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A Gathering of Sisters

If you know me or read my blog, you know I am one of 11 children. This is something I do not take for granted. In fact, I consider my family a rich lifelong blessing. In this assortment of siblings, I happen to be one of 7 sisters.

While I’m no longer surprised when people are amazed to hear that I come from such a large family; I am often surprised by the number who are amazed that we all get along. And we don’t just get along. We really enjoy each other’s company and truly savor any moments when we can be together. Of course we have had our differences and our hiccup moments, but we’ve learned through the years to avoid or at least tread softly on some of the hot topics like politics and religion.

We used to gather for what was lovingly called Octoberfest, since that was always the month that seemed to work for the most people – generally around Columbus Day weekend. While I don’t have the exact number of Octoberfests that we celebrated, I’m remembering there were close to 20 of them. But when our numbers grew too large (at last count somewhere around 90) and as the nieces and nephews got older (and we did too) we started gathering for weddings and anniversaries and funerals instead.

A number of years ago, sometime after our last Octoberfest was held, my sisters and I started getting together for a sisters’ weekend about once a year. As you might imagine with us living in 7 different cities in 3 different states, and trying to plan around everyone’s work schedules and lives, it’s not always easy to find a weekend that works for everyone. And since we live in the Midwest where weather can be at times precarious and challenging, we do our best to avoid the winter months. This year, even though we’d been talking about it for months, we ending up scheduling it for November with the three youngest sisters hosting.

So last weekend we (7 sisters and 2 sisters in laws) loaded up 4 vehicles from our assorted homes and headed up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Except for the resort caretaker and his family, we were the only people staying at the resort. Our cabin had 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. I called dibs on the sofa in the living room, partly because I was one of the weekend planners and partly because I’m an early morning riser. The kitchen table had only 8 chairs, so we pulled the cushioned ottoman in from the living room to accommodate all 9 of us.

On Friday afternoon we were greeted with a snowstorm about an hour from our destination. It was the slushy heavy kind of snow that left about 2 inches of slippery snow on the ground and trees with branches sagging under the weight of it.

Snow Laden Tree through Window Screen

Snow Laden Tree through Window Screen

Our arrivals were scattered throughout the late afternoon and early evening, but we all arrived carrying overnight bags and pillows, as well as bags with food and towels and an assortment of surprises too.

My sister and I were the first to arrive. We opened the cabin door to find a lovely bouquet of roses and fall flowers waiting for us on the kitchen table. Our North Carolina brother had sent them to us to celebrate our weekend and share his love. It was fun to see everyone take in their beauty – all of us were very touched and rather teary-eyed by his incredibly thoughtful gesture and loving words printed on the card.

Flowers from Our Brother

Flowers from Our Brother

Such sweet and loving words...

Such sweet and loving words…

You might be wondering, what do you do on a sisters’ weekend? Well, let me tell you what we did.

We ate… a lot.

  • There were homemade pierogis and Polish sausage on Friday night.
  • A mini breakfast buffet on Saturday morning with breakfast sandwiches, homemade banana bread, O&H blueberry Kringle from Racine, a fabulous arrangement of fresh berries, bananas, apples, oranges, and pomegranates and some wonderful fresh brewed coffee.
  • There was a late lunch of homemade chicken dumpling soup and fresh baked crusty bread with summer sausage for lunch.
  • For an even later dinner, there was some incredible homemade potato salad and pulled pork sandwiches.
  • Sunday morning was a smorgasbord of all the weekend leftovers.
  • Scattered throughout the weekend were homemade guacamole and pickles and jam, and our mom’s famous coconut cake.

We laughed. A lot. To me it seemed that the walls echoed with laughter all weekend long. On Saturday night, when everyone had gone to bed and all I could hear were the soft murmurs of shared bedroom conversations, I felt my mom and dad’s presence in a way I haven’t felt in years. It was wonderful.

We told stories. Lots of stories – even including some new ones. We got caught up on each other’s lives. We marveled at the numbers that now represent our ages. We shared words of gratitude for our parents, our family, and our lives. We reminisced about growing up and talked about how much our mom and dad missed by dying so young, and all the grandchildren they never had a chance to meet. We shared book recommendations and recipes and our love for each other. We talked about our jobs, our struggles, our health, our dreams, and retirement.

We played bingo with buttons and played most of the games until everyone had won and picked a prize.Button Bingo

We played all kinds of hilarious games – charades and games of word matching (with animals and flowers and plants and names) and riddles and historical event fill in the blanks.

We had a lot of prizes. Which means we won a lot of prizes too. There were prizes for all the different games we played, and some for just having your name pulled out of a box.

Pick a Prize, Any Prize!

Pick a Prize, Any Prize!

