Last Wednesday, with the car fully loaded, we set off on the road for the fantastic camping trip that is my annual family reunion.
I know that often, family reunions can bring to mind cringe-worthy situations, awkward silences, and general feelings of ‘I’d rather be anywhere else than here right now’. This is not my family reunion. Every year, we make it a point to gather together and celebrate the love and joy of being a family. To celebrate connecting with one another, in a time when the world needs a lot of love. To celebrate the hope of spreading this idea of love and joy onto others, and maybe having other people follow suit.
This year was extra special. It marked the 50th annual family reunion. For fifty consecutive years, we have gathered as a family to celebrate with games, music, skits, dancing, singing, bonfires, conversation, and above all, love and laughter together.
And when I say ‘we’ I don’t mean myself and few of my immediate family members. My family is HUGE. And so many of us make the trek to the camping field to partake in such a special event. This year being the 50th, it was our biggest year yet. A total of 219 of us joined together on the field for the best reunion I’ve ever been to. And since I’ve never missed one in all my 28 years, that’s saying something.
This year was even more special to me, as it marked my last year as an officer. You read that correctly. Our family has officers; a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. It sounds weird (and honestly, it may be, and I am so okay with that) but it is actually essential to make something of this scale happen (even when it isn’t extra massive for a milestone like the 50th). Events like this take so much planning and organization, and the officers committee is what gets it all done. We had monthly, and eventually bi-weekly & weekly, meetings on Skype planning out things we needed to order, games ideas, entertainment options, and so much more. And for me, it was so incredibly special.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a really shy person. I don’t go out of my way to meet people, and that often included many people at my own family reunions. I knew some, but not many, and many people didn’t know me as I just didn’t put myself out there. But a few years ago (six to be exact) I was pregnant with my little miss, and I realized just how special it was to be a part of something like these reunions. How special it is for her to get to grow up with them, just like I did. And I wanted to contribute. So despite being terrified at the idea of having to get up and speak in front of people and not really knowing what I was entirely getting myself into, I volunteered as secretary for the family.
It was a decision I will never, ever regret. Over the past five years, I have gotten to know people so much better (and vice versa!) Being an officer and being involved let me get to know family members I otherwise wouldn’t have, and it is really nice to go each year and know so many people on sight rather than having to ask. As an added bonus, it really helped with the shyness. This year, not only did I participate in a little skit, but I happily went up to and met people who were new to the reunion. I met cousins all the way from California, North Carolina, and even had some amazing talks with one of my cousins who came all the way from France. It was such an incredible experience, one that wouldn’t have happened had I not decided to take the plunge and volunteer.
As for what we do at these reunions? It’s more like what DON’T we do. We have organized games.
Let me tell you, you have not lived until you’ve seen your 80+ year old grandmother go head to head with her cousin, both with pantyhose on their heads swinging a tennis ball to knock down water bottles.
We have oodles of entertainment. So many branches of the family put on skits this year, and we also have such amazing music. So much of our family is incredibly musically talented, and they always put on such a great show.
We have a bonfire each night, which is where my favorite part comes in. I absolutely adore the late nights around the fire. Acoustic music of a few guitars and everyone singing together, plus the conversations with relatives you only see once a year or less; it’s incredible. This year being the 50th, we had so many other specialties up our sleeve, including a makeshift ice cream truck to deliver ice cream on the field, a parade, & a family Superbowl (since the Superbowl was also 50 this year).
But while what we do is obviously fun and a great time, those things aren’t the core of the reunion. The core lies with us, the family, choosing to take time off of work, travel, and spend these precious days together just to celebrate love for one another. It’s something I hope other people will take to heart, and think about doing for their own family. I get that not everyone has an amazing relationship with their families, and many for good reason, but I encourage you to think about setting up a gathering of your own. Even if it’s only five or ten people. Taking the time to just be together, to tell them you love them, it’s such an important thing in the world today. I am so unbelievably lucky to be a part of something like this, and I can’t wait to be there for the 100th!
Have you ever had a family reunion of any size? Did you enjoy it? Would you ever consider having one in the future? Let me know in the comments!