After the family reunion, my head and heart are busy with fresh memories—like of the oldest and the youngest arriving together, the 87-year-old matriarch (Generation 1) and her 9-month-old great-grandchild (Generation 4). Very cool moment. We gather on the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The family is large, ten Gen 2ers, my siblings and myself. Grand total of the Fossum generations who made the trip this year was 47—and we sorely missed the other 16. With one exception, we’ve come together every other summer since 1987. There was an important reason that year: the desire of our mother to see all of her children and grandchildren upon her return from two years of Peace Corps service in the Philippines. The 11 reunions since then have happened on the general familial principles of staying in touch and having lots and lots of fun.
One of the funnest aspects for me is KP duty. We do our own cooking and each meal crew is headed by a Gen 2 and staffed by in-laws, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. The littlest team members take pride in rolling silverware, decorating napkins, and fixing plates of cookies. Kitchen conversation is lively and informative—and you never know when there might be a rubber mouse in the sink to send a certain aunt into conniptions!
And the games are fun. One year a cutthroat Sungka tournament went on day and night, through blistered knuckles, until there was a winner. My one sister and I treated our match-up like afternoon tea, totally non-competitive, just to calm things down a little. The spectator crowd soon dissipated. Water balloon volleyball is a staple and always a hoot. Refreshing, too. Email me if you want instructions. The last few years, Apples to Apples, an adjective game, is a strong draw and sometimes continues into the wee hours of the morning. Favorite quotes from one of those sessions: “Taking from my own life, ‘Going to the gym’ is nerdy.” “Chimpanzees are so idiotic. I hate them.” Another hit this year was Minute to Win It. All ages participated and the older we were the bigger fools we made of ourselves; fools for fun. Then, there’s the Fossum trivia game. “Whose favorite food is potato chips?” “Which Fossum has lived on three continents?” We’re ready for an updated version of that. The talent show seems to have gone steadily downhill since the astonishing tap dance of our 60-something mother a couple decades ago. But we’ve got talent; we definitely need to revive that event.
Family is dynamic by nature and many changes always occur in the intervening two years. For starters, everybody’s two years older and now the kids we used to take to the candy store on the lake trail are taking littler ones. At any given gathering people are making geographical moves or changing jobs or starting kindergarten or graduating from college. We’ve lost several participants to divorce, something I didn’t expect in my family, but now we Gen 2s are at the national average in that regard. (I’ve had to come to terms with being typical; I don’t know why being above average used to seem so important.) There are always babies on the way or recently born as well as significant others we’re meeting for the first time. Shockingly, one of us is mobile in a wheelchair since the last get-together, and we rally round in sorrow and caring, marveling at that one’s determination and courage. Other changes, too, cause pain and confusion, but Don Henley got it right. It’s about forgiveness. Fortunately, we seem to be blessed with plenty of that.
Time always runs out too soon. People begin arriving on Thursday afternoon, everybody’s present by Friday night, and then we gradually leave after Sunday breakfast, out by 11am to make room for the next guests. And whoever sits down next to me is just who I want to be near. But the gala was over before I found out about that nephew’s job search or caught up very well with brothers-in-law or had enough time with little ones or swam or remembered to give Mom the book I brought along which I’ll now have to mail or…
But even though our brief time together seems incomplete in some ways, the reunion is a privileged, precious piece of life, a time of roots and wings. “Roots hold me close; wings set me free…” (from Spirit of Life by Carolyn McDade)
Thank you, gracious Creator, for life and for the gift of family.