It's a challenge to write something clever and entertaining about a family reunion when you know your words are likely to be read by most of the people who were there. Trust me, it gives a whole new dimension to the idea of writer's block.
This reunion—the fourth or fifth annual one now—was a three-day stay at a campground that included my parents, all four of their children, all their spouses except one who was out of the country (no, he didn't schedule the trip just to get out of spending time with the family—honest), all the grandkids, plus spouses and fiancés, except for two who live at a distance, and, of course, all four of the great-grandchildren. And let's not forget the six aunts and uncles and the handful of cousins.
Some people went fishing (and treated the whole group to a fish fry on Saturday night). Some people went swimming. Some people went for walks. Some people went for ice cream. Some people spent most of their time sitting in the shade and visiting. Everyone ate—fairly often, actually. And, apparently, everyone had a good time.
Several people remarked on the responses they get when they mention spending a three-day weekend with the extended family. These range from, "You really do that—and you enjoy it?" to, "I could never spend that much time with my family!" and, "How many fights were there?"
Sorry, no fights. Maybe that's because most of us have a sense of humor. It probably also helps that, despite some beer to go with the fish, this isn't a family where anyone gets falling-into-the-campfire drunk. (True, there is one uncle who occasionally passes out, but that's a heart problem, not an alcohol problem. Thank goodness the extended family includes a couple of veterinarians.)
But we do get together fairly often, and we do enjoy it. Is that because we're somehow closer or nicer than other families? Probably not. We come complete with the disagreements, personality conflicts, and leftover childhood stuff that all families have. But somehow, the idea of family is more important than any of that minor stuff.
At any rate, we keep showing up—for the summer camping trip, the Christmas party, and the various events in between like house-painting, moving, birthday parties, and weddings.
And maybe that's what makes the difference. The more often you show up, the better you get to know the people who share your blood and your history, and the more fully you understand how important they are to you. Maybe that makes it easier to accept their quirks and oddities in the same way you hope they accept your unique and endearing personality traits. Maybe showing up is simply what it means to be family.