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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Family reunion #1

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In Michigan we know how to make the most of heavenly summer days. November through April - half the year - we wrap every bit of our bodies except our eyeballs in layers of down, Thinsulate and wool to go out in cold, snow and freezing rain. Evening is coming on by 4:30, and after soup for supper we light candles and read by the woodstove. (I actually love winter.) So when abundant June, July and August warm up the stage, we take advantage. Don and I both come from large extended families, and we have three family reunions, one for each month of summer. Two of them are one week apart, Don's family's at the end of June, and mine over the 4th of July holiday at the lake cottage. Then we have a third gathering for my family at our farm the first week of August, which we call Farm Day. (Last year's Farm Day was Farm Wedding Day.)

Yesterday was Don's family's - Reunion #1 - at his second cousin's farm, over in the thumb. When you live in Michigan, and you want to explain where you live, you hold up your hand, and point. We drove about an hour and a half to get there.


You can't choose the family you're born into, or adopted into, so if you like them, it is one of the good fortunes of life. You can choose the family you marry into, so if you don't like them, it's really your own fault. Or maybe you bear your in-laws with gritted teeth, because your partner is so winsome that you're willing to pay the price. Well I have had good fortune both in my biological family and my married family.

The farm wagon was covered with green salads, bean salads, fruit salads, 
fried chicken, baked chicken, chicken salad, 
baked beans and taco salad,
but desserts are the most important part, 
especially Jolie's flag cake, which she unveils to cheers every year;
this reunion is always just a few days before the 4th of July.
Michigan berries are world famous; this American flag was stitched
with blueberry stars and raspberry stripes.


To put icing on the cake, my husband's family reunion on the final Saturday of June every year is at the farm of Don's second cousin Cheryl and her husband Pete. I know I usually try to sound positive, so I wonder if you think I wear rose-colored glasses. Maybe sometimes I do look for silver linings, but I am not positivizing anything when I say that Cheryl is one of the coolest and favorite people in my acquaintance. You can see from these photos how she and Pete have saturated their farm with loving attention. It's like a personal park. In the photo below, you can see Cheryl in turquoise welcoming young distant cousins with a Hello, Cousin! and a kiss, making everyone giggle as the boys wiggle. By the time she got around the table to the eighth little one, he was hiding under the table. But I know he still adores her, you just can't help it.

There is a pond, and it was plenty warm for all the kids to swim and play on the raft; 
then they played on the farm equipment.
You can guess that Pete and his son Todd run a landscaping business. 
(In the winter they specialize in snow removal.)
One of their specialties is crafting with stone, like this yard chair where Nickie is wiggling
(he's the one who hid under the table from Cheryl's smooches); 
it's anchored in the ground and bounces when you sit on it;
they put the stones on the wall of this barn,
and the fireplace and window sill below that in their family room.


I'm sorry, I am not a thinking photographer. I should have gathered everyone in one shot for a full frontal family picture of the forty or so of us.There were many missing this year, including our Lesley & Brian, and Peter.

I wonder if you have family reunions in your neck of the woods, and if you do, what you eat, what activities you do, and how far people travel? Do you meet at someone's home, or in a park, or a hall?

I really hate saying this, because I don't like it when someone else says it, but here I go: Why does it seem that as soon as summer begins, it feels as if it's already coming to an end?
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63 comments:

Gwei Mui said...

I can't speak about reuinions as I've only ever atteneded one when I was a child. It was for me a hateful affair. Full of military, airforce and navel types. Who mistook me as one of the servants!
Yes I do know what you mean the very fact of the sunshine seems to hasten or at least mark the begining of the end!

deb said...

oh, there is so much here, Ruth.
Thank you for sharing this... and yes, summer seems to make me grasp at it for dear life.
I live in Southern Ontario, have been to Michigan a few times.

and we have a family reunion with my a few of my father's wonderful folk, twice a year, beginning about 15 years ago maybe. One in the summer , one at Christmas.

grasp and rejoice in each summer day. I feel you about this.
sigh...

