The song was repeated numerous times, each time getting louder and more energetic in its delivery. When Esther joined the chorus, it was with such enthusiasm that it frightened me for a moment.
I saw Jeremias standing in the clearing in front of the barn with his hat in his hands, his cracked face uplifted.
All of Jeremias and Esther's gray-haired children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren were dressed for work. There was not a single garment that had not been patched. The boots were well-worn. Gloves adorned each man's hands. Aprons were worn by all the adult and some of the younger women.
Each individual who was old enough to do so, carried tools or supplies. There were rakes, brooms, hammers, planks, ladders, and saw horses among other items. The women, at least the ones who were not holding infants, mostly carried baskets laden with produce, linen, and every ingredient for a grand feast.
In his arms one large man cradled a woman who had a cast on her leg.
When the crowd grew near him, Jeremias sat on ground and the younger children flooded toward him. At the onrush, he lay back in the dirt and the little ones swarmed over him like giggling puppies. One by one he lifted them into the air and they chuckled as only loved children can.
When the adults approached the porch, Esther, overcome with emotion, sat in her rocker to accept the hugs from her family. I found it interesting that the adults presented themselves first to their mother. After an emotional hug, each female adult was given instructions. This one was put in charge of taking the children to pick the blackberries for the cobbler, that one told where to pick the flowers for the table arrangement. This continued until all of the women were busy preparing for the feast.
The men told their mother what they thought needed to be done to fix up the old home place, and only after her approval did they begin the repairs. They swarmed around the house, barn and yard like determined bees. They scraped paint, removed and replaced rotted board. A new screen door was substituted for the old. Broken panes of glass were replaced and lovingly glazed.
With all of the adults busy, I knelt down beside Esther.
"I think it best that I go now," I said.
"Go? You ain't even eat yet. Now, sit right down here and listen to an old woman brag." She began to point out her children to me.
"That tall one there is Mathew. He's a lawyer. That one in the yellow shirt is Mark. He's a doctor, but not the kind what makes you well. He teaches at one of them big universities up north. That one there is the doctor what makes folks well."
As she continued through all of her twelve children, I realized that they were all names from the bible.
This continued through accountants, pilots and even a retired dancer. I learned that her grandson, Thaddaeus, had, in fact, made the shoes that she and Jeremias were wearing, but he was an artist in New York who had gallery openings for his creations and even had a pair of his most creative efforts in the Smithsonian.
But then Esther's face showed a great concern as she craned her neck and looked around the farm.
"Where's Zacharias?" she yelled.