HOW DO YOU DEFINE a family reunion?
I define those two words as an annual gathering of related people who love and care for one another. They meet to have fun, to laugh and cry together, to joke and also carry on serious conversations, to remember and to make memories. It’s all about reconnecting and maintaining the strong bond of family.
Last weekend my husband’s family reunited at his youngest sister and her husband’s rural acreage north of the metro. It’s a beautiful property with woods and pond in a serene setting that I really did not want to leave on Sunday afternoon.
On this land, 43 of us came together—from as distant as west central Missouri and Grand Rapids, Michigan—for the Helbling family reunion. Thirty-two adults. Eleven kids. And two babies. Every year in recent years there have been new babies.
Missing were my father-in-law, who is recovering from a stroke, and eight others. We remembered, too, those who are no longer with us—my mother-in-law, gone nearly 23 years now, and my nephew who died of cancer 15 years ago. A small group of us, including Justin’s parents, honored him on Sunday with a pizza lunch.
Through shared experiences, we bond as only family can in joy and in grief.
On this weekend, we paused for family portraits, understanding the importance of documenting our presence for future generations. We laughed and cheered as young adults and then kids competed in the human version of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Many threw bean bags in a tournament. Others basked in the bright sunshine on the pond dock watching a cattail float on the water. We cradled snail shells, paddled in the paddle boat, gave hugs and high fives.
We celebrated successes and welcomed the newest Helbling family member, Emmett, born only two weeks prior.
The memories continued to stack as kids chased a baby bunny found in a window well. Great nieces plucked sun-ripened tomatoes. A niece’s husband summoned family to lunch by blowing in to a conch shell. Adults tossed batons and wood chunks onto the lawn in the Scandinavian game of Kubb. Four slim family members stuffed themselves inside a cardboard box, just for fun. And in the deep dark of night, those sleeping in tents awakened to the eerie howling of wolves from a nearby sanctuary.
This is the stuff of memories. This is the stuff of family reunions.
TELL ME, do you have an annual family reunion? What are some of your memories of that event? For me, I have a lingering physical memory of Saturday’s reunion in the form of multiple intensely itchy chigger bites.
FYI: Check back tomorrow for a post about the human version of Hungry Hungry Hippos which was played at the reunion.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling