by Don Bingham
Summer seems to present an open invitation to entertaining, family-style, with the annual or biannual or even the “every five year” reunion. Parents, grandparents, children, cousins all converge on a certain location for a determined length of time. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day — all seem to lend themselves to “family reunion.” We just had ours – 52 of us from Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Utah, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Alabama and of course Arkansas. There were those who flew in, those who drove in, those who came in a “limo” and those who came with a carload of children; some came early to help “set up” and others stayed late to assist in cleaning up. What a rush of excitement to all run out to meet the arriving guest – to see who’s gotten older, put on weight or trimmed down – with hugs for everyone. How precious family can be!
It was such fun, and some amount of work, for those who planned and directed the weekend. Some of our meals were done on the grill. One son-in-law smoked meats ahead of time and we had to have a wiener/marshmallow roast, as well. Everything “sweet” imaginable – from blackberry cobbler and pies to birthday cakes and cookies – was available “24-7.” Most of the desserts had been prepared ahead of time by the adult grandchildren and brought to the celebration.
There were the housing assignments upon arrival with gift bags in each room; there were the welcoming statements at coffee time by the hosts; there were swimming parties, testimonials, baseball games and card tournaments.
Among the highlights was the Sunday morning worship service, when all 52 sang. The devotional was led by a son-in-law who is a minister in the Philadelphia area. Another highlight was on Saturday afternoon when the grandmothers took the 17 children for a craft time and a “high tea” – complete with china cups and saucers with lessons on proper “tea etiquette.” (Granddads were asked to come along to help with the craft time so the adult children and their spouses could have some quality “chat time” by the pool.)
There was the usual happening of some of the children who had meltdowns over a particular game they did not want play, and some who tried to drink the bubble mixture instead of the traditional method of “blowing” the lovely, round, floating creations. My favorite was when a precious 4-year-old ventured over to the shrubbery area and began to play in the spongy, amoeba, mushroom growth on the ground. It was all such fun.
Then there was a hayride for all 52 of us. After every age of humanity had hiked onto the wagon full of hay, the wagon gave one heroic effort to pull us for a block before it died, never to be resurrected again — and we all dismounted to head to the wiener roast.
There were decks of cards with the family names printed on them; there were notecards with reproduced prints of a painting done in oils, and of course coffee around the clock. And, oh, the stories! Most were laughable memories that the “now grown” children had experienced throughout their growing up years, and some stories, perhaps, should have not been told.
The first day was given over to the memories and in honor of the grandparents who are now deceased, the second day was spent remembering the parents who were gone – each guest was given pictures of these family members as reminders of the heritage we all have in past generations.
It was three days of family “togetherness” that will go down in history as the event when “a grand time was had by all.” Of course, with 52 different people will come 52 different opinions, but all in all peace was kept and the “Mama’s Family” syndrome was kept at bay. Even the “outlaws” of the family were genuine in their desire to have a grand time and be a part of the festivities.
With the price of gas and cost of travel, it was amazing that everyone would put forth the effort to come – and better yet, to stay. We did not have a talent show, a cooking contest or bring all our wedding albums, but there was never a down time or a boring moment. When it comes to entertaining, there are so many families that have the ability to “make things happen” and entertainment becomes a commodity not often experienced by the extended family unit.
There is still time for a family reunion this year, and plenty of time to plan for next year’s gathering. We may have to resort to some simple, homespun “conversation” for entertainment – imagine that!