Last weekend, I joined my family at Grand Lake for our annual long weekend at the lake. Every year we rent a house at Candlywyck Cove Resort (and a hotel room or two) and spend the weekend laughing, eating, swimming, fishing and playing dominos (and any other games we can come up with). My dad and his brothers and sisters and their families (when they can) come in to just hang out and reconnect. Most of the weekend we had about 15 people there, but on Saturday that jumped to around 25ish (I really didn’t count). Let’s just say there were a lot of people.
Grand Lake has been a central meeting place for our family since I was a kid. My grandparents retired there, and we would all gather at their house for every holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Easter, Labor Day…you get the idea) and as many weekends as possible every summer. Some of my best memories were built on that lake. I learned how to fish, helped “teach” my cousin to swim, drove a boat for the first time, told stories, enjoyed the fruits of my grandparents’ gardens, learned checkers, became a baseball fan, watched my first soap opera, got my first black eye, and so much more. When we were looking for a gathering place in later years, it seemed only natural to choose Grand Lake.
Yes, we put everybody in one house, voluntarily, for four days. This is apparently unusual for families. I had no idea. Until I became an “adult” (however, my nephew’s friend questioned my “adult” status this weekend), I thought everyone’s family was like this. There’s lots of laughing and good-natured ribbing, but rarely a “real” argument. Our discussions this last weekend ranged from health care and financial planning to theories on how my dad and his brothers managed to cheat at Apples to Apples (We’re not competitive at all: Insert sarcasm font here). These weekends have been influential in a lot of my major decisions. When I was trying to decide whether or not to take a job in Chicago, I brought it to the family on one of these weekends. This year, I even brought the short story I’m going to be submitting for publication for them to read. (The general consensus is basically that I’m weird, and it must be the weird books, television and movies I like. This is an acceptable and expected response.)
Some of my favorite moments this year included taking my nephew and his friend out on a paddle boat (apparently kids under 14 can’t go alone. My nephew was horrified.) The wind blew so hard the little boat moved backwards, no matter how hard they paddled, and they had to work hard for their trip around the cove. However, there were no (major) crashes with docks, a couple of turtle sightings, a threat was made to eject someone from the boat (and an unsuccessful attempt), and a lot of laughter (also a request to turn in the boat 15 minutes early). Paddle boating is tiring.
My cousin’s boyfriend and my uncle attempted to teach us how to play the card game, Pitch. We learned how to play a game, but I’m not sure it was Pitch. They kept remembering rules they’d forgotten as we were playing (they were
threatened with their lives discouraged from implementing new rules halfway through the game). However, I think I have it now…maybe…there are a lot of rules. The most important thing to come out of the game was a nickname for our new “teacher”. He now goes by Pickles. (It is funnier if you were there).
Everyone got involved in Apples to Apples, which was a treat since one of my aunts usually refuses to play because she says we’re “awful”…not awful, just competitive. (Really!) Only a few of us had played the game before, so we got to teach it to everyone else. The Three Amigos (otherwise known as my dad and his brothers) blew everyone else out of the water…especially my dad. This is what led to the cheating accusations, well the unexpected domination in the game and a vast and varied history of cheating at board games. (Seriously, they even cheat at checkers!)
Also there was singing! My dad only knows one song, and only part of that. Have you ever seen the movie Paint Your Wagon? It is an old western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. Until I saw this 1969 film, I had no idea that Eastwood could sing, and although it is Harvey Purcell who sings my dad’s song, They Call the Wind Mariah, it was this unsuspected side of Dirty Harry that stuck with me.
If I remember correctly, this was one of the first movies my parents went to when they started dating. The first time I sat through this film, I made my parents promise me that I wouldn’t have to watch it again for 10 years. (I think I was 10.) I did watch the movie again, and really enjoyed it. (What can I say, it’s no Star Wars but it is pretty good.). Now, I’m willing to watch it whenever they want to. I suppose, it is pretty sweet that my dad still sings a song from one of my parents first dates.
All of this to say, there really is nothing quite like family. Next year’s lake trip can’t come soon enough.
‘Til next time,