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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Redneck Reunion

 At Yellowstone
 My Husband's Old School Yard

 The Outdoor Shower
As the day approached I was really dragging my feet..... Its not that I didn't want to see people, its just that I've become so so content in my little North Idaho home that it was becoming increasingly hard to leave. On the day we left, I kissed the top of Archers head about a hundred times and wished him well just as many, secretly wondering about his female pursuits in our absence. He has good taste in women and I'm pretty confident that he's going to land a good one. All of the ones he likes, I like. Anyhow, I smothered the top of his head in kisses and headed out the door setting my jaw for the umpteen hours ahead.

By 4 or 5 am we toured Yellowstone National Park as if we were a somewhat "normal" family and by noon were on toward our Family Reunion in Kansas destination. Early evening I was loudly hinting that my husband should find some kind of stopping point, and by the time he looked it was nearing darkness. Soon I was ragging on him because we couldn't find a suitable "non permit" type place. By night we were acting like spys with red lights trying to set up camp in an undisclosed "no camping" location, declaring "BLACK OUT!" whenever we saw head lights. By 5am that next morning, we were getting rained on and off driving again. Really and truly, I wouldn't have traded it for a crappy motel in the city. Its just in me to sleep in the fresh night air.

By now we'd been on the road for a couple of days and starting to feel rather grungy. My dear husband couldn't wait to get to his old stomping grounds and gave us a rather lengthy tour before taking us to where his parents took him camping as a child. I started cooking burgers but when I saw my husband in the lake I immediately abandoned the lunch preparations and dove into the beckoning waters. After all that we were on to Kansas and my crazy crew of cousins.

My family are not your average clan. I've got rich and poor, northerners and southerners, easterners and westerners, old and young, fat and thin, but none normal, no not one. They're all crazy, pure insanity and when they get together you can be assured there WILL BE some form of drama, a lot of laughing, and quite possibly we will all know and be advised on the evils of our way. Without a doubt, you can go anywhere, be insulted by anyone, but never so lovingly insulted except by your own.

Though I had not dieted as I'd hoped, I had purposely plastic wrapped my eyeballs (obtained contacts) for the occasion and even dyed my hair a nice rich black brown mistakenly thinking that it looked close to my original color. I had on a semi-cute outfit, even make up and was freshly lake bathed. I was ready, or so I thought. After a 45 minute welcome surrounding the our overpacked minivan, we proceeded with caution to the older adults. My mama embraced me loudly whispering "you've been messing with your hair again - shame on you!!" Her sister picked up on it and started loudly commenting "so you're dying your hair now blah blah blah". I shrunk down not feeling quite so confident to see everybody. She saw my obviously fallen face "well it looks better now" she said trying to make me feel better "it used to be such a mousy brown". Several cousins cringed feeling my embarrassment. There was an awkward silence and then I made some stupid loud comment about hair dye and the conversation was back to a dull roar. I don't regret the dye, I hate seeing gray here and there and that would have probably been the topic had I left it. One perceptive cousin later tried to make me feel better by telling me one year his welcome was since he was 30 and unmarried he "must be gay". We laughed hysterically. It was good to be back with the cousins.

As the days wore on, more families arrived along with more cases of beer. Most of my mom's brothers and sisters stayed at a motel in town, but our family "camped" in my aunt and uncles old travel trailer. I liked it that way. The evening was ours and we had a lot of fun visits with our adult cousins who stayed upstairs in the old farmhouse. Even my cousin Iggy brought her motor home there. Days were filled with fishing the old pond, games, visits and trips to the pool in town. The hot Kansas sun seemed a bit forgiving being tamed down by the blustery winds. It was pure paradise.

My Aunt and Uncle raised their 5 kids home schooling and travelling all over across states and even countries. He gave up a prestigious job in Chicago to live a simpler life and raise his family the way he and his wife wanted, though they kept this big old farmhouse as a home base of sorts. My oldest cousin was tragically killed last year and it left a big hole which can never be filled but by God's Grace. He left behind a beautiful son being raised by his ex-wife along with a half brother. I never dreamed I would get to see the day that I could take that little boy in my arms and give him a big ol bear hug. Well the day came. His gracious ex-wife came with her mother and let the little boy enjoy the entire reunion with us. He is the same age as my Super Catman and they hit it off right away. The weekend was extra special, over the top getting to have him there. Watching him play, it was as if I could see my dear cousin, back as a child again.......

Surprisingly, the biggest drama, was my own. I'd promised to cook breakfast for everyone one morning and was anxious to begin the 3 hour endeavor. Armed with my cast iron pan and a big slab of butter, I saw my dear Saphara take off for a run wishing her well. This was going to be a big job! Men were happily converging on pancakes, eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage as I furiously fried on when my cell phone rang. It occurred to me hours had elapsed since I'd seen my daughter. She was calling from a strange number and sounded as if she'd been crying. "Come pick me up at such and such a truck stop she breathed, I'll explain later". Panic seized me and in a near hysteria sounding voice I commanded my husband, who was on his 2nd or third round of breakfast to "GO GET HER NOW!". Suddenly a big bunch of my redneck cousins threw their chairs back in unison and went for their shotguns and assorted weaponry. In no time there was a big posse of well armed men poured into our minivan "white lightening" screaming out of the drive way. Luckily, one of them is a cop, so I knew nothing would get too out of hand. As time marched on, peace flooded over me and I was pretty sure that I had panicked without reason and there was most likely a perfectly good explanation. In the end, the men returned laughing over the incident. Miss Saphara had been given bad directions by passersby and found she had ran 7 miles from the farm. She didn't want to have to run back in the heat. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to live this one down and neither is she ;-)

All in all, when it was time to pack up nobody wanted to leave. I fell in love with the corn fields and the blustery nights. I fell in love with my Arkansas Cop Cousin's spirited southern wife and her hilarious fiery redheaded baby. I fell in love with Iggy's quiet little "tree frog" baby and with watching my neices run through the long grass in pretty dresses. I fell in love with "the outdoor shower" and with listening to the singing of old songs encouraged by a little wine. I gasped more than once at the outstanding art sculptures and paintings that were proudly displayed around the farmhouse, crafted by a cousin too humble to see what an incredible man he really is. I could feel nothing but pleased as I watched my son Super Catman running with that little boy and thinking of how pleased my grandmother would have been, should she see them now. I could feel the power of my family and we hugged each other goodbye and I knew we would always be close. I fear for the person who tries to mess with one of them. So many treasures like an aunt who I hadn't seen since forever and my chocolate loving girl cousin who really wanted to hang around with me. Maybe that was it, they all actually seemed to enjoy being with us. Thats rare among family, really rare. 
At any rate, it was on to Nebraska to see all of my husband's grandparents and many many relations and after that Minnesota. The trip had just begun, and yet a very significant memory was about to end. You know you had a good time when being pooped on by a baby was all part of the fun - selah.