Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Swigart Sisters Family Reunion (edited and formatted to fit in the time allowed)

Glossary of Terms
The Aunties – Four grown women of a certain age with tendencies towards unsolicited tears, random acts of hugging, washing dishes, and being irritated with their husbands for things they can’t possibly control.
The Uncles – Equivalent of worker bees.  All suffering from hearing loss or at least pretending.  Take direction from The Aunties while drinking Manhattans.  Actually expected to read Aunties’ minds, despite many years of not being able to do so.
The Cousins – Next generation that hold striking resemblances to The Aunties.  Affinity for rolling their eyes and mocking other family members.  Sometimes show symptoms of PTSD. 
The Grandkids – Children of the Cousins.  All beautiful angels.  They never scream, fight, whine or ask you to wipe their butts.  Of course when they do, The Cousins just direct them to the nearest grandpa (see The Uncles).
The Others – Anyone forced to be within a one mile radius of our family either by marriage, common law, or a strong arm.  Extra points if one of The Grandkids dragged you there (shout out to Brian).
The Compound – 3.5 acre Kirschner estate.  AKA The Propity.  Slightly reminiscent of a European youth hostel. Includes 2 luxurious campers on premises.  Reunion home to 2 sets of Aunties/Uncles, 6 cousins, 2 Others, and 12 Grandchildren
Camp David – small retreat a short drive from The Compound. Reunion home to 2 sets of Aunties/Uncles.  Amenities include the neighbor’s pool, but no smokehouse.
Sausage – Almost always refers to the ground meat pushed into an intestinal casing with secret recipe spices and smoked to perfection.  But sometimes referring to male genitalia.
Vulva – Ask Daniel.
Manhattan – Pre-mixed by Uncle Mike and poured into former juice containers.  Not to be confused with actual juice!  If swallowed by a minor, call poison control.

Special Instructions
If you need someone’s help and can’t think of their name, just shout Charlie and/or Ann. Odds are at least a half dozen people will show up.

One week prior to hosting:

Uncle Mark decides to put an addition on the house.  Okay, so the addition started over a year ago.  Wait. Two years ago?  It’s not finished.  Let’s just leave it at that.  In a last ditch effort to have something to show for his retirement, he adds a peach bathroom to the basement.  It leaks. 

(“Clark, I can picture it in my mind and it looks BEAUTIFUL.”)

Thursday (which I still consider prior to reunion, because I am not involved yet):

Kansas contingent arrives.  Lorain County immediately sells out of Shiner Bock.


Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina represent.

After dinner, there are what we are politely referring to as “ghost stories” from The Grandchildren around the campfire, but might be more accurately described as an extensive series of run on sentences with no discernable plot (or end, for that matter).  The Cousins whisper about anything The Aunties and Uncles have already done that would qualify them to be sent to early onset “assisted living.”

John and Barbi want to do something special in memory of Mama and Papa Swigart, but one or more of The Aunties is missing.  This will be a recurring theme anytime we want to do something remotely organized.  As Aunt Margie says, “it’s like trying to nail jello to a wall.”  (Whatever, Kansas.)

Difficulty with the symbolic lanterns results in a Cousin’s hair almost igniting.  This is related to catching the bouquet at a wedding.  The first person to catch on fire this weekend has to host the next reunion!  (The other Charlie lucked out on timing.)


I’m in trouble again because I didn’t get out to The Compound (please hold while I add to Glossary) for breakfast.  Rest assured, we had donuts, just like you did.  I promise. 

I arrive with the cornhole tournament matchups that everyone was asking me for every five minutes the night before.  Oh but wait, this person isn’t playing and these people aren’t here yet, and are we playing east coast or midwest rules, and can you make sure that her game is scheduled for the winter solstice and his game occurs only on the odd minutes.

