I was asked by a friend who was looking at pictures and video of my family reunion if our family was always "close and smiley and laughing"?
My answer was yes. I've come to realize in working with so many different families that our family really is somewhat unique in this regard. Being together with the entire family is not hard in any way. It is easy. It is fun. We laugh and joke and have a great time. When there is "arguing" over sports or politics, it's all in fun, and everyone knows it, so even then, it's still fun.
Our family has always been close. My grandparents had four children; three of their children (including my mother) remained in the same town. We all went to the same church, we kids all went to the same school. After school, we were all at my grandparents', and on Sundays after church, the whole family was there. So we spent a lot of time together during our growing-up years, and I think that my grandfather's focus on always treating each of us fairly and equally (he wouldn't even take one child's family out to eat without giving money to each of the other families so their family could go out to eat too!) and my grandmother's peacemaking nature that was intolerant of any arguing or dissension is what created this wonderful family.
So... we all spent the weekend in the mountains, and it was an extra special occasion because for the first time, my grandmother, and every single one of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, were present. (One spouse was unable to attend, other than that the entire family would have been complete.) We get together, almost the whole family, at least two or three times a year, but there are always a couple of people that aren't able to be there for various reasons -- but this time, we all made it!
We stayed at the same ranch that we stayed at last year, but this year we just happened to pick the same weekend that the ranch later chose for a whole host of special activities. Which they let us do for free. (There was a $25 concert and a $10 activity fee per person, and they didn't charge us a cent! And there were 28 of us... so that's a LOT of money!)
I was one of the last to arrive, as I didn't take the day off as many did, and I was surprised to see a hot air balloon out in the field in front of the cabins as I drove in. I went into the main cabin where we always gathered, and learned that everyone (except the scaredy cats) had already gone up in said balloon, including Little Girl, who wasn't at all afraid, which surprised me. So a cousin and my sister-in-law volunteered to come with me to go for my own ride.
I've never ridden in a hot air balloon before, and I honestly thought it would be a little frightening. I'm not terribly afraid of heights, but I thought that the basket would wobble and tip and feel unsteady and that, at such a height, would be a little frightening, but I was wrong. It was solid and stable as could be, and I have to admit it was actually a little disappointing as a result. After all, there's some fun in being safely scared...
I couldn't decide whether I wanted to pretend to be the Wizard of Oz, or Carrie Ingalls in the Little House on the Prairie episode where she's in the runaway hot air balloon. :)
After that, we built a big bonfire and sat around singing songs, my cousin accompanying us on the guitar. He had us do one song where we sang, "Hello, my name is ____ and I want to be a..." and we had to fill in an animal that began with the same letter as our name, and then act it out. The kids loved it, especially seeing the adults all being silly enough to act like various animals. :)
We had several cabins rented, and my immediate family had one. Unfortunately, when we rented these cabins, we got a three bedroom because we thought my brother and family would be living in Florida and unable to attend. When we got the good news that they were staying, it was too late, there were no four bedroom cabins left. So there were a whole bunch of us, and only 3 full sized beds. And a couch. And I brought an air mattress. As it turned out, Little Girl and I ended up sleeping on the air mattress on the living room floor, and let me tell you, it was COLD. Neither of us hardly slept all night for shivering, despite warm pjs and blankets.
Everyone sleeping upstairs came down the next morning complaining about how hot they were all night. Sigh. So my brother and sister-in-law decided to trade and take the air mattress the next night. Little Girl and I were definitely not afraid of being too hot at that point.
That night of coldness set off an entire day of never feeling warm enough. It was a sudden weather change as it was, we had had nice warm fall weather all along, and suddenly the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees, and not being used to it, we felt the cold more. Also, nobody brought coats as we were totally unprepared for such chilliness.
So, the next morning, we all headed to the big house for breakfast, then various groups made their decisions about how to spend the day. A bunch of the guys went golfing. Another large group decided to go to a local festival. I bowed out of that one, crowds and cold combined were not at all appealing to me. So four of the great grandkids, all little girls ranging from 6 to 11, and about 4 adults and I stayed behind. I took the two littlest girls, one being Little Girl, to the playground and zoo housed on our ranch.