Susan said...

Second-cousin Cheryl's and Pete's farm is a delight! I love that stone bouncy chair and the window seat is gorgeous. (I thought that was your head bent over, kissing the little one.)

I'm going to my Hart reunion next weekend, too. It's been two years since I was there. My brother called me to make sure I was coming. Our Aunt Marie (almost 92), who was at death's door just a few months ago, will be there; and I think he's afraid this may be her last one.

I was planning on taking a German chocolate cake, but that flag cake would go over very well. I'll also be taking farfalle w/pesto (made from my own basil), a Southwestern corn and black bean salad or SW potato salad, and a Mediterranean orzo salad with spinach and marinated artichoke hearts dressed with a feta vinaigrette. How's that sound?

If I have plenty of green beans by the end of the week, I may take some of them cooked country-style. I'm already getting hungry.

I was lucky to be born with a wonderful family and also to have married into one. The best of both worlds.

PurestGreen said...

The pies The pies! Oh how I yearn for those pies. And fried chicken and taco salad: swoon!

I think the action shots are better than just making everyone stand there. My mom makes us stand in a group and none of us like it. We just do it because we know she will bug us until we give in.

Beautiful shots.:)

Patricia said...

Are there any single women in their mid-twenties for me to introduce to my son? Ha, what a wonderful world you all live in...the American dream.

Wrensong Farm said...

So THAT'S what summer looks like....we're still waiting for it here. :)

Ruth, I want to thanks you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your family reunion.

I always yearned to be in a family that had them (especially on farms!).

My family was from the East coast and they would get together all the time back there...but once the fledglings left and flew to the West Coast they didn't get together with their East coast relatives very often.

You covered the reunion beautifully, I swear I could feel the warmth of the sun and hear the children laughing....

♥ T said...

I live in Michigan too and I totally understand your feelings about the seasons! Your photographs came out really nice and the food looks delish!

http://whatshernameslittlesecrets.blogspot.com/
http://thedetroitserenade.blogspot.com/

Madeleine Vedel said...

Will you adopt me? I've not had great luck in in-laws, but I do have an awesome extended family and yes, I adore family reunions. I also love Michigan -- t'is the only place that might lure me away from Provence. Enjoy your rose-colored glasses -- I too am aflicted with this tendency. But, when life is lovely, filled with good friends, special moments, and beautiful flowers, how can we not be? Take care - M from Avignon

Margaret Bednar said...

Just moved from Petoskey Michigan (inside pointer finger! :) to North Carolina and summer seems never ending here. And even though the few weeks of summer are heavenly in Northern Michigan, I am truly enjoying even the high heat here in NC! Am going to SO steal that cake idea - looking up recipes right now - what a wonderful work of art it is. What a wonderful fun family you have. Thanks for sharing.

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, that does sound like a terrible memory. I know that family gatherings can be painful in the extreme, when the people gathering are so different, or with whom there is bad blood or bad history. As it is, even the good ones like this wear me out!

You are having family reunions of another sort entirely . . . perhaps painful, but I think satisfying and necessary.

Ruth said...

Deb, as I read your good comment, I recognized the similarity between summer and a person's life, and how we only have our loved ones for a few seasons. How quickly a life goes. We must focus on every day, every moment, as if it's the only moment.

Ruth said...

Susie, I think it's the most fun thing that you and I both have a Hart family reunion next weekend. Your healthy-sounding salads, the PESTO (oh my goodness I need to make some fast), either cake (don't they count on the German chocolate, will they forgive you if you take the flag one?), pass muster. Ha. Does anyone else take so many dishes? I think you and Don must share a gene, even though you and I are the Harts.

I took a very yum baked bean dish yesterday, which Don had just obtained the recipe for, with two kinds of sausage (:|), several kinds of beans, 3 colors of peppers, jalapeños, and my own seasonings. One dish. :D

I'm sorry I didn't get my six words done for today . . .

George said...