There were unexpected surprises and little treats too. One sister and sister-in-law brought colorful handle bags with fabulous socks and soap. Another sister brought holiday hand wash and purse-sized hand sanitizers. And still another brought gift bags with everyone’s initial on them and inside an assortment of small things, including a pen for playing the games.

There were 9 fall bags labeled with everyone’s name and arranged on a cabin shelf. On a window sill were several boxes of blank cards for writing. Throughout the weekend everyone wrote and dropped little notes and cards into the bags so we all left with a pile of hug mail. I’m still savoring all the words of love and affirmation.

A Shelf of Hug Mail

A Shelf of Hug Mail

We hugged. A lot. We hugged hello and goodnight and sometimes good morning and then later goodbye.

Freshly Hung Signs

Freshly Hung Signs

We hung signs to welcome and congratulate, but some of the letters started falling on heads already on Friday night. By Saturday morning we laughed as only random letters were left hanging, and ever in the game mode, we made up silly words from what was left. Finally with only the sticky tape pads clinging to the string, I took them down.

Leftover Letters and Words

Leftover Letters and Words

We snapped lots of photos of each other and all kinds of random things. But somehow we didn’t take a group photo of the 9 of us. I know.

We never left the house on Saturday. Which was probably a good thing, since I never got out of pajamas. And yes, I took some ribbing for my choice of attire that day – although I ended up being the first one ready for bed at the end of the day. So while the cold November wind blew and the trees swayed and the temperatures continued to drop, we stayed inside all cozy and warm, savoring our time of togetherness.

Saturday View of the Lake

Saturday View of the Lake

On Sunday morning with a 10 am cabin check out time, we woke early to a fresh covering of snow on the ground and gathered for a breakfast of all the leftovers from the day and the night before. We showered and dressed and stripped our beds of sheets and packed our bags and cleaned out the fridge and cupboards distributing leftovers and care packages for everyone’s trips home. We hugged goodbye, sometimes multiple times (we do that a lot) and shared words of love and wished each other safe travels. We left the cabin as clean and sparkly as we had found it – with multiple arm laden trips to our cars and vans, carrying bags and pillows and assorted stuff… and lots of wonderful prizes and sweet treats and so many new and wonderfully warm memories to cherish.

The breathtaking bouquet went home with my two oldest sisters, and I took home 9 handwritten thank you cards for my brother who had sent the flowers. I mailed them to him in a fat ‘please hand stamp’ envelope on Monday.

Sister Mail

Sister Mail

All week I’ve been smiling and remembering our special weekend together. When I shared the stories of the weekend with my daughter, she said she kept imagining us as little kids sitting around the table. I just loved that mental image, only in my mind, my brothers would have been there too. On Friday, I found three handwritten thank you cards in my mailbox from my three oldest sisters. Their timing as always was just prefect.

Perfect Wine Label - Never Touched

Perfect Wine Label – Never Touched

Today in a somewhat full circle life moment, I woke to a fresh covering of snow on the ground. And while I was typing these words, all cozy and warm in my sisters’ weekend gifted socks, my brother texted that he had received his packet of thank you cards. His reaction to our mail was what our reaction had been when we saw his flowers. Just perfect. Oh the sweetness of life.


6 comments on “A Gathering of Sisters

  1. Barbara Cartalucca
    November 16, 2014

    Susie — beautiful and just right!
    Love you,

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. dianescheurell
    November 16, 2014

    Sue, I loved this story. Thank you SO much for sharing it with us. It strikes a chord with me because many of my Sister Moments happen at the lake “Up North.” And many days I don’t get out of my pajamas.
    You gave me some cool ideas for how to make our Sister Times even more special. Thank you.
    Wishing the best for you, Diane

  3. Diane Hensley
    November 16, 2014

    I can almost hear the laughter and see the smiles reading this story. My eyes welled up thinking about all you Mom and Dad missed, and I smiled at the imagined silliness of the games. I love your way with words.

  4. Joan
    November 16, 2014

    Sue, my FAVORITE!! Of course, you KNOW how I feel about you being blessed with so many sisters and such a beautiful family and I love love that you included sister-in-laws. Whoever thought of the bags for individual hug mail is genius. I somehow think it was you. What a treasure to take home.

    • spencedaniel2012
      November 16, 2014

      * Thank you, Barb. That means a lot. I love you too. Always.

      * Diane S, I’m glad you enjoyed my story and got some ideas for your next sisters’ weekend too. All the best to you and yours.

      *Diane H, I’m so glad you enjoyed (and enjoy) my words and my writing. I’m also touched that you got teary-eyed reading it too. That just warms my heart.

      *Joan, your comment made me smile. You are such a cheerleader of me and my family.
      P.S. I also think you have a lot of favorites. :o)

  5. Rick
    May 8, 2015

    HI Suz
    Only reading this now but it is very sweet to imagine you and everyone else there inside the warm cabin enjoying the weekend getaway together!
    Love you sis!

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