Gathering of the Tribe
Seven to eight months before the event the idea was a bright solution embraced enthusiastically by the children. John brought it to fruition. The lodge and sleeping cabins were reserved for days straddling the old year and the new. The children’s arrivals and departures would be staggered, but overlapping by at least one day. The event would be a gathering of the tribe, the congregating of the clan.
Seven to eight months is a long time. Much can happen, lives change. Daughters and daughters-in-law can find themselves in ‘a family way.’ Calls can be extended and accepted necessitating a move. Cousins may require a presence at a wedding. A look at the obstacles initiated a hunt for plan B, then C and a possible D. Plan A, slightly revised, remained the choice.
Three days at the state park with three generations of family was a delightful prospect. Until the reality of planning: seventeen people to feed, eight meals to plan, snacks, drinks, equipment for indoor and outdoor activities, clothing adequate for the mid-west winter. The list grew. Reality followed with the information the kitchen had nothing. No pots, pans, dish soap, linens, garbage bags, or paper products for the bathrooms, everything was required. The gathering began, the heap increased. Why were we doing this? Winter camping with everything except the tent and air mattresses suddenly began to lose its appeal.
Temps were cold the New Year’s Eve we packed to leave. Single digits at mid-morning, below zero was predicted for night. In the car and ready to leave, I made my expected one-last-thing-run into the house. An extra fleece throw might be a wise item to include. Negative temps? Walking in the cold to cabins and bathhouse? Again, why?
The state park was a short two hour drive. Quickly after arriving, we turned up the heat in lodge and cabins. They were cold, one sink in the kitchen had frozen water pipes. We shivered in our winter jackets while we waited. Why were we doing this? The children arrived throughout the afternoon. The large central fire place was soon ‘fired up’ and entertainment discussed. Wet blanket that I am, I nixed the idea of inventing a hockey style game on the wood floors of the lodge with real hockey pucks. We managed a bloody toe and a jammed wrist without it.
Our daughter had organized the menus and accomplished the shopping. I had supplied a Ude quantity of cookies, cornmeal muffins and Swedish meatballs. A large selection of snacks filled one counter. The movie theater style popcorn machine began its daily duty. Drinks cold and hot…wait… No tea kettle, or pot for boiling water, cooking pasta, boiling potatoes, heating the chili or worse, no boiling water for the French press to make coffee? Thankfully a daughter-in-law was staying with her grandmother ten minutes from the park. A pot was acquired along with a knife other than the plastic ones available. The other forgotten/overlooked items, well it is camping, make do, do without.
Two large banquet tables along one wall became the designated repository for the board games. The quantity heaped the tops and flowed to stacks beneath the tables as well. Inviting flames flickered in the central fireplace with hot drinks, food available, let the games begin. They did, quickly, earnestly, competitively, and enthusiastically. Ages, genders, generations mixed, settled, realized the thrill of victory or suffered the agony of defeat, then broke apart to reform around a different game.
The state park offered a selection of hiking trails. We are natives of the mid-west states who do not let the cold deter us from outdoor activities. It became difficult to say whether the games interrupted the hiking, or the hiking the games. Bluffs were climbed, the river crossed, evidence of beaver discovered, the hike was embraced as enthusiastically as the games.
The six o’clock morning hike, on the other hand, to the bathhouse was slightly disconcerting. Why, I wonder, fumbling for shoes and coat to make the trip from the warm sleeping bag and cabin into the cold, why am I doing this? Once on the walk with the clear early morning panoply of stars above me, the cabins dark with the sleeping children and grandchildren around me, I no longer ask. I will join my husband in the warmth of the main lodge. The children will arrive at staggered intervals. The fire will be laid, breakfast begun, conversation, and laughter will fill the space. This is why: family, fun, camaraderie, and in the evenings, fellowship in His Word. This is why. And this is why I will eagerly repeat the process in the future.
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