Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Successful Family Reunion


20 months ago, I told two of my sisters that I wanted to host a family reunion. Six siblings are spread out over several states, and we hadn't all been together since our mother's funeral in January 2013. Since I live in Albuquerque, I suggested we plan it to coincide with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which is the first full week of October.

I created a closed Facebook page, and invited my siblings, nieces, and nephews to join. I emailed those who don’t use Facebook to invite them as well.

Replies trickled in, and all five of my siblings, a niece and their respective spouses/significant other agreed to rendezvous in October 2015 for the event. Nieces and nephews with children did not attend; guess they couldn't take them out of school. (Whatever happened to kids going on "educational" vacations and then going back to school to write a report? The Balloon Fiesta is educational as well as entertaining!) For the 13 in attendance, our gathering was a huge success.

My family came by Planes, Trains and Automobiles (a nod here to the classic Steve Martin/John Candy film). I hosted five sleeping overnight at our house. The others were at two hotels that were only a brief five-minute drive from our house.

Reminiscing about our childhood and our mother in particular (people brought photos and other memorabilia, including a great memory book my Mom had completed years ago), eating great New Mexican food, enjoying the novelty of the mass ascension of balloons at dawn, trying wines from vineyards of New Mexico, made all of the days together memorable and fun. We used Skype to talk to one of my nieces and her family, fit in some trips to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and to view fine art on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. We took the usual group photos to commemorate the occasion, and agreed we shouldn’t wait so long to all get together again!

Here are a couple of things I learned that you might find helpful to consider as you plan your reunion.

20 months was too soon to start inviting people. We didn't get the dates set until about 10 months prior to the event. Knowing it was coming up did help those traveling, who had other relatives along the way, coordinate visits with them as well, so advance notice is still important.

I would have taken more annual leave from work prior to the reunion. I had a long three-day weekend after my last two sisters left, but I needed more time for grocery shopping and meal preparation prior to the reunion. It turned out okay, just would have freed me up for more time visiting if I had the food better put together prior to the first arrivals.

I was glad I had acted on my idea and took the chance that everyone’s schedules could be worked out to attend. Don’t hesitate to suggest it to your family for your own reunion!