Friday, June 26, 2009

Looking forward to vacation...

I'm feeling excited because we will be at my family reunion in less than a week and I'm really looking forward to it. I've heard people moan and groan about having to attend family reunions in the past, and I never understand that. I LOVE attending the family reunion.

I suppose that's because I grew up with it every year and it was always a big part of our family vacation time. This particular reunion has been going on for 60+ years, and for at least the last 50 years it has been held at the same location every year. So I grew up always knowing that for 4th of July weekend, we would be camping at Iron Springs (in the mountains of Utah, near Flaming Gorge if you know anything about the area...). When I was a kid, we would go up and camp for a week or two around the reunion. All of my immediate family (from my grandparents on down) camps in a small area together. It was a chance to see all the close cousins and hang out with them. We had all kinds of time to just run around in the woods, go fishing, explore the cave, play in the meadow... idyllic, really.

When night fell, my cousins and I would play hide and seek in the dark. Now as a mother, I can't imagine letting my kids run around in the forest at night deliberately trying to lose all their companions. But maybe when they're older. And of course, at night there would be a huge campfire with the obligatory hot dogs and marshmallows for roasting. The fire is always needed, because Iron Springs is high enough in the mountains that it is cold at night. Snow is not unheard of at the reunion.

I really enjoyed mornings the most. You crawl out of your warm tent into the crisp, cool morning. I usually was one of the first ones awake, so I could enjoy the peace. Sitting by the fire in the camp chair, seeing everyone as they started to stir and come out to start the day. And Sunday morning at reunion is always the best, because that's dutch oven potatoes day. We always make big dutch ovens filled with potatoes and sausage and eggs and everyone in the immediate family gathers for breakfast together. Bad for the arteries, but the tradition is good for my heart.

On Saturday is the full family reunion... I don't even remember how many generations are included, but it's a few back from my grandparents. We generally have 250 (sometimes more) for the Saturday reunion. Not all of those people are camping at Iron Springs, but a high percentage are. Really, it's Wardles as far as the eye can see during that weekend. On Saturday morning, we get together for breakfast (that's the part that I am in charge of this year). Since some people sleep in and others are coming up just for the day and haven't made it up the mountain quite yet, there's only (ONLY!) about 150 people for breakfast. Then it's time for the Country Store. Everyone brings little items that they can sell for a few dollars or cents... the kids always love the penny candy. And there are always some big-ticket items like nice quilts or handmade furniture that you can buy drawing tickets to win. Then there are games and crafts for the kids while the adults wander around and socialize with everyone. Then it's time for lunch - a big potluck meal... it seems like we always have about 20 varieties of potato salad and another 20 types of baked beans! I always make my famous marinated tomatoes. I have been told that they are incredible and people get very disappointed if I show up without them. Being allergic to tomatoes, I have never actually tasted this dish!

Lunch time also means that it's time for the traditional afternoon storm. I'm not even kidding about this - EVERY year we have lunch at 1:00. And EVERY year at about 12:30 the clouds start rolling in and it starts to rain about the time we have the prayer over the food. Everyone just eats in the rain. It's what we do... heaven forbid we should break tradition and move the group meal earlier or later to avoid that afternoon storm!

After lunch it's time for the family meeting and talent show. The talent show is excruciating! My grandmother is always trying to get us up there to perform, and we are always stubbornly resisting. In fact, almost everyone in the family resists performing and actively dislikes watching the talent show. But a small part of the family really gets into it. This part of the family brings generators to run their electric keyboards and karaoke machines so they can perform for us all. *sigh* When it is (mercifully) over, it's time for the drawing for the big-ticket items. I never win. Finally, the business meeting, where we get the stats on the current reunion and make plans for next year. (That's where I got roped into planning breakfast for 150.)

We don't camp for reunion these days. We have all these little kids - plus Aaron doesn't really enjoy camping. Especially at a campground with no electricity, running water, or flush toilets. So we stay in town and drive the 30 minutes back and forth to the campground each day. It works, even though I miss the camping sometimes. But I am grateful to Aaron that he has been willing to attend every family reunion with me, even though he is not a fan of the outdoors. This year will be my 34th family reunion - I've never missed one!

So I know that this turned into a huge and rambling post, but I just have so many great memories of reunion. (And many more I didn't have any more room to share!) I can't wait for Thursday!!


Tera said...

You are so blessed to have such a wonderful tradition and so many extended family members. This is something I've always wished for...someday I'll have it with my own children!

Druciana said...

I think it is great that you have a tradition like this you can share with your kids.

Melissa said...

Tara, it all sounds fantastic. I loved reading about all that goes into the reunion; it is quite the event! Have a super time.

Cara said...

I grew up enjoying family reunions with relatives on my father's side. I loved them! I wish they were still held annually. Unfortunately when my grandpa died, so did the tradition. I am glad you still have yours. Have a great time!