It was definitely the right choice. We had a wonderful morning. The man who took care of the animals was there feeding them, and when he brought out the camel, he let the girls feed and pet it. Then he told them he had two baby camels in the barn and he would bring them out for them to see. They were SO CUTE. And watching those two little girls chasing those two baby camels down the road was also so cute. :) They spent a good deal of time petting and feeding them, and they were very social little camels and loved the attention.
After a couple hours, we decided we were tired of being cold and we went back to the cabin, where the kids played and the adults relaxed, as we waited for the rest of the crew to come back.
One of my cousins and his wife had gone hiking, way out in the wilderness far away from any houses, and a cat had found them and followed them the entire way back to the car. It was very friendly and loving, but all matted and dirty. They decided it must have been a pet but was either extremely lost or abandoned, and they couldn't just leave it out there on its own when it didn't appear equipped to live in the wild, so they brought it back with them, and another cousin was thrilled to adopt it. Once they cleaned it up and cut out the mats in the fur, it looked like a very nice cat, and it was extremely friendly with everyone. So we welcomed Kirby the Cat as the newest member of the family. :)
When the folks came back from the event, they only had one funny story to tell us. It seems they lost my uncle. They had split into two groups, and one group called the other to ask if he was with them, because they couldn't find him anywhere. My mother was the one who answered the phone. Apparently she told her group that my uncle was lost, and she supposed they'd better help look for him... but let's go eat first. LOL.
What had happened was, my uncle who is getting up there in years and has a bad hip due to an accident years ago anyway, was worn out from the day's events, and he told my cousins to go on back to the car and come pick him up, as they had come quite some distance. They did as instructed, but apparently drove right by him, while he stood there by the side of the road waving his arms at them.
They did eventually find him, and all made it safely back to the ranch, where they found my cousin and I out with the four little girls, participating in all the fun activities on the ranch. There were pumpkins -- the "big kids" (including two adult cousins) carved them, and the little kids painted them. The girls also painted Halloween masks. There were some inflatables there, including a giant wall to climb. All the girls tried, but none of them made it up very far. :) They bobbed for apples. And there was popcorn and cotton candy.
After all this fall fun, we walked back to the main cabin, where we had a cookout while the little girls splashed in the hot tub that they apparently thought was a swimming pool, while my cousin wrote a song and taught it to them -- yes, he wrote a song right there on the porch with four little girls splashing in the hot tub around him, the lad is talented -- and then we all gathered around for memory time. We had all been instructed to write memories of my grandmother, and my aunt read each one and we had to guess who had written it. Many were obvious from the way they were written, of course, but a few were harder to guess. There were many sweet memories shared, but many funny ones too, and we spent a good couple of hours doing this, and it was so much fun.
Then we had another bonfire, and more singing. This time my cousin changed up the name song. We had to sing, "Hello, my name is ____, and I'm sitting next to ____. And he/she is very..." and then fill in a compliment about that person. It was a great game, and it turned out to have its funny moments too. :) For example, when the lost uncle just happened to be sitting next to the cousin who was responsible for losing him, and his compliment was, "Well, he was nice enough to drive me to the event today... even though he did drive right past me and leave me standing by the side of the road, and he drives like a turrible knucklehead!" ;)
And then there was the moment that my aunt received the compliment of being brilliant from the person next to her, and then on her turn, my cousin sang, "Hello my name is..." and everyone waited as she just sat there. And he prompted again, "My name is???" and another aunt chimed in, "She's so brilliant she doesn't even know her own name!" :)
And the moment when my aunt, complimenting the cousin doing all the singing, said, "He's really good for a good time!" and instantly, my cousin jerks his head up and says, "Who've YOU been talkin' to!?!?" ;)
After more songs and more stories around the campfire, we finally called it a night and turned in. My sister insisted that Little Girl and I would be sorry for trading beds, that we would be way too hot, that we'd be kicking all the covers off. We were perfectly comfortable, although Little Girl certainly tosses and turns a lot and at one point in the night I was awakened by a little leg flopping across my stomach. The next morning, I observed that we were both still under blankets, and I asked her if she had been too hot. "I was hot under my covers," she said. "But one leg was cold because it was sticking out of the covers."
"Would that be the leg I discovered lying across my stomach in the middle of the night?" I queried. :)
We all had breakfast together again and then it was time to part and head in various directions for our homes.
It was a great weekend, and I just have to say that I'm glad God put me in the family that He did. Because we've got the best one ever. :)