The fourth annual Gentner family reunion was held this past Sunday. If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I am somewhat worried about reunion apathy, particularly on the part of younger family members.
The day actually started off on a sour note. Rain clouds were gathered and a light drizzle fell for part of the morning. When I arrived at at the reunion site I was greeted by a small contingent of family members who, before saying hello, made it clear how upset they were that there was no electricity at the site. There were dozens of outlets, but no juice. Where were they going to plug in their crockpots? The success of the whole event seemingly hinged on the line of crockpots on the counter. My mom and dad were close behind us, so mom took over the crabby family members. A cousin showed up then, and offered to go get his 15'x30' tent in the event of rain, as well as a phone book so that we could try to call someone about the electricity situation. I must say that I was duly impressed about this, as he was one of the ones who wouldn't turn around for the family photo at least year's reunion. I made a phone call regarding the electricity situation, asking if someone could please come and turn it on, except that my plea was made to an answering machine, and I never did get a call back from a human. (We'll be changing venues next year, by the way.) In the meantime, another cousin went home to get a portable generator and an extension cord to power the omnipresent crockpots. Someone else, I still don't know who, also thought to run an extension cord to an outlet on the outside of the little building where the switch to the electricity was apparently housed. And my good old mom had thought to bring a power strip. So, finally, with lunchtime looming, the food could begin warming and the show could go on without a run to McDonald's. Just when I was starting to lose faith in this family, and in our family reunion, everyone pulled together (well, with the exception of one uncle, who was awfully crabby for some reason, and didn't speak two words to anyone all day long).
Turnout was poor to start. I was worried. I got our guestbook and memory book and donation can arranged and the white elephant auction area staged while my aunts covered tables and made sure that each crockpot and salad had a serving spoon. I recruited an auctioneer, actually volunteered by his wife because she said he has a big mouth. People trickled in, and the turnout was decent by the time we announced the beginning of the food line. There were many more desserts than salads, but I don't think anyone cared. Life is short, you may as well eat dessert first anyway. A few more people arrived as we were eating.
After lunch a softball game was organized. I wanted to do our group photo and then our white elephant auction and get them over with so that everyone could mingle and do as they pleased, but we had to wait for a break in the game. I forgot to mention that I was contacted by three cousins in the day before the reunion to ask what they should bring and if I could let people know to bring softball equipment. This was through our facebook group, and I have to say that I probably wouldn't have heard from them if we didn't mingle online, so I was very happy for that. A few announcements later, five of the guys were moving the bleachers to the proper position, everyone (and I mean everyone, even previous back-turners) was assembled with minimal cajoling, my husband snapped the "official" picture, a few others clicked their shutters as well, and we were done. I truly think that was the easiest family picture yet. I didn't hear one complaint, though that's not to say there weren't any. Wait, I did hear a couple "can't we wait for so-and-so to get here", but if we had done that, another so-and-so would have left in the meantime. Next was the white elephant auction. Not as many people participated as have in the past, and it truly was not as fun to watch as in previous years. There was some stealing of gifts, with an uncle's wood carving of the crochety old lady the coveted prize. My mom ended up with it, there may have been bloodshed if she hadn't. She had been set on getting his gift for two years. Our auctioneer with his booming voice was very effective in commanding attention. But by the end of it all, I had made up my mind that this would be the end of the white elephant era.
So, the auction over, everyone went their separate ways to mingle. The softball game started up again, less my husband, who had gotten more exercise that day than in the whole month prior. The kids played. My daughter got to play with some cousins that she only sees once a year, the closest in age being 4 months younger than her. She made friends with one, they skipped together then took off running around the baseball diamonds with two dads and a mom giving chase. It was good to see all the kids getting along, except for one bad apple who bossed and hit and pushed. Oddly enough, that one belonged to one of the rougher branches of the family. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?
A few more people trickled in as the afternoon wore on, including my brother and his girlfriend, who had unknowingly double booked themselves that day. The food disappeared, people munched at it all day. People of course began to trickle out as well. The tent came down, the generator left, the softball game came to an end. Eventually just a handful of diehards were left, my parents, three aunts and uncles, and a couple cousins. We reflected on this year's events, the wine flowed. They dispersed to an aunt's house nearby for more wine and conversation, and suddenly it was just myself, my husband, and our daughter.
I think it went well. I was pleased with how people pulled together to make the event a success, and with how many young people attended on their own free will. I was disappointed that we collected only $49 in the collection can for next year's expenses, and that more people didn't say "good job, I had a great time". I was impressed with how willingly everyone assembled for the group photo. The offenders from last year, however, still spent the whole rest of the day in a group by themselves.
But at least they turned around.