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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Howard ETC 2013

More than 35 loved ones made the trek to the Watson Homestead Retreat Center in Painted Post, NY for our 2013 family reunion. Bruce & I arrived just after dinner time on Friday & were joyously greeted by my cousin Linda, recognizing our Smart Car from a distance as we drove up, who ran to give us hugs. Many more hugs & kisses abounded as we saw the faces of so many dear ones we'd not seen in far too long! Although it had been just over 2 years since we last got the extended family together, other than updating each other on basic news, it was almost as if no time had passed at all.

The folks at Watson Homestead took great care of us. They had upgraded us to mid-level cabins & they were just what we needed. Each unit had 8 bedrooms with 2 sets of bunk beds in each room. There were bathrooms with showers in each cabin. Each cabin also had a refrigerator, a microwave, & a couple banquet tables with chairs in the main room - as well as couches, armchairs, a fireplace, & a TV/dvd combo. (It might actually have been cool enough at night for the fireplaces, just barely, but we did not make use of them. Our cabin did use the dvd player to watch a couple movies in the evenings.) We split ourselves up between the cabins by choosing either the "Quiet Cabin" - for folks who wanted to go to bed early - or the "Loud Cabin" - for folks who didn't. Bruce & I chose the latter option so we could hang with my cousins, which was awesome! We had a grand time talking & laughing & watching movies together!

The two cabins were a short walk apart with a little yard between them. It was also a short walk from the cabin down to the Homestead's main hall & dining room. We had breakfast, lunch, & dinner there on Saturday, & brunch on Sunday before we all headed home. The facility also includes an indoor pool - where we swam on Saturday afternoon - & a beautiful chapel - which we toured, but did not use because of our varied departure times. We did get to go on a family wagon ride around the property in a flat-bed touring wagon pulled by two gorgeous Belgian draft-horses, though!

In the "Quiet Cabin" there were boards with & piles of family photos through the years. We had lots of fun looking at them, laughing over fashion, & sharing stories. Aunt Dot has been cleaning out the house since Grandma passed two years ago & had sorted many of the pictures into piles for the various folks connected to them - I came home with some photos of Mom & me from my high school years as well as a photo of Bruce & me that I thought was long-lost. Aunt Dot also brought many "heirloom" items to distribute - I had asked several years ago if I could have Papa's chess board that he made, so that came home with us (the pieces are still MIA back at the house in Wisconsin) as did a lovely ceramic plate that Grandma used to have.

While we didn't play "Manipulation" - the family-favorite card game - we did other good family stuff - some traditional, some not.  There was the wagon ride I mentioned, of course. My cousin Sam also gave us all a family dance class in which he taught us to fox trot & promenade. I was more than nervous when I ended up paired with him for the demo, but he's an excellent dancer (I, on the other hand, seem to always add an extra beat somewhere & get off course)! My cousin MacKenzie called her dad (my cousin) Scott on Skype - he was on contract duty in Iraq - & we carried the laptop around so everyone could say hi to him.  We made a family "Harlem Shake" video to send to Scott, too - can't wait to see how it came out!  And we sang...a lot.  We always do, but the Homestead had a piano in the main hall & we had two guitarists present, so there was a lot of music. The Saturday night "hootenanny" was held around a campfire near our cabins & we made s'mores while we were doing it - it was fabulous!

I loved seeing all my aunts, most of my first cousins, many of my once-removeds & second cousins, my great aunts, & of course my mom & stepdad. We had many moments of small, quiet conversations & chances to catch-up. It was a tremendous time & I'm so glad we made the trip!

Oh, & Bruce said the dance class was probably his favorite part - surprised?

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