I remember when it started. A year and a half ago my husband walked into my office and said, "Guess what? My brother just e-mailed me and he thought it would be a great idea if we had another family reunion. What do you think? They're looking at some place in California."
A million thoughts flooded through my mind. What if they want to come to our house? What will I feed everyone? Where will they stay? Where will they go? One of the secrets of a long marriage is knowing when not to say what you're thinking. I replied, "Sure, that would be great. Why don't you write them all and suggest several places, like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Southern California."
This was my husband's side of the family, a small family, but still...that would still add up to a lot of work. Copious emails later we discovered everyone wanted to come to Southern California -- home of Mickey Mouse and the beach -- and where we lived. Our daughter and her family live close by and our son and his wife, Seattleites, would stay with us. Nineteen people (not counting the animals who would accompany the people) would be attending the reunion.
The first thing to do was pick a date. No problem. Found one that worked for everyone. We never thought to consult the local Huntington Beach calendar. Next on the "to-do" list was to secure housing for the rest of the group. We live in Huntington Beach, close to the Pacific Ocean, so that was a no-brainer -- had to be a hotel on the beach. Right? Wrong! Found out the U.S. Pro Surfing Championship was being held that week and the room rates were understandably elevated. When you live near the beach and you're in the tourist industry, there's a small window for making a major profit and this was definitely the profitable season.
Many motels and hotels later we found one that worked. Next on the list was to figure out, based on arrival and departure schedules, how many people would be eating meals at our home and when. That was the difficult part. Everyone was arriving at a different time and taking off at a different time. I finally resorted to a spreadsheet. I decided to have bagels, sweet rolls and make-ahead casseroles for breakfasts. Lunches would be a "make it yourself sandwich bar." Between the beach, Disneyland, shopping (that was a priority for the teens and early twenty set -- fortunately our daughter is "queen of the outlets" and was happy to take on that role), I had no idea how many people would make it to the house for those meals.
My husband pulled up information on all of the different places they could go, kinds of things they could do, and made more lists. He also emailed everyone a map with directions on how to get to our house. This turned out to be critical because people landed at airports in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Ana -- and some even drove. Naturally, the City of Los Angeles, in its infinite wisdom, decided to close down the major arterial street to the Los Angeles International airport during their stay. I still find it hard to believe that a city the size of Los Angeles cannot find another time for street repairs -- July in Southern California??? Peak tourist time??? What were they thinking???
My husband emailed everyone to get the T-shirt sizes for all the attendees and we had them made with "Harman Family Reunion" superimposed over crossed surfboards on a dark blue background (after all, Huntington Beach is "Surf City!". Everyone was required to wear theirs for the "photo shoot" on the last night. We gathered up "boogie boards" the beach crowd could use for modified surfing. We packed duffel bags full of towels, knowing they wouldn't have space in their luggage to bring any.
Lists for meals, lists for ingredients, what to get when so it wouldn't spoil. How much could I make beforehand and freeze? My desk was littered with lists! We had people arriving from North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado, and Washington. That includes a lot of different food likes and dislikes, never mind that the ages ranged from 76 to 4 ½. We had a popcorn machine complete with sacks. For dessert there was cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate mousse, cookies, and frozen popsicles, etc. for the little ones. Casseroles, hamburgers, barbecued salmon (on the slow night when most of the attendees were at Disneyland), and a Mexican fiesta the last night complete with margaritas. Don't think bottled bubbles are a part of a fiesta, but the children loved them. The afternoon before the fiesta my son and I went through boxes of family photos and put the relevant ones on a large oak table in the house.
I had a conversation (actually it was more of a plea) every morning with the wind gods regarding the ocean breeze that comes up at 3:30 in the afternoon and makes eating on the patio impossible. Fortunately, they listened and cooperated with a rare inversion that left the evenings wind free and warm.
Were there foul-ups? Of course. Somehow my grandson's (age 8) T-shirt was an adult medium. He was not thrilled with wearing it to the family "photo shoot," but was a good sport. It came off immediately after the shoot. Somehow I lost eight hamburgers. We made them ahead of time and put them in the freezer. I took the patties out of the freezer the morning we were going to have them for dinner and didn't see the two packets on the bottom of the freezer. Fortunately, we had just enough even without the "ones hiding."
As we get older, we realize how precious family is. A shared history, genes, and relatives bring one together in a way nothing else can. Was a good time had by all? I think so. But I wonder if they all slept as well as I did the night they left!