THIS YEAR THEY CALLED in the referees to control the competitors.
The competitors would be the descendants (and spouses) of Henry and Ida Kletscher, gathered on Sunday afternoon in the Vesta City Park for the annual family reunion. My aunts and uncles and cousins and their kids and their kids’ kids; my mom; four of my siblings and two of their spouses; and a single nephew.
Fueled by a potluck meal, preschoolers to my 90-year-old Aunt Elaine participated in an afternoon of organized competitive activities ranging from puzzle making to relay races to nail pounding to Kletscher family trivia.
Laughter erupted. Legs pounded the parched and hardened lawn. Good-natured kidding abounded.
Cheating ran rampant, despite the two referees, who couldn’t possibly spot every rule infringement.
I stepped back from the water balloon toss, dodged squirt gun fire, held my camera above the chaos to photograph the competition.
To a distant passerby, the goings-on may have appeared crazy and chaotic and perhaps worthy of a call to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department.
But I observed fun—a family connecting and building memories.
In many ways, the reunion took me back to decades earlier and evenings of gathering at the farms of extended family members to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Then I was the kid, the girl racing across a pitch black farm yard playing “Starlight Moonlight” with my cousins—connecting, building memories.
Today I am the photographer, capturing those memories, reveling in the blessings of belonging to a family that cares enough to come together every July in a rural southwestern Minnesota city park a skip over gravel roads from acres of cropland.
This the land of our forefathers, the home of our hearts, the place where family memories are rooted, here on the prairie.
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© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling