Mom was running around all over the place; fixing this, adjusting that. What was going on? In my wee nine years I had never seen so much activity around our little farm. Dad was out clipping, cleaning and cutting all day and every day. My older brothers and sisters were busy just trying to stay out of the way and out of eyesight. If they were found they would surely be put to work.
Me, I just watched in amazement, as our little spot on earth seemed to go through a mighty transformation. I didn’t even recognize the yard any more. It looked wonderful but seldom did any of us ever bother to cut the grass all over the yard. Maybe right in front of the house, but way over there, too?
Still, things were hopping and I kept hearing people talking about tomorrow. Something about a family reunion getting underway tomorrow. That must be it, all of our family, and there were a lot of them believe me, were coming here to visit us. Coming here? Everybody? Yes, we are having a family reunion and it is going to be right here at Mom and Dad’s little farm.
I had never been to a family reunion before. I didn’t even know what to expect. Will everyone really be there; all those people from Nebraska that I have heard about but had never seen; even my second cousin Amy from Seattle? I had met Amy once, back when my brother passed away. I knew right then that I liked her. It was a different sort of like though. It was kind of confusing but I wanted to see her again, I knew that.
Mom was busy putting the final touches on her deviled eggs and making the top of the potato salad look pretty by arranging thin slices of boiled eggs just so. I didn’t know why she did that. She knew, as quick as it was time to eat, I would dive right in. I loved Mom’s potato salad. All her delicate touches would be gone.
It was later Friday night that the first car drove in. Yes, it was Amy and her family. Directly behind her came another car, a van, loaded with kids I don’t think I had ever seen. The van had Nebraska plates on it. This must be the mysterious side of the family.
Mom and Dad had seven children. Me, the youngest, my two sisters who were still living at home and two more brothers and two more sisters. Except for me and the two sisters who lived at home, all of my brothers and sisters had gotten married and got started on their family right away. Since Mom & Dad had such a big family themselves, the expanded family became even that much bigger.
I had no idea where everyone was going to sleep but I was tickled to see everyone. All night long, cars continued to roll in. Brothers and sisters from all over the place were arriving to help if they could. By Saturday morning everyone was here and everything was done and ready.
Dad had erected an old Army tent he had. He opened up all the sides so it looked like a roof. Underneath the tent were about a dozen picnic tables. At the end of the tent was a 50-gallon drum that had been cut in half. Dad used it for a grill when he had a lot of cooking to do. Well, let me tell you, he had a lot of cooking to do today.
There were coolers at every table. I think that is how each family claimed their spot, by putting their cooler on the picnic table. The grass looked really nice under the tent. It was cooler under there and it seemed to stop some of the wind. I found where our table was and had a seat. Nobody else was there but I thought I would check it out anyway.
My quiet little spot under the tent suddenly went from quiet to noisy. It seemed everyone wanted to get going at the same time. People were tumbling out of their trailers, their tents and the house. I saw some familiar faces, some not so familiar faces and some faces that I had no idea where they came from.
There were no carnival rides or circus tents. No game booths or bakery sales. There were no clowns or exotic animals to look at. There was nothing but our giant, loving family. This is the way it should be; I remember thinking, just family at a family reunion.
The tent was getting crowded as people continued to pile in. Then someone said they felt a sprinkle. One of my uncles laughed at the claim and one of my aunts went outside to take a look for herself. Soon everyone was scrambling under the tent. It wasn’t a sprinkle that was felt, it was the first droplet of a mighty cloudburst.
Lightening flashed across the sky and thunder hammered at our ears. Rain came pounding down around us and the winds blew strong. Dad put the side of the tent facing the wind down so we could escape wind blown rain at least. Three sides of the tent remained open and we could still watch the storm.
Everybody was under the tent, we all had our reunion food and Dad had cooked up a mess of dogs and burgers. We all squealed in delight and frustration and started visiting each other just for the sake of visiting. We stayed under that silly tent all day to escape the storm, but we had a blast.
We had all the food anyone could want. We had all the good family company we would ever need and we had our reunion. Everyone had his or her coolers and we were all self-entertained. Our whole reunion was spent under that tent and it was great.
The real important factor in a reunion is to have family come together to catch up on important events and to share their life’s experiences. Well, we were forced to do that because no one could get away from anyone, unless they wanted to brave the storm. No horseshoes, no lawn darts, no softball, just good clean “how have you beens.”
That was my first family reunion but certainly not my last. Now at every family reunion we are a part of, the reunion with the big storm always comes up as a conversation starter. That was and still is the best family reunion we ever had.