Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Have a Family Reunion

You may have noticed I've been rehashing the events of our summertime road trip for the week.  The last day of our time in Utah was spent at the Kitchen Family Reunion.  The Kitchens are one side of the Bionic Man's family, and boy-oh-boy do they know how to reunite!

This is the first Kitchen reunion the Bionic Man and I have been able to attend in thirteen years.  The last reunion I went to was also my first.  I went along as the Bionic Man's girlfriend, and had so much fun that I decided I should marry into the family.  I think it is pretty impressive to be able to throw reunions that actually bring people into the family, not scare them off!

So, when we were able to attend this year, I took notes.  Happily, I am willing to share some of the things I learned.

1.  Location, location, location.  Don't stress about it.   Find a place that is close the majority of attendees that will fit the size of the crowd.  In this case, it is the church gym nearby Grandpa Kitchen's home.  The reunions used to be in Grandpa and Grandma's backyard, but that became hard on them as they grew older.  The church is free, air-conditioned, and has plenty of space and restrooms.  Everyone had a good time, despite the lack of a lake or roller coaster or resort.  The attendees packed a lot of fun into a few hours, which eliminated the need for planning sleeping arrangements and multiple meals.
2.  Plan Activities.  Despite the lack of lakes, roller coasters, or resort, there was plenty of fun to be had.  Much planning had obviously gone into creating activities for a wide variety of age groups.  There were activity stations set up around the gym that children and adults could participate in to earn "Kitchen Bucks."  (The bucks could be used later on at the auction.)  These activities included brain teasers, crafts, service projects (like tying baby blankets for needy families, here),
and just plain old fashioned fun.  One of the most popular game stations was this one, where kids could use shaving cream and craft sticks to give each other a "shave".
3.  Share family history.  It didn't take a long speech or slide show to offer a taste of family history.  There were several display tables set up so that we could take a look at pieces of our history.  Old family videos were playing continuously on a nearby television, so we could stop and enjoy those, too.
4.  Celebrate your family heritage.  One of my favorite things about this reunion was the way the entire Kitchen clan chose to celebrate the life of their matriarch, Grandma Kitchen.  Grandma died last spring, so this was the first reunion without her.  Instead of speaking of her in subdued voices, the Kitchens had fun remembering Grandma.  The aunts brought in all of Grandmas old clothes and wigs, including some of the things her daughters had worn that had been in storage at her house.
Anyone could have fun trying them on and posing for pictures.  Here are three of the granddaughters, dressed as Grandma at different stages of her life.  Everyone had a good laugh and enjoyed seeing how much they looked like Grandma.
Grandpa had also brought Grandma's stuffed animal collection to the reunion.  Each animal had a tag with a number on it, and the grandchildren and great grandchildren got to draw numbers and get their very own stuffed animal from the collection to take home with them.  You can imagine what a hit that was.
5.  Make and Keep Traditions.  The Kitchens have found a fun and memorable tradition for their family reunions.  Everyone who attends brings along a few things from their homes that they are ready to part with.  Grandpa had a number of things from his home, keepsake items that he was ready for others to enjoy.  These items were all "sold" for the Kitchen Bucks that we earned participating in the games and activities earlier in the day.  The miscellaneous items were sold at the Kitchen Store, and the big-ticket items were sold at an auction.  Let me tell you, the auction was hilarious.  Only fake money was involved, and all that could be earned right there at the reunion, via participation.
My children thought this was absolutely marvelous.  They were ready to buy out the store.  The Bionic Man and I had to keep trying to sneak things back into the store, because we really didn't have that much room to carry junk treasures back across the country with us.  I got into some trouble at the store, myself, when I saw several of boxes of vintage fabric and sewing patterns, like this one.
The Bionic Man would not let me take home a box of fabric.  So I just took half a box.  See those cute prints on top?  Anyone have any ideas for what I can make?

6.  Enjoy Being a Family.  It was delightful to catch up with the Bionic Man's aunts and uncles and cousins.  The activities were well planned, but there was plenty of time to visit and enjoy one another, too.  There is a wonderful spirit about the Kitchen Family.  I think it is so beautiful to see the good fruits born of seeds sown many years ago by a young couple who chose to be firm in their faith and family.  I am grateful to have joined the Kitchen Clan by marriage, and look forward to many more reunions.

1 comment:

  1. That's *so* lovely! I've got a very big family too and LOVE getting together.