Sunday, October 18, 2009
“I can’t breathe, call an ambulance”.
“You just hit a flock of ducks!”
“You have mononucleosis.”
Family reunion time when I was a kid could always be counted upon to bestow some crisis, usually involving firemen, diarrhea and/or a hospital stay. I grew up far from my parent’s families, so each summer the doors to the house would be wired shut (to prevent theft of the two ton 1969 console TV), the car would be loaded with my parents’ matching Samsonites crammed with two weeks’ worth of clothes and cross-country we would go. My Dad insisted it take no more than a day and a half to get from Ohio to Colorado. If he could have done it in one and saved the cost of stopping at a hotel at midnight, which he reluctantly agreed to only because my mother was threatening to leap from the car, he would have. Once in Denver, the “visiting” would commence: Mom and Dad going from relative to relative, sitting and chatting about weather and the lawn watering schedules while my sister and I played with rocks and slowly died of boredom. Sometimes the trip would culminate in a huge gathering of my Mom’s aunts, uncles and cousins at a century old lodge that could only charitably be called “rustic”. There was more chatting, great-aunts and uncles my sister and I were sure we had never met, commenting on how much we had grown, no television for miles, and every weekend the lodge held a square dancing night, which was just too dorky to be suffered, even for a geek like me. Given the addition of an aforementioned calamity (the last time I went it was the mono), I could never understand why my parents insisted on the summer ritual.
Fast forward a few years. O.K., more than twenty-five, and I will admit to a new glimmer of understanding. I recently returned from the annual fall party that Highlights for Children throws for its illustrators. There is food, a workshop, more food, a costume party, more food, and, yes, square dancing. It is warm and fuzzy to have such appreciation shown, but for me, even more meaningful is the sense of community the event has fostered. I don’t have to pack two kids along, but many do, and I have watched some grow up, and often comment on how big they have gotten, not minding the “why is this old lady talking to me” looks. There are marriages and divorces, births and sometimes a death, successes and failures, all shared over and over, connecting everyone to everyone else in one big messy family. I am fervently hoping to avoid ever having to be hospitalized or involve the Honesdale fire department in the festivities, but I did board the plane one year heavily medicated for a severe bladder infection, not something you want to have on a five hour, one teeny tiny bathroom flight, and another year left the day after a root canal that required six, that’s right SIX shots of anesthesia to complete. It is THAT wonderful a weekend. A family reunion I don’t want to miss.