I drove 2000 miles to get to the Family Reunion. It was an insane thing to do.
You don’t know my relatives. They’re loud. Bossy. Opinionated. They fight frequently, tossing things about. Hammers. Frying pans. Tea-cups.
They don’t take after me.
We all gathered at the Family Farm—the Funny Farm, that is—crowding into Granny’s kitchen, bumping and jostling. Eating huge amounts of food and dirtying a million dishes, until at last we were shooed outside.
Our father was there—reigning over his unruly clan with a certain pride. “Straighten your shoulders, now!” he said for the tenth time that day, “You don’t want to look stoop-shouldered like your Great Aunt Bertha.”
My sister frowned. “And whatever you do…” she said. “Don’t step in the chicken poop! It’s everywhere. Those dang chickens!”
She’s the Sophisticate of the family, you see. She might wear overalls, at times—but they’re always neat and clean. She seldom comes near the rest of us—for obvious reasons—having fled east to the sanity of Indiana, many years ago.
The hubbub in the farmyard grew suddenly louder. The menfolk had taken out their guns, and were pointing them haphazardly in all directions, sighting down the barrels.
A large bullet was ejected from a chamber to be examined closely. “Lord have mercy! That bullet’s so big it could’ve blown up the barrel and killed somebody!”
The chatter increased. Words were flying thick and fast, now—even faster than the purported bullets—full of obscure references that meant little to anyone else but us.
“Hey! Does anybody remember the rabid skunk that Aunty shot in the barnyard with a 44 mag?”
“And how about the black snake that was stuck in Granny’s faucet? We had to chop him in half to get him out…”
“And the big cougar! That huge footprint out by the west gate….? We didn’t kill him. He’s probably still around!”’
This year, we had a couple of newcomers at the Funny Farm—future sons-in-law. Men who were not yet initiated into the ways of the Clan. They watched and listened with trepidation, uncertain as to what would happen next.
They had good reason to be nervous.
“Let’s go to the Humpty Dumpty Road in Poppa’s new pick-up!” somebody said. We all cheered loudly and scrambled into the back of the truck—fighting for our favorite positions.
Poppa headed across hills and pastureland at a high rate of speed, the truck bucking and bumping madly. The future In-laws were aghast. “You do this for fun?”
“Oh yeah!” we said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Dust swirled around us. Thorn branches thwacked close to our heads. We swung wildly around the bend and headed up an embankment…the truck straining for all it was worth.
The new pick-up was weary. It whined and groaned even louder than the In-laws. But we knew it would learn to cope—or else fall apart like the rest of Poppa’s trucks.
We topped the bluff and spun southward. “Where the heck…?” the in-laws said through gritted teeth.
Onward, we thundered over hill and dale, bracing ourselves for the big one. We flew past our father’s ‘Temple Mount’— taking a hair-raising tour of Poppa’s grandest haunts. We swung by the Middle Place—a ramshackle ghost town of a farm that dated back to the 1800’s. Then sped on toward the Old Home Place.
At last, the truck swirled to a halt amid clouds of dust. We were back at Granny’s and Poppa’s. We all tumbled out. The In-law collapsed on the ground, falling flat on his back. “Lord—what a ride! Are we even alive?”
Panting, we stood rubbing our bruises and sore muscles. “What’s next?” the kids said. We looked around us. The sun was sinking behind the rounded hills. The sky had turned a soft pink.
“We’ll build a bonfire in the usual spot,” someone said. “And toast marshmallows. We’ll make s’mores….And drink hot apple cider.”
And so it was. A bonfire was built. Marshmallows toasted. We ate S’mores and listened to the sound of our own happy voices echoing against the Barada hills. A cozy time of family togetherness. It was then that it dawned on us. We hadn’t had one fight the entire day. Not one. No tantrums. No thrown tea-cups or hammers or frying pans.
It was an all-time record for the Clan.
I stood looking at my kinfolk. Our grand reunion was coming to an end…. It was a bitter-sweet moment in the history of our family. A moment to hold onto forever.
I sighed. I’d driven 2000 miles to experience this day. To soak in the sentimental soup. I was feeling quite sappy and teary-eyed, when my father ruined it all.
“Straighten up, Vic!” Poppa said. “You don’t want to look like your Great Aunt Bertha.”
I squared my shoulders and turned toward the farmhouse.
“Don’t step in the chicken poop!” my sister said. “Those dang chickens!”
I smiled. A smile of deep contentment.
I would have come 10,000….!