This weekend my family and I ventured to the tiny little town of Tightwad, MO (population 63) for our annual family reunion. This year was really special to me because I almost had to miss it. I know what you are thinking, "You had an excuse not to go to your family reunion and you didn't take it?? Are you crazy?" Actually, my family reunion is one of the two favorite events every year (Christmas being the other) and I was very upset when I thought I was going to miss it.
Why? Well, for a guy who grew up with a single mom and one baby sister who is 14 years my junior--my immediate family is HUGE! My mom had six brothers and I have 27 cousins. My mom and I grew up with my grandpa for the first ten years of my life so family was always around. Christmas in a double wide trailer was CRAZY. You want to talk about your packed houses. If the town I grew up had fire codes (and I'm not sure they do) I'm pretty sure that little place was over capacity.
In 1986, my grandpa died. At his funeral the priest made a comment that often after the second parent dies the big families like ours tend to drift apart. My Uncle Alan took this as a challenge and has done what he can to prevent this from happening. He started a family bulletin that he compiled and put together every month, then every other month and eventually every quarter or so (our family tends to procrastinate) We had a family reunion in 1995 but we didn't really get together as a family until 1998 when my oldest uncle, Bud, passed away. It had been so long since we had gotten together even though we still kept in touch using the website "myfamily.com." So, the next year arrangements were made to have a family reunion at Hickory Hollow Resort in Tighwad, MO.
We have gone there for 11 years now. It's a nice place. Every family has a cabin with a kitchen area. There is a pool. The week-end is usually the same pretty much. A weenie-roast on Friday night which ends up in drinking around the camp fire until the morning hours. Saturday everyone does their own thing. Saturday night we have a dinner, some sort of activity and then drinking around the campfire until the wee hours of the morning. The past several years we have had different themes such as St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Halloween etc etc that we can make extra activities out of.
Themes don't really matter to me. My favorite time is the bonding time around the camp fire. My family has some of the most important people in my life and it saddens me that I only get to see some of them once a year or sometimes every other year. We don't have to spend time catching up or anything. We just . . . visit. As if we see each other every week. It's a very comforting place to be and to relax because of the love that is in that place. This year the three remaining "Magnificent Seven" were there and 17 of the remaining 27 cousins and how knows how many second cousins were there.
Sadly, the family reunion is the last place I've seen several of my relatives. Marilyn, Mick, Dave, Bob . . . the last memories I have of them are sitting around that campfire because they passed away before the next one. (Although--our family knows how to have a good time at funerals too) Yes, sadly the Magnificent Seven has dwindled down to the "Unholy Trinity" of Alan, Steve and my mom. But hopefully we have several more decades of them there with us.
My family kicks butt. We may bicker sometimes but we don't fight. We all enjoy laughing and making a good joke. In fact, I believe my image of heaven is me sitting around that campfire at the family reunion. Until next year . . .