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Family Gathering

It’s been said that as time goes by, families tend to get together for either weddings or funerals. That is especially true the larger the size or the more extended or spread out the family. But one exception to this is family reunions.

My large extended family got together for a family reunion two weekends ago in Central Wisconsin. An astounding 176 people traveled from assorted states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and of course Wisconsin. It has been years since we had last gathered together and for some of the relatives this was the first time seeing each other in many years. And although 176 is a rather amazing number by anyone’s standards, there were still more than 60 (a guess) who were not able to attend.

Normally an end of July weekend in central Wisconsin would have been sweltering hot and humid; our reunion weekend was anything but. The weather was unseasonably cold and rainy. With a low of 52 degrees along with scattered showers, those that packed layered clothing wore it. Those that didn’t were wishing they had. Some people even went out and bought sweatshirts or extra layers. But in a sweet way, there was incredible warmth in the large rented hall that defied the outside temperatures. It was where…

  • We gathered.
  • We hugged.
  • We shared stories.
  • We reminisced.
  • We marveled at the physical changes in each other.
  • We were surprised by how big the children had grown.
  • We were tickled to see that some of the children were now married or had children of their own.
  • We laughed.
  • We hugged some more.
  • We gave thanks.
  • We were well fed.
  • We were kept hydrated.
  • We bowled or at least some of us did.
  • We smiled for pictures.
  • We got silly for photo booth opportunities.
  • We met and introduced new family members.
  • We oohed and ahhed over the youngest ones.
  • We enjoyed a slideshow of family photos that spanned lifetimes.
  • We attempted to catch-up.
  • We soaked up moments together.
  • We spoke of pierogis and Mogen David wine.
  • We shared email addresses and cell phone numbers.
  • We promised to stay in touch.
  • We made plans to visit.
  • We hugged some more.
  • We remembered those in our family no longer with us.
  • We celebrated the two people responsible for bringing this large gathering of people together – Joseph and Anna Szepieniec.

    Joseph and Anna Szepieniec on their Wedding Day

    Joseph and Anna Szepieniec on their Wedding Day

Joseph and Anna Szepieniec were my paternal grandparents, who were mostly known as Granny and Grandpa. They’ve been gone for quite a number of years now, but if they were alive today they’d be 123 years old. Many of us spoke of how much they would have loved being a part of the reunion. Some of us said we could feel them with us; I know I did. They brought 7 children into the world, and those children along with their spouses brought an additional 34 grandchildren into the world. The number of great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren that followed is somewhat staggering and I actually don’t know the exact number.

I enjoyed many great conversations, although I didn’t get to talk with even half of those who were there. That means there were so many other conversations and stories and hugs that I missed out on too. And I know I wasn’t alone. Plus, it just wasn’t physically possible to talk to everyone. To prove my point, I pulled out my trusty little calculator and if I did the calculations correctly… if I had spent only 5 minutes with each of the 175 other people who attended, it would have taken me 14.5 hours to do it. See what I mean? Somehow that little math exercise just made me feel better.

Family moments like our reunion are precious times. With our oldest family member being 90 years old and the youngest being around 1 year, it’s difficult to imagine what the group will look like when we gather for our next reunion in 5 years. I’m fairly certain the hall will be filled with people who cherish the family bond that we all share, who will still be grateful for the rich legacy that two very special people left behind, and who will bear a striking resemblance to each other and to those whose footsteps we follow.

The weekend just wasn’t long enough, and with our massive numbers, there was no one place (except for the hall on Saturday) that could accommodate everyone. So there were scattered mini gatherings and celebrations throughout the weekend. Some of the family celebrated at one of my cousin’s cottages and enjoyed fireworks on the lake. Others gathered in the hotel for continental breakfast each morning or by the pool at night. Some spoke of visiting the various cemeteries where loved ones were buried. On Sunday, a group of us (around 80) gathered for a family brunch before saying our goodbyes. And then about 30 of us made one more stop before heading out of town, this time for ice cream and of course more goodbyes.

As I got back into the swing of my normal schedule and life at home last week, I found myself sometimes smiling for no reason or giggling or tearing up over remembered moments or conversations from the weekend. Throughout the days that followed, there were numerous family emails and texts and phone calls and a multitude of photos posted on our family Facebook page, that all seemed to make the vast distances between us seem a bit closer.

And as I write these words, I’m once again feeling ever so grateful not only for the gift of this wonderfully large and diverse family, but also for my one niece and assorted family members who were responsible for making this reunion happen in the first place. As you can imagine, it was no small undertaking. Only now I have a problem. I don’t know how I can possibly wait another 5 years for the next one.

Granny and Grandpa in Wedding Pose

Granny and Grandpa in Wedding Pose

Granny and Grandpa in their Lublin Backyard

The Sweetest Kiss Ever

The Sweetest Kiss Ever

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2 comments on “Family Gathering

  1. Therese
    August 9, 2013

    That reunion was the hall that wanted a family:) What a great synopsis!

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