Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Destination Life : : Anne McAllister

lifes journeyI just got home from a family reunion.

We used to have these sorts of things on the 4th of July when I was a kid because my grandfather’s birthday was July 4th,and it was always a good time to get everyone together.  At that time I was usually the second youngest in the crowd unless my stepdad’s youngest brother was there with his much littler kids.  Now I get to be the grandma!

I enjoyed those reunions a lot, but they were one day events – an afternoon of games like croquet and badminton and touch football in my grandparents’ big yard, followed by a barbecue, followed as soon as it got dark by the fireworks my uncle would bring and which he and my cousin would set off, accompanied by my aunt calling out every few minutes, “Steven!  Be careful, Steven!  You’re going to burn your fingers/hands/arms/face/eyes, Steven!”

lakeHe never did.  We were always glad, but we always waited for the warnings. It wouldn’t have been the same without the sound track!

I remember them fondly, those days.  But after my grandparents moved to a second floor apartment, we stopped having the yearly events.  My parents never had them.  If I’d asked why, they’d have said, “Well, you moved away.” And they would have been right.

When my kids were growing up we were more than halfway across the country from my folks and almost halfway across the country in the other direction from my in-laws.

So – no family reunions.

bikesThen my kids grew up and moved away and started getting married, and began living at great distances from each other. They managed to get together at weddings. But then we ran out of weddings – and it turned into seven years since they had all been in the same place at the same time.  There were also a considerable number of grandchildren who had never met each other and uncles and aunts who had never met their nieces and nephews.

Something had to be done.

So this year we did it.  We planned a family reunion of our own.

We decided to find a place that either everyone could drive to (a couple of days’ trip in some cases) or a single airplane flight with no connections necessary unless so desired.  That way,  we figured, it was unlikely that anyone would spent the entire reunion in an airport miles from where they wanted to be.

catfishWe picked Minneapolis-St Paul as our hub – and started looking for places within a couple of hours of that airport.  It met all the criteria. And we wanted a family friendly place on a lake.  Minnesota has lots of them.

We found one that seemed likely to work for us – and we went a week ago Sunday. We spent five days together --- twenty of us. The only one missing was our eldest grandson who is playing baseball on the Outer Banks of North Carolina this summer.  It was lovely.

chinese checkersLots of kayaking and canoeing and swimming.  Lots of successful fishing – including several large-mouth bass and, for an excited 4 year old, a memorable catfish.  S’mores (though we’ve discovered most of us want the marshmallows on the side. Is it genetic, I wonder?) and brats and birthday cake for the two birthdays celebrated this past week.  Hundreds (literally) of games of Chinese Checkers.  Lots of Uno and Taboo.  One marathon game of chess that must’ve starred Henry VIII as the king because he kept getting new queens as the old ones bit the dust.

lake sunsetThe cousins bonded.  The siblings were very happy to see each other and meet their nieces and nephews.  A good enough time was had by all that we are thinking that, in three years time, we might do it again – out in Montana next time. 

It’s probably going to be the highlight of my summer.  Very likely it will be the highlight of the year.  It felt just a little bit like when I write a series of books and people from the old books turn up in the new ones.  Only better.

Anne is working on another in her series she calls Beware of Greeks, this one about the youngest  -- and most difficult – Antonides son, Lukas.  He’s already screwed this book up twice.  She’s hoping he gets his act together the third time around and decides which woman he really loves – and then convinces her that she loves him.  It’s the hardest thing both she and Lukas have ever done.

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