So, these annual reunions are held at the same park each year and always on Michigan's hottest day of the summer (did I mention that the park has no water and no cooling amenities ~ interpret this as no "lake" and no "air conditioning")? The park has a pavilion where we house our numerous potluck dishes (the KFC went fast!), a ball field where Kevin spent most of his time pitching tennis balls to our kids and to my sister's kids (them taking a break below), a couple of swing sets, and a horseshoe pit. This year, my cousin (I think he's my cousin), Bruce, brought an inflatable bounce house for the little kids…Great Idea! And Doreen, my dad's cousin Ken's wife (who took over the reunion planning from my parents a couple of years ago), supplied us all with nifty red pens that read "Shellnut reunion, see you next year!"
Most relatives live here in Michigan, although we don't get together nearly as often as family should. But, some come from far away places like Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. A lot of my dad's family are from the south and I spent about 2 weeks (or more) during every summer as a kid visiting these "foreign" places where they say things like "ya'll", "fixin' to", and "ma-maw & pa-paw". What fun! One of my favorite places to stay during these childhood family vacations was at my Uncle Jimmie and Aunt Thelma's house (that cute couple is pictured below) in Arkansas. They had an awesome basement with a dartboard (where I stuck my brother in the back of the leg with one of the darts when we were 10 or 11), a tire swing, homemade buttermilk biscuits every morning, and Intellivision (my cousin David played a MEAN game of Pitfall). Plus, it was the most comfortably air conditioned space in Arkansas where we didn't get yelled at every 10 minutes simply for being kids (like we did at my Uncle LD and Aunt Bernice's house).
Also in attendance at this year's reunion (actually, I don't think he's missed a family reunion since we began having them years and years ago) was my older cousin Curtis, from Texas (picture not available, although he took one of he and I with HIS camera "cheek to cheek! cheek to cheek!" ~ a pose that he energetically insisted we strike). Anyway, Curtis has down syndrome and always makes us laugh (and sometimes wince in pain as he karaokes to Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue", it sounded a little like this>>> "AAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh AAAAaaaaahhhhhhhh Boy Named SUE! AAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh AAAAaaaaahhhhhhhh Boy Named SUE!" " ~ whose bright idea was it to bring the karaoke machine this year anyway?!!). So, Curtis asked me to marry him (even though we're cousins and I'm already married to Kevin and he usually proposes to my sister), and then he proceeded to tell me that I shouldn't eat any dessert because it might make me fat and that did I know he had lost 5 pounds and is now down to 198 pounds? OK.
At least no one thought I was pregnant this year, like at last year's family reunion when my Aunt Erma (Curtis' mom) asked me if I was expecting (I wasn't) and then thought it was great and humorous that I was FINALLY getting fat like the rest of the ladies in the family. Great. Thanks. So, I'm glad I've lost 9 pounds since last year's reunion, and even had a "Wow, you look great" comment this year. I won't point out the fact that this comment came from my Uncle Hurley, the oldest of my dad's siblings whose eyesight is probably failing him (although I don't know that for sure), and who, for years and years and to this day, has called me "Fatso" because I was always so stick thin growing up.
Leading up to the reunion, Jordyn, was SOOO looking forward to it, only to be disappointed that my cousin Ron's son Christopher's daughter Dianna (who is a little older than Jordyn) wasn't there this year. While it was nice to see some relatives that I don't get to see on a regular basis, I can't really say that I "caught up" with any of them. Well, I guess I now know that my cousin Denise pulled her hamstring recently and is in a LOT of pain and that my cousin Danny's daughter Robin (who I think is in high school) is dating a nice young college boy who is studying to be an anesthesiologist and even though he's a nice boy, he's still a boy and Danny wants to wring his neck because of this fact...things I wouldn't have known otherwise. But, most of the time was spent hanging out with my sister and brother and their families, who we see all the time and don't need a reunion to catch up with each other. (My sister, Shawn, my brother, Jeremy, and me, sporting the nifty red pen on my shirt, below)
In the end, I suppose the reunion is more than just a sweaty, sticky get-together in the summer heat where we briefly hug and hello people we haven't seen since, well, last year's reunion. It is a good opportunity to show our kids that they are part of a bigger network of people that we call family, even if we don't know exactly how we're all related or the intimate details of one another's lives.
See you next year!