A few weeks ago we drove home from a Family Reunion weekend at Lake Honeoye in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. I thought about how lucky my children and I are to have this experience year after year. I grew up having week long family reunions every year! My dad has 3 sisters who each had 4 kids, so there are a lot of cousins! As time flew by we all grew into adults, many of us with children of our own so we don’t have week long reunions and all of us are not able to to attend, but when we have the opportunity we do like to get together.
Many of you are probably thinking, “dear God, I wouldn’t wish a family reunion on my worst enemy!” But just hear me out-I think you can do it. And you might even enjoy it.
Come on, just try it:
1. First, find a family you want to spend a bunch of time with. Whether you were raised by an awesome family, married into one or just happened to stumble upon an amazing one, choose that family to reunify with.
2. Then, show up. If you don’t show up, they’ll talk about you.
3. For the kids, go Free Range! Let ‘em run. Strap on the life preserver and watch them explore. Or don’t watch them. I don’t care.
4. Say yes to sugar!! This is not the time to watch your kids diet. Let them eat Fluff! Let them eat Kraft Mac n’ Cheez! Let them drink soda for heaven’s sake! This barely ever happens. Give in.
5. Pull your weight. Everyone brings food. Everyone helps clean up. Everyone makes sure the children are fed. Someone give that kid another popsicle!
6. Stay up late! There will come a point, it will be 1 AM and you’ll be standing around the fire reaching for another beer or glass of wine and you will think to yourself, “is this really a good idea?” The answer is always yes. It’s two days. It’s ok if you are tired. When is the next time you will be with your cousins like this?
7. Stand around the coffee maker the next morning and ask, “why do we always do this?” while rubbing your eyes and reaching for the Advil.
8. Don’t let the dramatic moments weigh you down. Store them away for the next year when you can ridicule the person who caused the moment or use it as a safety lesson. Like the time Sammie slipped off the boat and caught her thigh on the cleat! She needed about a million stitches and it basically ended her summer fun, but don’t think we don’t use every boat ride as an opportunity to yell “watch out for the cleat!”
9. Watch, when your kids say watch. They have probably just choreographed the most amazing dance ever! Or else, they have learned to jump off the end of the dock. Or they are going tubing for the first time! No matter what, that look of utter pride and joy-that’s why you are here!
10. Enjoy the quiet times. When you are sitting on the dock enjoying your coffee in the morning-this could be the moment that means the most. Connect one on one with someone. Tell them how much they have inspired you. Or maybe they will tell you.
I can not imagine a life without these moments. This is where memories are made. There are good times and bad. Divorce, death and illness have impacted our family throughout the years. These are times when the dynamics have changed. When we come back together and reconnect and lean on one another and play guitar and sing at the top of our lungs, that’s how we pick up and move forward together.