Summer has snuck up on me once again. It wasn’t very long ago that we still had snow on the ground. As with many families, we have been once again been faced with the thoughts about getting all our family together for a reunion. I am a procrastinator by trade, or maybe it is just my ADHD that causes me to be chronically distracted, but I am only now beginning to think about this objective. Covid-19 certainly hasn’t helped. We are back into the mode of “what are we going to do this year?”
Traditions are an important part in keeping our family heritage alive. It is those traditions that help connect generations. Summer reunions are also a way to create these traditions. Worldly distractions occupy our days keeping us “busy” and our minds occupied away from family involvements. There are so many different ways to bring our families together and family reunions are one way to do so.
How Am I Going to Plan Another Reunion?
Initial Organization: My family has to help me plan. Certainly I can not do this alone. As the oldest living “head” of my family, I should certainly take charge, but I am going to need the help of each of my kids for ideas and activity planning.
Planning Meals: I don’t know about you, but when it comes to feeding 23 grandchildren and their families, this becomes a MAJOR ordeal with 3 meals per day, and probably a lot of snacks in between. How do you keep all that food refrigerated? Do we have enough stoves to cook everything at once? How about meal cleanup? (Yep…paper plates and disposable utensils are wonderful ideas!). Does each family take responsibility for a certain meal to prepare and cleanup? Who helps with meal planning? (One person’s idea of having scallops and lobster may not sit well with the other grandkids). Where are we going to eat our meals? Do we have enough tables and chairs? A lot of thought will need to go into planning for this area, or a lot of hungry “tigers” are going to overwhelm the adults.
Travel Planning: Two of my sons along with their combined 8 kids have to travel from North Carolina. That requires a significant amount of funding to ensure that they can come. It may be that those local families chip in some financial aid to help the distant families get to the reunion. Perhaps a reunion location could be planned somewhere in between that would eliminate the need for flying and make driving easier. Scheduling a reunion a year in advance is probably also a “must” so that vacation times can be planned well ahead of time.
Accommodations: Luckily most of my family lives fairly local with the exception of my two sons and their families. We have a townhome and we would be "busting at the seams" if everyone were to stay with us. Without local family accessible housing however, there would be a cost to house families in hotels and such. If you are planning on renting a rather large house for everyone to be under the same roof, then the cost of the rental needs to be financially planned for. Will there be enough bathrooms? Cooking and eating spaces? Sleeping quarters? Can some of the cost burdens be shared by the other family members?
Family Activities: Without a nice variety of activities, a family reunion may quickly become a “bust”, especially for the teenage group. The “I’m bored” phrase repeated a zillion times by even just a few grandchildren has a certain contagiousness to the others. Over the years we have had anything from 3 day camp trips with campfires, s’mores, river rafting, biking and hiking along the trails, and of course having the famous dutch oven meals. One year we drove 12 hours to Lookout Pass on the Idaho-Montana border to camp for a couple of days, and then ride our bikes on the 15 mile long bike trail that follows an old train route over 7 sky-high trestles, and through 10 train tunnels.
Another year we stayed close to home and organized 4 days of solid day and evening activities. Activity pins were created and these were given out for those who completed different requirements for each activity. Family traditions were built into the activities like our annual Chinese dinner complete with Chinese lanterns. The children made Piñatas for the big “smashing activity” several days later. There was an orienteering course to find hidden treasure, an archery activity, shooting off bottle rockets that they created, making and walking across a rope bridge, and other activities that helped the grandkids learn about their great-grandparents as well. A great time was had by all and the grandkids went home with a lot of cool activity pins that will help them remember the reunion.
There are many ways to hold a family reunion, and I would say that the most important aspect is that we are spending some good time with our family, passing on family traditions, and knowledge about our ancestral heritage. There is no set way to plan a family reunion. Each head of family should be heavily involved with initiation of a family reunion and seek the help of the other family members. They can certainly produce activity ideas that would interest their own children. The reunions do not have to be, nor should they be a large expense, like ocean cruises, etc. If there is water, like a river or lake, or even from a hose, kids will find some way to enjoy it. Movie nights in the backyard projecting a movie onto the side of the house and everyone taking their pillows and blankets out to lay on the grass sounds like a lot of fun! Be creative!
One more thought. How will you keep those reunion memories alive in the minds of your children and grandchildren? Put a photo collection online and share with everyone. Some may decide to create photo books and distribute one to each family to keep on their living room tables. One family used their techno-savvy kids who created a fun video file to share with everyone. You can watch that video HERE.