A guest post by Judy Brown:
Has anyone ever written a guidebook on how to have a successful family reunion? I couldn’t find one at Barnes and Noble. Here are a few thoughts I came away with after a week in Maine with my family.
We came across the ocean, by plane, car, and RV, with strong feet and a cane. We had 4 generations from age 83 to age 8.
The trip was sort of a “last hurrah” for my dad. He was an avid sailor, and he was determined to have one more big sailing trip. Navigating with his physical limitations would be challenging, but we decided to tackle the winds of coastal Maine.
We sailed our 35 foot red boat everyday in puffy and calm winds and in sunny and misty weather. My father usually took the helm. When it was time to come about everyone played a role. Tighten the ropes! Turn to the starboard! Duck your head and watch the mast! It always takes someone to be in charge and make the call. Everyone must pay attention…….we’ll see if that works!
Our daily sailing adventures added a focus to our reunion, and the experience provided stories for all of us to share upon returning to land. I took the helm a few times. It was empowering to steer the boat and catch the winds in the sails and be the one to shout “ready to come about”! How nice, and perhaps unusual, that everyone listened.
On Day 3, I declared that we were going to have a girls only activity. The quick head turns from the men were intriguing. In any case, the 8 of us enjoyed a lovely lunch outdoors at a restaurant in Acadia National Park. This establishment is famous for its buttery popovers and jam.
Our discussions ranged from aging skin, to what we will cook for dinner that evening, why my father was so grumpy despite being with his family, and most importantly, my little sister’s engagement. Women accomplish so much while having tea. We sure do love to talk. I was thankful to share this table of 8 with my daughter. And…the popovers and jelly melted in our mouths!
Now, it may seem like this was a perfect family get together. Oh no. We had our moments of tension and disagreements. My dad took the helm, again, when it came to stormy outbursts. Not too mention why my other sister refused to come to this week long gathering.
Thankfully, my daughter,Jamie, came to Maine equipped with a new family card game. All tension dissolved as we played multiple rounds of “Murder Mystery.”
In a nutshell, there is a murderer, an accomplice and a policeman. All players must hide their identity and pretend to be innocent. Wow. We were given permission to lie and deceive our fellow family members! The group must work together to uncover the mystery. We were bound to each other and dependent on each other’s skills of deceit.
The evenings sailed by. The games ended in loud and boisterous laughter. Plans were made for resuming the game the next evening. Oddly,I had forgotten I was irritated with my sister for not doing her share of the dishes earlier that day.
I suspect some families do have perfect reunions where everyone behaves and the only drama is a play performed by the grandchildren on the patio. Well, we did have musical performances that melted our hearts. But we also had daily mini soap operas that were exhausting. The sun and sail and nightly card games erased most of those episodes, however.
So if I were to write a guide to perfect family reunions I would include finding group activities and down time and fun meals. And what I know for sure is….. that despite the swells of tension and the pitter patter of pettiness, there are no perfect reunions.
We love each other anyway. And the best part is that we have added new stories to our soap opera. Tales of the sea.
My dad is happy. Hurrah!
Photo: Above We rented a 35 ft sail boat that happened to be red. Every time I looked out at the water and saw the boat, I couldn’t help but remember all of the toy boats my son played with in the bathtub when he was a toddler. There is something magical about the color red. ( Photo Credit: Sue Dobbs Ackley.)
Photo Below: My dad holding an old fashioned wooden tiller in Rio circa 1968. Our boat was called “Boa Vida” which means “good life”.
Judy Brown: Judy grew up sailing with her father in Rio, Brasil, and in New York. Her husband, Martin, has a small blue sailboat and also loves to sail.