Every three years, my family and I are bound by sacred law to meet in a grove of trees in central Michigan where we slaughter rabbits on the altar of the Dark Lord Cthlulu to preserve our sinister powers over the weak and feeble…
And while we’re there… we have a family reunion.
In mid-June of last year, I flew thirty plus hours from Doha to Frankfurt to Chicago to Saginaw, Michigan for my family reunion. At the tiny two-terminal Saginaw airport, things started off well with my bags being left behind at O’Hare. My parents picked me up in the pristine pine scented air of mid-Michigan. It was fifty degrees cooler there than when I had left Doha a day and a half before. After a quick beer, we picked up my sister Nadine and took off to our home for the next two weeks.
My sister Colleen and my parents were able to rent a house on a tiny lake in the middle of nowhere… actually, just outside of nowhere in a township called Lake. The house was good sized with a large kitchen, a basement for the kids, and a magnificent backyard under a gorgeous oak tree overlooking a dark blue lake. The lake, Perch Lake, was small… very small. But just large enough for the large pontoon boat and fourteen foot speed boat the house owner was letting us use.
The house was in good shape… but it needed a little work. So during the first few days, we all cleaned the floors and cupboards, organized his shed, weeded the beach, and polished the garage to a fine shine… it’s what we do in my family. The owner was incredibly kind to let us use the house for almost nothing, and we weren’t about to overstep his kindness.
Basically, for two weeks, it was my immediate family, all twenty of us, including one who came in from Iraq, plus a revolving door of relatives on both sides of the family coming by to drink beer, play cards, water ski and swim in the lake. In the early mornings, my sisters and I would take the boat out and fish before the kids woke up, catching small perch and sunfish. Dad and one of the nephews would clean them on the shore and fry them up in mustard for lunch with white bread to down the bones. We showered in the lake to save water using rags and bars of Dove soap; I washed my nieces’ hair.
My job was simple… I was in charge of the boats. Keep them clean, gas them up, top off the oil… and teach the kids how to ski. That was fun. I couldn’t get up myself, but everyone, including my sisters and my dad, all got up easily. Even the really little kids tried their best and almost got it. Thankfully, we had a tube where I got to swing them around and toss them off like rag dolls. Unfortunately, my turn on the tube ended up with me giving myself a massive hernia and turning my groin black.
For lunch, we ate our fish, grilled hotdogs, and made sandwiches from leftovers. At night, we took turns making dinner and doing the dishes. Every night we played cards, sometimes with the kids, sometimes just the adults. At dusk everyone would pack into cars and drive to the neighborhood gas station for bait and incredibly good ice cream cones.
We saw our entire extended family and shared meals and beer. A few times we all took off and dined out at the local mom and pop diner, or stopped off for a beer at our parent’s old watering holes. We played golf in the middle of a corn field, and bought tomatoes and cucumbers and apple cider from roadside stands.
After two weeks, we left the house on the lake for a weekend hotel where the families gathered for more beer, games of cards, horseshoes, and cornhole. Polkas were played and the old folks that still could, danced.
I spent every morning swimming in the cool lake water, the days playing with kids under the sun spying wild turkeys and deer in the fields, and laughing nearly nonstop with my parents, sisters, and cousins…
I can't wait for the next one…