I had some pretty big family reunion milestones last weekend. My aunt and uncle (mom's sister Shirley and husband Roger) were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Their oldest daughter and her family live in Spain so plans were made well in advance for a large family gathering. My siblings and cousins from Iowa, Wisconsin, California, and Spain all gathered in Minnesota for the event.
The night before the party my sisters and brother and I got together with some of my kids for the evening. It was the first time the four of us have all been together in one place since May of 2002. We sat around and talked, reminiscing about our visits to Roger and Shirley's farm as kids and comparing memories.
Saturday morning we met our dad for breakfast. Our family experienced some major breakdowns and seemingly irreparable damage in the late 80s. Our dad had not been with all four of his children in one place, together, since Christmas of 1986. Each of us, over the years, has worked out our family connections in our own way and on an individual basis, especially with our dad. Saturday morning was comfortable and happy. It was a long time coming, but it came. And Dad was SOOO happy!
We took some family pictures outside the restaurant. The one of the four of us turned out well.
Something about black and white makes a picture just look more "permanent" to me.
I got one really nice picture of Dad with Tom and Kathy. I know Kari got quite a few, and has one of him and me so I wasn't too worried about getting my own. I tried, however, and couldn't get Dad and Kari to stop laughing.
They kept laughing
At the anniversary party there was another long overdue reunion. There are 10 cousins on my mom's side of the family. Eight of us are only 6 years apart with Tom and Kari trailing along 2 and then 4 years later. My mom had the oldest (me) and youngest (Kari). I followed in her footsteps as my son Joey is the oldest of the next generation and Gabe is the youngest. We tried to figure out when we were last all together and the best concrete date we have is 1978 at the funeral of our grandfather. We were probably together in 1980 but can't be sure. Our last photo together was taken in 1977. After 34 years we made sure to get another.
"Quisley" cousins, 1967
Our final stop was a gathering of the immediate family and us cousins back at the farm. I don't remember not going to the farm to be with family. Most of our reunions were held there, and that was where we headed for family weekends. Uncle Roger milked cows so it was always easier for us to make the 90 minutes drive there than for him to get help doing chores. We enjoyed sharing a list of our farm memories. The four of us were the "city kids" of the family. I think our favorite lesson learned from our farming relatives was, "a man's entire arm can actually disappear in the rear end of a cow".
So much was the same, kids playing ball in the yard.
The big tree with a swing
Teenagers who didn't want to go, asked to leave early, and then begged to stay later as they got to know their relatives and started having fun. Shane and Bryce enjoyed meeting and playing a game with their Spanish cousins Nicole and Natasha. Lisa asked me when we would see them again. I said I didn't know, possibly never. "That's not fair!", she said, "I just met them and I like them and I might not see them again!?" Hopefully we will.
The reason for the gatherings and joy was this couple, Uncle Roger and Aunt Shirley. They represented our home away from home. My brother Tom lived with them for almost 6 weeks when he was 2 while my parents, Kathy, and I went to Norway. Tom was always close to them, spending weeks there during the summer throughout his childhood. Before I went to England I spent time with Uncle Roger photographing and learning about his farm. I started to enjoy my uncle as a person, and since have cherished my visits and benefited from his very practical and sensible way of looking at life. After my mom died 9 years ago Shirley has done what she could to take her place, if not in a physical way (because of our distance) in an emotional way. My daughter Ellen and granddaughter Karissa were with us at the gathering and Shirley referred to herself as "great-grandma", and I loved it! Shirley and Mom definitely had one thing in common, a dislike for cameras! I could not get her to really smile for me.
When we grouped together for a picture of the four of us with them you can see that we were having trouble figuring out which camera to look at.
Kari said something funny, people got silly, and Shirley started to laugh. So even though it's not much of a picture I just love how happy she looks here.
The only trouble with Milestone memories is that they are just way too few and far between. I think it's about time for a Duluth get-together...