I enjoyed this family reunion almost a much as you did, Ruth, but I still have some residual hunger for the pies that you photographed. You are lucky to be a part of such traditions. Family reunions do not always end well, but it appears that yours do.

Ruth said...

Sophia, I do know what you mean about those group shots. On the other hand, as I age, I am appreciating the documentation those pictures provide. Who was there? Was that the year so-and-so passed? Etc. Now I have to anticipate doing it for my reunion next week. I have a bad memory about that, when one niece was in the shower and was put out that she had to hurry and come down for the group picture! :|

Ruth said...

Patricia, there was a beautiful young woman, you can barely see her in the top photo in white pants, and I am afraid I did not introduce myself to her. I was actually kicking myself for that after leaving. I think I was feeling shy.

I really do feel rich having so many family people. Did someone say you're never poor when you have friends? I think the same is true of families.

Ruth said...

Hi, Tammy! I haven't blog-seen you in ages.

You could have a reunion right there on your gorgeous farm. Kids would love all your brilliant animals, the hills, the beauty. You could invite anyone and everyone, family or not.

(Would I do this myself? Hmm, good question.)

Ruth said...

Hi and welcome, ♥ T! I am happy to meet you and know you are doing a blog on Detroit. You have lovely places, your blogs, and you have good sensibilities. All the best!

Ruth said...

Hi, Madeleine - one of my favorite names, now I have never known Michigan to be compared to Provence like that, and it pleases me to no end. I think those of us who grew up here can too easily forget Michigan's wonders. Don and I just talked last evening that we need to start hiking and biking again. I have no idea what we've been waiting for (well, a nudge from George, apparently, see his comment for the link to his Transit Notes, and a post on a cross-country trek across England). Anyway, Michigan really is beautiful. I have only seen photos of Avignon and Provence, but through them I can attest to the beauty there as well.

Ruth said...

Margaret, you left Petoskey? Wow. It's a place of my dreams. Well I'm happy that you love the heat down there.

This cake is as scrumptious to eat as to look at. I do not have a recipe, I'm afraid. I think it was a butter cream frosting. I hope you are happy with yours. I was amazed at the gigantic raspberries.

Ruth said...

Hi, and welcome, George! I have been to a few that did not end well myself. Gratefully, those seem well behind us now that we've grown up.

Yes, pies. I have always been a pie person, more than a cake person. But that is my plate there with some of each. Don looked at me and said, Are you going to finish that? I smiled and said, thank you for pretending in front of these nice people that I might not be able to.

Lisle Merrifield said...

Hi Ruth! I loved reading about the "other family" that brings you so much joy! I now understand your passion (and Don's) for buying and maintaining your own farm. You have two beautiful worlds to celebrate all year round!

I miss you guys. I'm really looking forward to seeing you at the cottage this weekend, as well as the celebration at Farm Day. Until then . . .

Babs-beetle said...

I love family reunions! We have them. The first few years my brother booked a beautiful, local Thai restaurant. They closed it to the public so we had the whole place to ourselves. Sadly the restaurant closed down, so we moved the reunions to one of my sisters homes. Do we travel far? Well not Mo and I, as they are always held local to us, but one sister comes from Spain, and another from way down in Kent.

Ruth said...

Hi, Lisle! :D

I miss you too. We miss you too. I can't wait to see you at the cottage, and Todd, and Audrey & Asher. They looked so cute in the work day pictures. I loved the one of Audrey's head coming up through the sink hole, and Asher is just such a doll-boy! Love you.

Ruth said...

Babs, a Thai restaurant would work very well for my side, but not for many on Don's side I'm guessing. Overall a restaurant would be a nice change and let someone else do the prep and cleanup.

Don's sister's family came all the way up from Tennessee, about a 10-hour drive. His sister was smart though, she didn't drive with her daughters and grandkids. She flew.

cathyswatercolors said...

What a great farm house. Family reunions are always interesting that's for sure. Unfortunately we don't have much extended family left.
We spent this Sunday watching my eldest son get baptized at the greek orthodox church in greektown. He will be getting married there this fall. It was a beautiful church and we missed the scarey weather(tornado not far from us).
peace my friend.

