Friday, August 12, 2011

2011 Family Reunion

Two Sunday's ago was our annual family reunion in western Pennsylvania. I was able to have an extra long visit with my grandparents because my mother and I drove up on Tuesday. We went early so we would be able to get all of my storage stuff up into the attic before the onslaught of 18 members of the family arriving closer to the weekend.

I can't really say we did much during the week other than a few shopping outings and getting ready for the reunion. But it was good to be at my grandparents house to soak it all in. I've been going there pretty much every summer for my entire life. I don't know when I'll get back there, if ever. My grandmother and grandfather (my only living grandparents remaining), though very healthy, are 84 and 93 years old respectively. Who knows what condition they will be in when we return. Obviously, I hope for the best, but I have to be realistic as well.

All-in-all, it was a very good visit with everyone. Even though I think we all get along relatively well, tensions can get a little high when you have so many people staying in the same house. But it was great to see everyone!

We have a tradition of going out to Bruno's restaurant on the Saturday night before the reunion. We all look forward to going there because they have great food and are very accommodating. We can be a rowdy bunch. Plus, we've got a slew of special dietary needs, what with 7 vegetarians, 1 person who's allergic to dairy and nuts, and 2 who can't eat gluten. God bless them for putting up with us!

The family at our annual Bruno's dinner
The Family at Bruno's

Julia and Baldman at dinner
Nick hamming it up behind Julia

Having a great time at dinner
This may be one of 2 times I've ever seen Grandmom drink alcohol. Maybe the Italian-ness has finally taken over her good Southern background...Or maybe she just needs a drink with all these crazy family members at her house!

At Bruno's
Can you tell Hannah's our cousin?

One of the things that is a signature of my grandparent's house is that there are always a ton of animals, both inside and outside of the house.

G.G. is so cute!
This year almost everyone left their dogs at home and G.G. got the spotlight.

For the 60+ years that they have lived in that house, my Grandmother has fed "the critters." She puts dried corn, stale bread and food scraps out for groundhogs, deer, squirrels, and whatever other creatures come by for the buffet. She also feeds a menagerie of birds, including hummingbirds. So you can sit outside on the back porch any time of year and watch animals and birds going in and out of their backyard as they eat.

The one-eyed groundhog
This year there was a 1/2 blind groundhog that Chris fell in LOVE with!

And, of course, what visit would be complete without a game of poker? I chose to sit out this year, but enjoyed watching everyone.
The serious poker game

The reunion in itself was pretty anti-climactic this year. There was a smaller crowd than normal. And, Uncle Flint died the night before, so there was a somber feel about the event. Plus, there was no wiffle ball or bat this year because the person who holds them from year to year wasn't in attendance. I can't remember a time when there was no wiffle ball game. But we played BINGO and I won $10! Woot woot!

Grandad calling BINGO
Grandad calls BINGO.

Jen also organized kid games, though there were only 3 kids there. Adults and kids participated, though, and that was fun too.

Kids lines up to hit the pinata
The line for the pinata

Water race
The water game

And, of course, the reunion always ends in a crescendo with a water balloon war. There were some serious hits this year. Though, I am happy to say I stayed completely dry!

A water balloon fight is always inevitable at any reunion
Nick poised to attack

It will be at least 4 years before we make another reunion. There has been talk for years that the practice will be disbanded. It was started about 63 years ago because my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather were getting older and their children were dispersing. So the family set aside one day a year for everyone to get together. And, we have done that every year since. Now there are only 3 siblings left, my Uncle Ricki, my Aunt Phyllis, and my Grandfather.

grandmom and uncle ricki
Uncle Ricki is the last living brother of my Grandfather. At 99 years old, he's also the oldest of our relatives.

It will be very strange and sad for me to not be able to make the reunions for a few years. Leaving my family behind is going to be the hardest part about moving. I have fears that distance will come between us, while everyone else will continue to be close. But, gratefully, everyone is supportive of us going. I think their support will help us remain connected, even across thousands of miles and many years.

Thanks, guys. I love you and will miss you!

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