing little projects for them to keep occupied while they were here with them. They liked doing simple projects in his workshop under his careful supervision. Tony and Dan usually hung around watching their children with pride as they constructed their little projects, or Tony and Dan would go off on a golfing outing leaving granddad to enjoy their kids alone. This year his daughter Audrey had introduced a potential son in law for thanksgiving and he wondered how his other son in laws would bond with James. He quite liked him.

Tony arrived right on schedule and Albert helped him hook the motor home up on the cement slab with electrical, water and sewerage connections. They erected the attached shade to its moorings and Albert moved deck chairs and tables there for those who wanted to enjoy sitting and enjoying scenery around the homestead. Some of the dogs used to range around the orchard at night with watchmen immediately took up residence on the deck chairs and had to be dislodged.

They’d barely finished setting up the motor home when they saw Dan and Susan’s RV turn in from the highway a quarter mile from the Stewart residence. Tony and Albert watched it approach silently and moved forward to greet them as they arrived at the house. Dan was always friendly though as a budding professor he lived in the mental world of academia and all conversations were of a philosophical nature. Audrey gave her brother a guarded hug but there was still tension as she glanced around looking for Tony’s symbol of wealth the motor home.

Hearing her second family arrive Cynthia accompanied by Dawn left the kitchen and went outside to welcome the Amos family followed by little Bill and Andrea who were looking forward to reconnecting with their cousin Thomas. They always had fun together as they rode on their grandparent’s ponies.

Once inside the conversation was animated as each in turn reported on events in their life since their last visit together and Albert and Cynthia stood with their arms around each other proudly surveying their children all together again. Memories of them as little children came to mind as they stood there, and they were proud of each as they thought of what had been and was being accomplished. Each were successful in their professions of choice and two at school were into studies that had no rural application. Pride of the moment was touched with sadness as they thought none of their children seemed to want to carry on with the orchard. The time would come when Albert was no longer able to give it the energies it needed in supervision. Cynthia nudged Albert.

“Where are Audrey, James and Brian we should prepare supper as the weary travelers may want to have an early night after their long journey as it will be a full-on day tomorrow as we prepare for thanksgiving, and I need everyone to chip in and help me out?”

Albert laughed. “Cyn you have enough help with Dawn, Susan and Audrey inside and we men get in the way so I’m taking the men out to golf.”

“Well Brian and James can stay in case we need anything from town.”

“Cyn you’ve had Brian and me running around on small jobs for a week preparing and I know there’s no reason for you to keep them standing outside the door waiting for your command. It’s a wonder James hasn’t fled leaving Audrey behind after being worked to death on his first visit here. No, they’re coming with me!”

Cynthia punched him on the arm playfully. “You’re never around to help when I need you. What have you been doing hiding in your hobby shed all afternoon when I needed you?”

“Working on projects for the grandkids while they’re here.”

“You’ll do anything to avoid chores for me Albert. But it will be nice for them to have something to do with their time while adults are enjoying their catching up together and you always look after them so well, so I suppose I must forgive you for hiding from me if you were doing something useful like that.”

Albert gave his Cyn a hug and went off looking for Brian, Audrey and James and found them returning after doing a quick run around the orchard on the farm electric UTV’s.

Albert smiled happily to see these young adults taking an interest in his orchard. James spoke enthusiastically.

“This is quite a set up sir. You can be very proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

Brian looked at him with interest.

“You’re saying the right things James as my dad lives for this place. Maybe you’d like to spend vacation here looking at how a first-class orchard runs. I certainly could use some company helping dad with management and it will give you an insight into what makes Audrey tick.”

Audrey gave her brother a playful kick. “Explain yourself brother. What do you mean what makes Audrey tick?”

Brian laughed and ran into the house followed by Audrey in hot pursuit raining blows on him. James chuckled. The more he got to know this family the more comfortable he felt in his budding relationship with Audrey. He’d been impressed with the orchard and began to wonder if he was working on the right career at college. Management certainly was a useful course no matter what eventual job one chose to do in life but if he was going to change direction, he’d need a lot more training than his present college course. He turned to Albert.

‘I’d like to spend my vacation here learning more about orchard management sir. What kind of academic studies did you do to prepare you to handle this orchard business when you took over from your father?”

Albert took a fresh interest in this young man. “I went to the university of hard knocks James. Learned the trade from my dad who learned it from his dad. The best educational experience I could have had. I did take management in college though and that was helpful when I eventually took over from my father. Come here on your next vacation. We pay well and if you have an interest in this kind of career then our orchard is tops in the trade and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the learning experience. It’s not easy work despite being so mechanized so think carefully before you commit.”

To be continued.

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2022 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

16 thoughts on “Family Business – Chapter 1

  1. Ian, I love stories set around large families and this seems to have a wonderful set of characters. Looking forward to getting to know them better now that I’ve caught this right at the start.

    Liked by 1 person

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