The Bug said...

What beautiful pictures! It looks like a great time.

We don't usually do family reunions - but my dad's side of the family loves to have a ginormous Thanksgiving gathering. This is just his brother & sisters & their children - it's still a LOT of people!

When my mother was alive her brothers & their children always came to our house for Christmas Eve - and that got to be a really huge gathering too with all the spouses & grandkids.

ds said...

Such memories. I'm glad you're an "unthinking photographer" (HA)--every photo is gorgeous. Family reunions were a staple of our summers, too. Yours looks lovely & everyone is having fun, which is the most important thing. That, and reinforcing the connection. Hope they liked your bean dish.

Oliag said...

I am such a pie person too!...and that pie photo certainly attracted me:)

How fortunate you are to have two large families near by and family members that care enough to put time and effort into keeping in touch.

I grew up knowing I would always have a family gathering on the 4th of July which involved lots of aunts, uncles, cousins, peanut hunts, pond swimming, clam chowder, little necks, clam cakes, hot dogs, hamburgers, bottled soda, bocce, horseshoes, sparklers, and a birthday cake for my sister who happened to be born on the 4th...Little by little as aunts and uncles died and families moved away we got together less and less until finally I just spent the day with my sister and our two families...This year? I don't know what I'll do and don't know what I want to do...maybe next year I will feel up to trying to get the family together again...

....Summer does seem to be flying by:)

renaye said...

nice!! sometimes when i look at other people's reunion, i wonder to myself if i'm missing something from this kind reunion, as i never had one, really. but to be honest, this kind of reunion would never work in my family because we never get along ... and i remember my family sitting silently staring at our food during one of my relative's birthday. even such small gathering, not much of conversation is going ... i guess i don't need a huge reunion to tell me how it is gonna be.

glad u had fun.

Ann said...

what a beautiful place to have a reunion. Who tends the gardens?

Ginnie said...

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had married into an only-child family, Ruth, with hardly any relatives. You have enough people in your combined families to start a village. Farming could be a business for a co-op...I can see it now, all the gifted tradesmen and teachers, etc. etc. to start a little commune. HA! Well, not that I recommend it, of course, but I did get carried away by all the talented people.

I hate that I will miss #2 and #3 in person. I haven't mentioned this to Astrid yet but I'm thinking it would be good to be at one of them next year and we'll have to choose which! Maybe you can help us choose!?!

Margaret Bednar said...

Hard to believe we LEFT Petoskey - wiill always be home in our hearts as we loved the small, artsy town on the small Little Traverse Bay. I would drive around with my camera taking pictures of old barns, houses, pastures, lake front - just never ending beuaty. One very cold winter morning I took pictures of the most beautiful "crystal" morning - ice everywhere, just stunning. Moved for college opportunities for the kids. I do imagine a second home SOMEDAY in Petoskey - but that is years from now. Will have to settle on visiting for a few weeks each summer until then. I will post pics on my blog when I make the cake! margaretbednar.blogspot.com

Shari Sunday said...

I don't think my comment took so I will try again. Those pictures are the stuff dreams are made of. You have a wonderful life and the good sense to appreciate every minute of it. I am grateful to be a part of it in the blog world. Happy summer!

♥ Kathy said...

This whole year seems to be going by before I know it! Your family reunions looked like so much fun Ruth and the farms are beautiful! We used to have reunions all the time but after my grandfather passed away they just kind of stopped. My grandmother was always the one to organize everything and get everyone together.

Pauline said...

Family and food and fun - I love reunions. My own is so far flung that we seldom if ever get us ALL together but when enough brothers, sisters and cousins coincide we have a picnic of phenomenal proportions and take tons of photos. Your account was delightful!

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth, what a glorious family and occasion. I can hear the warmth in your voice and feel the joy in your heart as you celebrate time with these special people. And how lovely it all is! The gardens, the tables! It really is the best!

