by Karen Luna Ray
Every planner’s nightmare is the reunion that ends too early. Months of planning culminated and expended in just a few short hours. The reunion site fills early in the day. The air resounds with boisterous greetings and laughing children, giving the reunion planner’s heart a boost. “A success!” you think, watching relatives hug, tease and generally enjoy being with one another. Photo albums are passed. Cameras whir as members attempt to capture the essence of the day on film.
Soon it is mealtime. With hunger satisfied, and children off to play, adults enjoy an easy camaraderie. A few older folks begin to tire and slowly take their leave. Then, you look around and wonder what in the world just happened! It is mid-afternoon and all that is left of the reunion is you and the clean-up crew.
Though the devastation can be a bit daunting, there is clearly only one acceptable form of action. Find and fix the problem.
The first time this happened at our family reunion, I got upset. The second time, I was determined to figure out what was wrong. Taking into consideration the good number of members each year, a reunion was obviously desired. So what was wrong?
The reunion site itself was lovely. A covered pavilion with kitchen facilities, restrooms, ample seating and table space set in a grove of pine trees. A sandbox, volleyball court and baseball field were nearby. A creek meandered through the park area with wooden bridges crossing at short intervals.
Our reunions were held each year in June. June in Oklahoma can take your breath away … literally. The summer sun is hot and the humidity is sometimes horrendous.
As a mother with two young children, I realized that parents with very young children were occupied keeping kids off bridges and out of the creek. For the kids there were no boundaries. Children age five and up love digging for crawdads.
We were losing some older folks as well as younger ones early because of the oppressive heat. Young mothers were exhausted chasing children and children were unhappy because they couldn’t do what they wanted.
Our solution was to change the reunion site. We found a church recreation center for family reunions available to rent. It has a kitchen area, ample tables and seating space. There is a fenced play yard for children who wish to brave the heat, and for those who do not, there is indoor skating, volleyball or basketball. Older folks trade off a bit of noise for the air conditioning. They also realize that to keep children interested in family gatherings, there must be something interesting or fun for them. The very young have the run of the place but outdoors is inaccessible without an adult to open the door.
Our new location makes for a relaxed, enjoyable day for everyone. And I no longer find myself standing alone in the middle of the afternoon, wondering what in the world happened.