Monday, August 1, 2016

Family Reunion

We went to Colorado with Steve's parents for a few days to attend a family reunion. This was a gathering of the descendants of my father-in-law Jim's mother and her siblings.
Jim's mother, Annabelle, is the woman on the far left of the back row. Wasn't she lovely?

 I knew (and adored) her only in her later years, so it was fun to see pictures and hear stories about her younger life. To the extended family she is remembered as beloved Aunt Belle.

The family has long since left their home in the Oklahoma panhandle and are now scattered across the country. Every few years they get together for fellowship and remembrance. When Steve and I were first married we went to a reunion in South Carolina with his parents, Grandma Annabelle, a great aunt, and our teenage niece and nephew. Twelve years ago, the summer before Katherine came home, we made another 4 generation trip to Estes Park, Colorado. This year's reunion was in Colorado Springs.

All 80 family members stayed in an enormous hotel complex with a view of the mountains.
We had access to two swimming pools, a grassy courtyard space, and private rooms to eat a couple of family meals together. It worked nicely. There was also some sort of Porsche convention in the hotel, so there were a number of nice cars in the parking lot!
The first evening we spent time learning names and trying to figure out how we were all related.
When I explained my somewhat tenuous connection to the clan (I am married to a grandson of one of the founding siblings), an aunt cheerfully declared that I was an "out-law"! All of the family members were welcome and accepting, so it didn't really matter how close my ties were. We played a game and sipped rootbeer floats and enjoyed to evening air.

My father-in-law, Jim, has more than 60 first cousins (both of his parents came from HUGE families!) and he obviously enjoyed spending time with them again.

The old photograph of the original siblings and their mother was passed around and everyone laughed over family resemblances and personality traits.

The kids ran around and played. Rachel caught a grasshopper and showed off her human pretzel tricks.

Over the next two days there was a family golf tournament (Jim's group won), group trips to tourist sites, and plenty of time to sit and chat. On Friday evening there was a family meal and entertainment. All the families ate together and talked about life in different parts of the country. The table centerpieces included flags from all the states where we live.
After the meal there was a talent show, which included a clarinet solo, pro football fan razzing, a 6 year old telling knock-knock jokes, and other assorted silliness. The traditional Dork Award was presented to the person who did the goofiest things during the reunion (the recipient was a multi-year winner). And, since the Olympics were only a week away, there was a zany Olympics with events like the shot put using balloons and a "track event" that involved pulling the tape out of old 8-tracks. Gold, silver, and bronze medals were given and the winners had to stand on an improvised stand. It was all great fun!

My girls had been a little apprehensive about spending time with a big group of total strangers, but by the end of the week they were wishing we could stay longer. There were other kids that they wanted to get to know and they enjoyed all the gentle teasing among grown cousins. When it was announced that the next reunion will be in Oklahoma in 2018 both girls immediately turned to me and asked, "Can we go?" Family reunions are a very good thing!

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