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When Celebrations Combine

Today is my birthday — the Sunday of a Thanksgiving weekend. As I write, the day is nearly over. I’ve had a nice warm bath, the tea kettle is heating, and I’m reliving what is probably my most memorable birthday.

Shadow Lake.

I come from a family of five girls. Four of us live in Ontario, and one of us lives in Ohio. Like most families, it used to be far easier to have full family get-togethers when there were just our parents, us, a couple of spouses, and maybe a grandchild or two.

Now, there are four generations, and the ages range from a nice crop of one to three-year-olds, right up to Dad, who is about to turn ninety.

A few months ago, my American sister pitched the idea of having her whole family — fifteen in all — come for a visit over Canadian Thanksgiving. Our children and grandchildren were told of the plan, and it was an instant hit. Text messages shot back and forth, and accommodations were researched, but nothing quite suited. Then, one of my sisters had a stroke of brilliance. Long story short, we rented a small camp near Stouffville, Ontario, for the weekend.

Accommodations nailed down, it was time for the three of us who live closest to start planning. If you think I’m a take-charge planner, you haven’t met the two sisters I was working with. Meal plans and grocery lists took shape, and a myriad of details followed. We each kept a running list of the extras.

A couple of days before the event, a Costco run was undertaken in the company of about a thousand other people, also eager to get their Thanksgiving goodies. While I navigated the grocery list, my intrepid younger sister pushed the giant cartful of food. There were three cases of pop, a bag of milk, and several frozen pizzas wedged onto the bottom shelf alone, and with that weight, she should have been wearing a “Caution: Wide Turns” sign.

Thanksgiving weekend finally came, and the Ohio relatives arrived on Friday afternoon. They planned to stay at the camp while the locals went home for the night.

Some folks came and went according to travel time and distance, but on Saturday, over forty of us spent a glorious fall day together, culminating in a full turkey dinner.

Games followed, and our multi-generational group was a perfect mix for “Mind the Gap”.

And we ate all weekend. My, how we ate. We are normally home cooks — good ones, if I say so myself! — but this weekend was not to be spent in the kitchen. Except for the Thanksgiving feast, we purchased ready-made food and enjoyed the extra time just being together.

Was it noisy and crazy? Yes. Was it tiring? Definitely. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat, although this is likely a one-off. I got to see four great-nieces/nephew that I’d not met yet, due to Covid and distance.

I got to catch up on peoples’ lives and plans in a way that is only possible with in-person visits.

Sunday evening supper was frozen pizzas and “once around the kitchen” leftovers. Some people had already left, but there was still a good gang to feed and to help clean up. In spite of the chilly, drizzly weather all day, our hugs goodbye were warm. It really was hard to part, but Dad’s ninetieth birthday is coming up, and those plans are already taking shape.


Phyllis writes words: words for stories, and words for books. Phyllis writes words for blogs too.

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