In an effort to allow people to play at least two games, I start a Loser’s Bracket, which somehow turns into “double elimination” which I am then blamed for it “not really being double elimination”.  NO SHIT!  P.S.  This is why someone with an inferiority complex should not be asked to run something that involves highly competitive people.  The pressure is just TOO much.  The only thing I can control is how cool the brackets look drawn on a map of the state of Ohio.  Oh wait, apparently I can’t control that either. (this would be that passive-aggressive gene)

Surprise ringers: Uncle Mike, Annemarie (will come in handy at Syracuse, I’m sure)
Not so surprise semi-professional: Brian (who invited that kid?)
Most competitive Aunties:  Margie (oldest) and Becky Lou (youngest) – things that make you go hmm.

Of course we can’t get the whole first or second round finished because we have to move everyone that has been drinking for three hours (or more) at The Compound off to Camp David for a fish fry.  Best idea EVER!  I’m pretty sure this is why cousins Steve and Phil brought their licensed children.

Then there was the Manhattan incident and the vulva story. And homemade tartar sauce to feed the next 20 reunions.  Those of us raised in Ohio and Maryland have no issues with our kids shivering in the neighbor’s pool.  The rest of those growing up south of the Mason Dixon line apparently told their kids it was “too cold”. 

If there was one moment I would have liked to have had on digital download it would be cousins Adam and Katie (siblings) screaming at each other about Adam’s dog getting loose and chasing a neighborhood cat.  “They can put their cats on leashes, too, you know!”


10 am yoga session led by cousin Rebecca, accompanied on piano by cousin Andrea, commentary by grandkid Juniper.  Interruptions courtesy of pretty much everyone NOT doing yoga.

11 am devotional in which Uncle Gary read one of Papa Swigart’s sermons.  I can’t say anything else about this portion of the reunion without sounding sacrilegious.  It was lovely and a wonderful way for the Aunties to remember their father who we all loved (and taught Daniel about vulvas).

Massive clean-up effort in affect (effect?) prior to extended family (Aunties’ cousins) arriving at 3 for a “picnic.”  Three Cousins and an Uncle disappear to “run errands”.  At 1pm The Photographer shows up to take a big family shot and then grab candids of the activities which involve a Fishing Derby for the Grandkids and drinking beer for the Cousins. I’m happy to say, she did not run from us screaming.  And I thought we all looked uncharacteristically respectable.

Extended cousins show up and everybody is told how much they look like someone else (Actually, this was done the whole weekend.  It’s kind of freaky, but I’m sure true for most families.)

Cornhole tournament resumes with the not-quite-surprising result of Uncle Mike and Cousin Phil as champions.  And yes, we did have closing ceremonies.  I’m glad you asked.  It most certainly involved a podium, medals, and The National Anthem being sung in four part harmony. And just one teeny tiny injury.

9:30 pm – goodbye rounds are started for those people that won’t see each other the next day.  11:30 or later – goodbyes (round 1) have more or less ended.

I am told the cousins Daniel and Phil were still cracking cold ones open as late as 2 am, but that is pure conjecture and I don’t contribute to rumors.


Some of the gang meets me in the village to visit Lake Erie and the Nature Center.  We head back for a take out dinner and Round 2 of goodbyes.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I want to cry that Steve and Phil are not there - my oldest cousins that have grown up our entire lives with many states and years between us.  And to not have Andrea laying down the family soundtrack in the background…It’s just not the same when one of us is missing and I love you as much as the cousins I saw every other weekend (okay, obviously more than Katie).

I’m pretty sure that Aunties Priss and Charlie will spend the rest of this week sleeping (or possibly yelling at the respective Uncles for not picking up their cell phones).  But I don’t think either of them would trade even one second of the chaos and stress of having you all in their homes.  Because all the chaos and stress meant that we were all together, in one place, at one time.  And I have 356 professional photographs to prove it.

Apologies to Tess Smith Photography for writing on her beautiful picture.

Author's note: I pictured a lot of air quotes while writing this.  Sorry for the overuse.