I feel about much of Rick's family as you describe Don's -- and very blessed for all that. His family gathers every five years or so, but they are also fairly committed to getting to weddings and funerals (sadly), which turn out to be reunions of a sort. My family is very small -- we haven't all been together on purpose for a long time, though visits occur. Perhaps I should take charge!

Pat said...

We have our annual Heinen camping trip coming up in August. That is always a great time. Most of Jim's siblings get together for that. The following weekend is a big family reunion on Jim's side.

We are having another reunion, of sorts, in July, of our old street where we grew up. This is the third annual and are expecting 100 people. Unfortunately we won't be there because we have a wedding to go to!

I, too, am blessed with a wonderful family and wonderful in-laws!

That farm looks so homey and wonderful!

Griselda Pugh said...

Lovely post and the farm looks beautiful. The main thing, though, is that I really want that stone chair!! What a fantastic place to sit :)

Vagabonde said...

Your pictures are lovely – I like the flowers. What a great family reunion – it must be nice to have family and share a great meal with them – and on 3 different occasions. I met my first cousin from Egypt (my father’s sister son) while in California last week. He just arrived from the Far East as his son is married to a Japanese lady. He brought many old pictures and told me that we do indeed have second cousins but they live in so many different places: Argentina, Egypt, Jordan, Australia, Canada, Greece, Turkey and so forth, but he was not sure of their names and did not have their address. He said one cousin in Jordan loves genealogy and may have all the info – he will ask him. I hope I’ll find out but then, how do you write a person you have never seen, in a foreign country and tell them you are their second cousin? I don’t think that will ever happen. So, no I never had a family reunion but would love to have one. I enjoyed yours.

rauf said...

i have seen woolen clothes in the museum. oh not true Ruth. i have actually seen people wearing them in the movies. There are some cold places in India and Winter in the north. Coorg gets chilly during the rains. i keep searching for warm clothing when i go to such places but some friend would have borrowed them. i have a few but right now i don't remember what kind of warm clothing i have.

The pictures are like a movie Ruth, i love to eat under a tree but with too many crows around its not a good idea for us

yes i am missing the big group photo, i do the same and kick myself later for forgetting to take group picture or something very important

Janna Qualman said...

Lovely post, and lovely place here, too. :)

I also enjoyed small; was drawn to it like I'm drawn to all the small things in life. They are sometimes the most important.

Arti said...

Ruth, your photos are amazingly sharp. Sorry to divert into another topic, but if I haven't now's the best chance to do so. May I ask what camera equipments you used to take these wonderful pictures? Of course, the family reunions are just admirable, yes, admired by those who don't usually get them, like me. You must be the historian of your family, with your lively photography and sensitive writing. And Ruth, you sure are fortunate to be blessed by two loving, extended families.

Anna said...

Ruth we only have reunions when someone is getting married. When I was getting married my mom make sure I didn't skip anyone, lol. Few times I heard, weddings are family reunions - our family would say when we get together. You know that also reminds my childhood years when the weddings were always at brides home, and they would set up the wooden floor for dancing, and then the reunion was not just for the family, but the whole neighborhood, lol, yeah wedding crushers we were, lol. Anna :)

Ruth said...

Dear Cathy, oh I'm grateful you didn't experience the tornadoes, how dreadful they were.

Congratulations to your son! Now you are going to have an interesting new branch in the family! My brother won grand prize at a photography show with a glorious photograph of a Greek Orthodox priest.

Ruth said...

So, Dana, you come from big families too. My mom and dad made up for their small families. My dad just had one brother and one sister, and only his brother had one child. My mom was an only child. Mom and Dad have more than made up for their parents' population negligence.

Ruth said...

Hi, and thank you, DS. Let me tell you about the bean dish. My brain told me I was adding green chilis from a can. They were jalapenos, and I put in the whole can. Don and I love spicy, and I'd say around half the folks there like spicy. So some liked them. :)

Ruth said...

Oliag! 4th of July weekend we will have all the things in your wonderful litany, except clam chowder! Only on the East Coast, I guess. But wow, would I love that.

