Friday, July 29, 2011

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

I’m glad I lived, although it’s possible that some things will never be the same. We had a family reunion, you see. It’s my husband’s family. Their roots are in West Cork, County Cork in Ireland, specifically the magical and wondrous Beara Peninsula and a lot of them have either lived in or are related to people who lived in Butte, Montana. If you know Butte, you’ll know it’s less magical and perhaps more alchemical than Allihies or Castletownbere.
Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

It all started…well, no, that’s not exactly right. But Cousin Margaret (“Mike” to some but she let us know that she’d rather be Margaret since it was, after all, the name given to her at birth) had pointed out to us that she was now the head of the family and that we needed to host a family reunion. This is what happens when you stop in on your relatives during an otherwise innocent vacation to Florida.

You go out on a seashell hunting trip and come back with an assignment to bring people together from all over the world. I was starting to think that creating a scallop shell with a calico pattern out of spit and sand might be easier than organizing the rels. This isn’t to say they aren’t the nicest people in the world. God love them, they are. And through my sister-in-law’s diligent attack on dusty documents and available ancestry sites, there are even more of them than I ever knew. But just getting a large number of people to converge near a single spot for a single weekend has logistics, I mean logistics, people! There’s a lot of stuff to do.

I’m a novice at this. I’ve never hosted a family reunion. Well, not entirely. One time I got most but not all of my brothers and sisters to meet me at my father’s place in Missouri. I made everyone t-shirts, we had dinner, then entertained the residents of the retirement home with our musical renditions of just about anything we could think of. People threw dollar bills from the balconies. My siblings’ children or their children did not attend. It wasn’t that organized. I just thought Daddy would be jazzed about seeing almost everyone. That’s actually the only time my father, those siblings and I had ever been together under one roof, I think, unless everyone was there for my grandmother’s funeral. That’s Grandmother McCord. We aren’t much of a get-together family.

My husband’s family, however, actually like each other most of the time or at least they think they do which is better than most people manage. This is not to say that there wasn’t the danger of police helicopters, rescue transports or a S.W.A.T. Team involved or even just a trip to Urgent Care for stitches. Happily, none of that happened.

I had been to just one of my husband’s family reunions before and it was with the other side of his family. We had planned to go to the reunion in Butte anyway and ended up making it also our honeymoon. To my mind, this shows the pluck of the bride. I love adventure. It was over the 4th of July and we saw the parade, stayed two nights in the Copper King Mansion, a truly cool B&B, and a few nights in the high-rise section of the Finlen Hotel which I adore in a way that’s hard to explain. It was sort of like The Shining without Jack, atmospheric without being oppressive. We also spent a night in a “motor-hotel” cabin in Choteau which was actually much scarier than the Finlen since the owner said we could stay in the cabin, but “don’t open that door.” I didn’t. I regret that, not opening the door, I mean. And it snowed on July 1. See, I thought, silly me, I thought it was summer so I didn’t bring a winter coat. But it was still a wonderful time, the reunion, the Butte history, the horrifying Berkeley Pit and its toxic water and some good antiquing. But I didn’t have anything to do with the organization of the reunion. It was my only template for what people might expect.

John, his sister Tessie and I did try to get an early start. We interviewed the local hotel and found out that the rooms and catering were something like a king’s ransom and decided we could do better with something more affordable for everyone because getting here was going to be hard enough. So we put it together in pieces. We picked a weekend, mostly because it was Tessie's birthday and in the summer when people with children were more likely to travel. We decided that we would have a picnic on the rugby pitch since there’s grass, trees, water, electricity and, well, since we already lease the field, it’s all ours. We sent announcements. I started collecting old pictures of Butte and West Cork. Tessie continued her deep and productive dive into family history, coming up with long lost and delightful Margaret O, a different Margaret from our Florida muse. Margaret O’s wealth of family information, pictures and enthusiasm manifested itself at the reunion with a truly stunning slide presentation about the history and connections and even the story of poor Ann who was lost in a blizzard after work and found a couple days later up on Big Butte, bless her heart. Time passed.

I was kind of hoping that I wasn’t in charge, you see. I know I have this project management background and all but the last thing I wanted was to Be In Charge of other people’s family events, denying them the right to enjoy that privilege. It seemed presumptuous and piggy. So I held back. But I created an event logo and with my husband’s rugby connection, got t-shirts made, green of course because of the Irish thing. Time was drawing near and all of us on the committee, including Cousin David, his lovely and talented wife Wendy and their gorgeous and kind daughter Leah, were getting a little nervous. A lot of focus went into photographs. This is a photo-focused family so photos, especially the old ones that belonged to those now passed and perhaps fallen into obscurity, were a huge topic of interest.

Knowing this photo-fanaticism, I hired my friend Erica Shaw as our official photographer and videographer. You can check out the trailer of her DVD that’s in progress on my Facebook page. But we had logistical things still outstanding, like securing the hall for the non-picnic times, and settling on exactly how we were going to feed people.

It all fell into place, in spite of the nerves, freak-outs, panic attacks, and people who I’m sure will resume talking to each other really soon. The Raymond Victor Band showed up and played music at the picnic. My friend Andrew entertained the kiddies. We flew kites, ate hotdogs, beat a clown piñata into submission (yeah, I hate clowns), had birthday cake, some pizza, a pasta dinner and even cleaned the church hall up before 4 pm the last day. We lived! Ta-DA! Little Marina was crushed that her mighty blows on the piñata were not the winning ones. I’m hoping that’s the extent of the permanent scarring from the event. That, and I don’t think my knees or ankles will ever recover. I think I need more rest.

Truly, though, it could not have been a better 10 of Cups Happy Family Reunion in my opinion. We came, we saw, we talked, we hugged, we laughed, we cried. But most of all, we are NOT doing it again. I mean, I love you people, but it is so someone else’s turn!

Best wishes!

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And seriously, if you want a fabulous event memory, contact Erica Shaw:

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