My dad's family got together this weekend. We got home about three hours ago. Oz is snoozing, the kids are playing quietly, and I have no inclination to leave my comfy spot on the couch for anything short of a Hazmat operation. We all have sunburns, though none of us are fluorescent. The kids have become intimately familiar with 10:30 p.m. They also have met more family members than they will ever be able to keep track of.
These reunions happen every three or four years. One of my uncles typically hosts since he owns a huge house on a huge lake which allows for lots to do and lots of lodging close by. Someone told me there were about 80 people expected this weekend; another estimate was closer to 100. My dad is one of 12 kids. His parents are both still alive. Both of my grandparents came this weekend, though they studiously avoided one another; they divorced decades ago. Eleven of the 12 siblings were able to make it to this reunion; the 12th was definitely missed.
Then there's the rest of the family.
The age range of my cousins blows my mind sometimes. My oldest cousins are in their mid-40s, closer to my parents' age than mine; my youngest cousins are still in middle school and closer to my kids' ages. I'm somewhere in the middle, born within a month of two of my other cousins. There's a picture that floats around of the three of us as infants, all lined up on my grandmother's couch. One of my aunts had the idea to restage that photo this weekend, but it didn't happen. Anyway, the long and short of it is that our family is so big that we get T-shirts printed up with the genealogy of the family printed on the back so everyone knows which kids - and spouses - belong to whom. The T-shirts are color-coded by family. Each of the 12 siblings picks a different color shirt, and all their progeny wear the same color. The 'family picture' looks like those big school photos where they try to squeeze everyone into an area the size of a postage stamp. Faces are dots, and identification is optional. And as soon as the T-shirts are printed, they become obsolete. There's another baby due any day now and two more due later this year.
With a family that big, though, there's always someone to play with. M1, usually my loner, made a couple of good cousin friends; M2, the social butterfly, flitted from group to group and enjoyed the company of everyone from my grandmother to a three-month-old baby, whose diaper she helped to change. Oz has long been in the favor of my uncles.
Nobody really sat still at the reunion. We ran hard. The parents slathered their kids in sunscreen (repeatedly), insisted on life jackets, and watched them fly off the dock and into the water as soon as they got the say-so. If the parents wanted a break, there was always an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or cousin to watch them. Adults migrated in circles from the top deck to the bottom deck to the dock and back up to the air-conditioned house. All the food was fixed in-house (meat, eggs and cinnamon rolls for breakfast; sandwiches and chips for lunch; barbecue and all the fixin's for dinner), and we ate in the garage in front of a huge fan to try to keep the air circulating. My kids saw the empty tables before everyone arrived and said, "It looks like a cafeteria!" In addition to the swimming and the talking and the eating, there were people boating, fishing, trap shooting, schlepping donations to Joplin, and even taking the occasional siesta (though of course my two didn't believe in that and paid for it by nightfall). Coolers filled with drinks and ice dotted the landscape. Everyone shared toys, and the one rule of the weekend - NO SCREAMING (unless there is profuse bleeding) - was followed extremely well.
All in all, even though these reunions are exhausting and take more organization than I can even imagine, they're amazing. They're fun. They're definitely memorable. If I had been smart, I'd have taken pictures, but I didn't. The camera stayed in my purse, and my purse stayed in the van. It'll be hard to wait another three or four years to see everyone again, but I'm definitely looking forward to it. Yay for great family reunions!