It's a yearly event, one most of us anxiously await...
...or in my case both.
It involves a major road trip for us, and that means the family manager - that would be me - kicks into overdrive. This year though, for whatever reason, I wasn't too stressed out. I made my usual lists: what to buy, what to pack, what to remember to do before we left, and a half dozen other what-to's that got added to with stunning regularity. OCD'er that I am, of course I write in and check off anything that I accomplish that isn't already on the list. By the time (pre-dawn!) we pulled out in a fully loaded Vantana, four pages of exed-out lines in double columns on both sides were stacked neatly on the freshly wiped counter.
Since both Husband and I are displaced Midwesterners, we make an effort to visit both our families in one fell swoop. With the size of our clans however, that's harder than it sounds. This year, odds were better since both family reunions were scheduled for the same week.
Husband's Family religiously books sites in January for our week long, summer camping family reunion (the date of which is determined around the campfire a year in advance). Or, I should say, Hubby's Sister #3 does the booking. The rest of us depend on her tenaciousness in securing a block of connected sites approaching the size of Rhode Island. She swears timing is everything.
For nearly a week we are immersed in communal family living - we, who live at far distances reveling in the proximity of loved ones, the within-staters tolerating it for the sake of family unity. And whenever individual space is needed, a nap in tent or camper is never viewed as anything more than typical lazy, vacation fare.
Actually, Husband's Family could serve as a prototype for what families should look like. Even at their worst they are much better than most. Family first, but friends by choice - sisters (6), brothers (5), in-laws and outlaws and their offspring (2 apiece for the married ones, our Critters being the exception) and now a generation of babies - most of us actually choosing to spend our yearly vacation time together!
My Side? Well, I am one of nine, but my own siblings, I'm sorry to say, are so disparate in lifestyle and beliefs that, other than physical resemblance, we have little in common. Not that we aren't nice to one another, but often it is the politeness of strangers.
...or maybe it's just me...
...or... it could have something to do with the fact that I live several states away and rarely see the rest. But barring some cataclysmic event involving earthquakes and within-continental drift, that isn't likely to change.
I had hoped that this year would be different. After all, it's been nine years since we all gathered for our parent's 50th wedding anniversary. And now that Dad has cancer, I'm pretty sure we're all making more of an effort to keep in touch, at least with our parents. But during the My Side portion of our trip, not everyone stayed at the same place, so the only time we had all together was our single afternoon, extended family reunion.
There were dozens of other clan members to touch base with - long forgotten cousins, distant several-times-removed folk, beloved aunts, uncles and more... so many that my Critters were a bit overwhelmed by it all, and earned an unprecedented reputation for being shy!
Taking after my Father, I find myself having to talk with every single person present no matter where I am. Put me in a situation where there are not only familiar faces, but histories and....well, let's just say, if Hubby had had a roast in the oven, it would've burnt to a crisp! (No, there were no roasts at the reunion, and come to think of it, I have never known Hubby to cook one... but, no matter, Mom will get the reference.) What I mean is, there just wasn't enough time to reestablish ties with everyone, even though I tried, by gum! I felt horrible when I realized how the crowd had thinned and there were several people I hadn't done more than say hello to.
Belatedly, I realized that my older Critters had the right idea. They went swimming with an uncle and cousin or two, and ignored the rest of us. And had a great time.
Of course, it took half an hour to "sneak" out, but toward the end of the reunion, I grabbed Husband and Bonus Baby and went swimming too. Other of my siblings joined us, and soon half of the clan was making pyramids and playing the same water games we had as children. So... it may not have been the reunion I dreamt of, but it turned out pretty well all the same.
Oh, and apologies again to the tall, blond contingent that ended up at the wrong beach....