My family reunion is the best that ever there was. So much for humility.
It started in 1951. My grandma was one of three sisters who married three best friends, and deciding that they did not want to lose touch with each other, they picked a central location to meet once every other summer - the Colorado Rockies. We have met without fail ever since, and it is a grand old time.
There is a certain sort of tradition to these two weeks. The poster boards come out, with each day listed along with information like who is cooking, who is cleaning, what the meal is, and what sorts of funness is occurring. Other traditions follow: the plastic cups we all write our names on, the multi-colored place mats made out of... some kind of mystery polymer.
The days begin with a leisurely breakfast, or if it is a hiking day, with all of the hikers bumping shoulders in the kitchen packing lunches and trying to squeeze in a bite of breakfast. Hiking is our main event, and every two or three days we trek anywhere from 3 miles to a lake to 12 miles to the top of a mountain, sometimes old hikes and sometimes new, and always with the brown sack lunch in the late morning and the hasty retreat as the afternoon thunderstorms roll in.
In the afternoons we usually go downtown, a tourist paradise filled with chocolate shops and souvenir shops, lolling around with a caramel apple in hand or retreating into a park by the river. The town of Estes Park is gradually becoming gentrified, but there are still all the bits of classic western kitsch - rubber tomahawks, leather cowboy jackets, feather headdresses, rabbit furs. Cowboy Brad singing his John Denver songs in the park around a campfire. The summers are crowded here and the shops are always full of people, but there are quiet places along the river walk where you can sit and sip bubble tea or coffee and watch the world go by.
After dinner it's time for the games. Tonight it was frisbee golf on a course we made across the front and back yards. (We played a Scramble. I was terrible, but I blame it on the fact that I was holding the dog also.) Another favorite is our version of volleyball, which used to be deadly back when the dads were young men, but the addition of the children of my generation permanently slowed down the violence level. We might pile into the cars and go to our favorite miniature golf place, Tiny Town, "A Nice Place for Nice People." Or, like last night, go-kart racing, so fiercely competitive that it is the only time in the reunion when grown men can crush children against the rails and laugh manically about it.
And then comes the late night games, the card games, which mostly revolve around Skip-bo, Hearts, Apples to Apples, and the best game on the face of the planet, Rook. Huzzah! For anyone who knows Rook, I have to brag that I took the bid the other night in choose-your-partner, called no trump, and made it exactly on the nose. (If you do not follow Rook, this is a happy accomplishment.) All new inductees into the family must jump through that hoop that is learning Rook, simultaneously learning 30 new names and dealing with the effects of altitude at 8,000 feet. New family members have it rough.
One of my great uncles used to make pancakes for the entire clan once a reunion, but now that he's gone we haven't had pancakes for a while, so I decided to put myself through the grinder and take on the role with my faithful friend Kneady Bubbles the First at my side. Kneady Bubbles performed valiantly, making perfectly nice and fluffy sourdough pancakes. I made a x8 batch the first time and a x10 batch the second. I could so work in Roadside. (For non-GF people, I could so work in a crazy busy breakfast restaurant.)
This reunion has been the Gathering of the Babies. We had, at our peak, one 6yr old, two 3 yr olds, two 18 month olds, one 9 month old, one 3 month old, and one yet unborn! Yowzah. When I first arrived after my 21-hr drive push from Oregon, I staggered in just at dinner time and was met with the whole crowd gathered to pray. But there were still a few minutes to go, so at once I had what seemed like a dozen babies shoved at me. (Okay, maybe two.) Luckily my better senses told me not to hold my 9 month old niece in my teetering state (Drop the Baby!) although I did have plenty of time after sleep to cuddle, and cuddle, and cuddle... My niece is a very bouncy little girl. However, despite all the babiness of the hour, I remain convinced that being an aunt is definitely the way to go. Even heaps of babies could not stir the mommy gene deep within.
What else to say? My father and brother-in-law finally succeeded in building a zip line that doesn't kill anyone, and all the lil' childrens have been having fun going down it. I took one of the greatest hikes of my life a few days ago. (The post is forthcoming.) The wildlife viewing has been prime, especially a very gregarious marmot that made friends with my backpack while on top of the Twin Sisters. And, best of all, I have managed to gross out a nice percentage of my family with pictures of the Dawson City "Sour-toe." So life is good.