My grandmother, Leora, passed away in 2007. Last year, I planned the reunion on her birthdate. It was significant to me to have the first "official" summer-time family reunion, since her passing, be on her birthdate. It was a birthday party, too, after all!
Growing up, on my mother's side of the family especially, I went to a lot of family reunions. Fosters, Flesners, Shellums, and then Webers, too, from time to time. There may have been a few more, but those were the ones that were held every summer. As a kid, they were fun, and boring at the same time. I mean, we got to run around like little hooligans at my great-grandpa's farm for one of them, and then sit around a small-town community center and try to behave at another, for example. But, we were there, as a family, almost every single year. I can't even recall how many reunions I went to. The best part, I think, is that we always went with my mom's sisters, brothers, and their children.
As a child, my cousins and I (on my mom's side especially) were very close. A lot of that was because the majority of us lived in the same area, southwest MN, and my grandmother had her children over very frequently. Most of my summers were spent with my cousins, going to the pool, camping in backyards, having sleepovers at our houses, raking leaves and making mazes with them, playing at the park near my grandmother's house, and so many more exciting activities. Truthfully, my cousins were some of my closest and dearest friends. I think we were all VERY blessed to be able to say that.
We are so very fortunate to have the parents we have and the grandmother that we had that helped us form those bonds, memories, and lasting sense of the value and importance of family!
As we got older, we grew apart a bit, in distance especially. We're spread out all over, and now we're all busy with things going on in our (mostly) adult lives. (I say mostly, because most of us are adults now.)
That doesn't keep us apart, though!
Even though my grandmother has passed away, we, as a family, think it's still very important to keep the value of family at the forefront. So, last year, I took it upon myself (with a little help from my cousin) to plan that reunion. But, instead of it being a "insertlastnamehere Family Reunion," I decided to call it "Leora's Family." See, a last name isn't as important as belonging to a family, and whether all of her family members are blood or legal relatives, they were definitely a big part of her life.. of all of our lives. For example, even though my parents are no longer together, my dad is still a part of Leora's family. Also, we invite family members who were from the other "branches" of Leora's family, say, her sisters children, other second cousins, my mom's cousins and aunts, for example.
Like I said, I feel very blessed to have the family that I have.
So, this coming weekend is the 2nd Annual "Leora's Family Reunion." It's not over her birthday weekend this year for a few reasons, one being that it's father's day weekend almost every year, and that makes it hard for planning, and second that my aunt, uncle, and their children from Washington state were coming to the area during this particular time of the summer this year. I decided that having it on/nearest her birthday wasn't AS important, because it's still focused on her family and our relationships that she gave us.
I'm so excited. I have, literally, been looking forward to the reunion since I left last summer. My husband wasn't able to attend last summer because of work conflicts (that he managed to work through this summer, hallelujah!), and I was still pregnant with Spencer last summer. So, this summer, I won't be traveling by myself (okay, I guess last summer I did bring Wendell with...), and will have both Jake and Spencer with! It's Spencer's first reunion! Yeah!!
Despite a little situation with the original location (where we had it last year), the planning has been basically effortless and carefree, which is also a blessing. My family is very flexible and willing to bring whatever they can to make it a spectacular time, so it's a potluck event, outdoors, at a park. Yeah, it's going to be hot, but it's going to be wonderful!
I love being able to sit and reminisce, tell stories from the past, and laugh until we cry. I love watching my aunts and uncles interact. I love spending time with my childhood best friends, my "gang" (a nice gang), and seeing how we've all grown so much, gone through so much, and who we've become. I love watching my cousin's children playing in the grass and in the dirt, getting into the food, making messes, laughing, crying, and running around. And OH MY GOSH this year I have a child too!
I love having my camera around, just in case I, or my sisters, or my husband, or my aunts, decide to "stalk" family members, taking photo after photo until they notice us and stick out their tongue or block their faces with their hands.
I hate saying goodbye.
But I love looking forward to the next year's reunion.
Ah! I am EXCITED.