We've talked as a family a lot about continuing to get together. When my siblings and I are gone, I wonder if the next generation will keep it up.

Ruth said...

Hi, Renaye, and thanks. It's good to see you. I know. We have had some troubles in my own family over the years, but things have settled down. For a while there some of us got nervous if certain people planned on coming to gatherings. :|

Ruth said...

Yes, Ann, it has gotten better every year. Cheryl tends the beautiful flowers, and her husband moves things where she tells him. Cheryl is a hospice nurse who works very hard. Her gardens are therapeutic for her.

Ruth said...

Boots, since the economy busted, we've talked a lot about these 5 acres becoming a co-op or commune. Move in the trailers and tents, and everyone can help. Why not? Sometimes I wonder if that is what our civilization is heading for, more and more. We will need to stop being so independent and get back to the days of bartering. Don and I, of course, will be the land barons and take our tax, ha.

Hmm, which one, #2 or #3. I vote #3. :)

Ruth said...

Margaret, even a few weeks in the summer in Petoskey is pretty great, wow. We're lucky if we get up there for one or two days a year.

Please tell me when you post the cake.

Ruth said...

♥ Kathy, yes, that seems to happen a lot. There are one or two people who keep everyone getting together, then when they're gone, they stop. Sometimes it just takes someone who's willing to be the nudger.

Ruth said...

Pauline, a "picnic of phenomenal proportions" sounds like summer food heaven. Why does food taste so good outdoors?

Ruth said...

Jeanie, yes - weddings and funerals are reunions too. Unhappily, we have none of the former this year, and happily have had none of the latter.

If anyone could arrange a reunion in your family, it would be you, and it would be a feast and a festival. You could pick a theme!

Ruth said...

So, Pat, you have three as well, but you'll miss one. That one is huge! There's always someone who has a wedding to go to . . .

Ruth said...

Hi, Griselda, the stone chair is surprisingly comfortable!

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, if anyone could write a second cousin you've never met, it is you. I see in your comment how appropos your pseudonym is, with connections around the world. Travel is in your lineage, apparently.

I wish we could afford to have a family reunion in a different country every year. A destination reunion.

Ruth said...

rauf, maybe sometimes you have to pull out long sleeved shirts for AC. I think you said you had a down vest or jacket when you went to the Himalayas. I would love for you to visit Michigan, but only in the summer. Even our summer would probably feel chilly to you, but we would be happy to provide a down coat for you to wear.

:D

I won't forget the group shot at the cottage this weekend, rauf. Promise.

Ruth said...

Hello and welcome, Janna. Yes, paying attention to the small things is maybe the most important. And then I have to remind myself to look at the bigger picture. :)

Ruth said...

Arti, thank you so much. I use a Nikon D40.

I am one family historian, there are several. My sister Ginnie (Boots) also documents, and my nephews Paul and Todd, and their wives. My brother Bennett was the first, and I'll be posting about him shortly.

I do think it would be nice to self publish a book for family of the posts I've done here with family stories.

Ruth said...

Anna, that kind of home wedding sounds like the very best. I asked my dad if we could get married at home, but because we had a church full of people to invite, he denied my request. How beautiful to move out the furniture, invite the neighbors (or not, just let them come :) and dance on the wooden floor! Oh, I love picturing that.

Sandy said...

I loved seeing these farm photos and the family, wow so cool.

Beautiful in fact..

No real family reunion in years, my family became very small after everybody but my sis passed away and the few cousins we had we lost touch with.

M's family - all the cousins were only close when the gramma was alive.

Terresa said...

I love family reunions!! I'm coming to your post just now, after I posted about mine. We go to 2 a year, one for my dad's side of the family, and one for my mom's side of the family. My husband's family has one (an extended family reunion) every few years.

PS: What a beautiful landscaped yard, stone work, pond (pond!!) and flag cake. Scrumptious, every bit. Enjoy your family, as I know you do. And summer, as it slips through our fingers.