Uncle Frank had been planning this reunion for the better part of six months, as far as I can tell; he wanted to accommodate everyone, so we finally settled on this weekend because I wouldn’t be done teaching any earlier, and cousin Anne from Arizona couldn’t make it any later. Well-stocked with electronics and snacks, Robert and I boarded an ATA plane from Boston to Midway, Chicago.
In Midway, we had enough time during our three-hour layover to check out every corner of the airport, to eat a Gold Coast Chicago-style hot dog and cheese fries, and to have ice cream cones for dessert. After all of that, we still had time to meet our niece Aurora, who I hadn’t really had a chance to spend much time with since Christmas. Since Christine was working this weekend and couldn’t make it to the reunion, Aurora’s father dropped her off at the airport, and we all checked back in and went through security together.
We had an uneventful second flight to Minneapolis, after which Robert got the checked bags and I got the rental car. Thrifty, our preferred rental company for friendly, accommodating service, great car selection, and low rates, offered us a choice of a Sebring and a Spyder convertible. Robert jumped at the chance to drive a Toyota MR2 Spyder, and was only a little disappointed to discover that Thrifty meant a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder; still, he’d never driven it before, so although it was slightly more cramped than the Sebring, the diversification, diversification virus drove us to take it. The car was actually a lot of fun, slightly smaller and sportier than our usual Sebring, and very smooth to drive. Plus, Aurora got to climb over the closed door and leap into the back seat nearly every time we went anywhere (she actually complained when I opened the door and pushed the seat forward to make it easier; the only times she walked in the “boring” way were when her hands were full of snacks). We drove straight to Uncle Frank’s, getting only a little bit lost at a detour due to road construction. As Judy said many times this weekend, “Minnesota only has two seasons: Winter, and road construction.” Yes, it just keeps on getting funnier. . . trust me.
At Uncle Frank’s, the entire family was already gathered and starting to eat, back from an afternoon golf outing. We greeted Grandma Gracie, all the Minnesota aunts, uncles, and cousins, and Dave and Candy in from Chicago, and after dinner we trooped out to the backyard to pile onto the wagon hitched to Uncle Frank’s tractor for a hayride. My first hayride was six years ago right here, when Robert and I were driving cross-country on our honeymoon and we stopped in Minnesota for a second wedding celebration. This hayride was a lot tamer, though still full of excitement. Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha’s trusty dog Kelly appropriated all of the blankets brought along and formed a nest for herself with them. Mitch, Lexie, Josie, Aurora, and even Brian were as much off the ride as on it, forever leaping off in order to pick and eat raspberries, play in the fields, or do who-knows-what over by a stone wall. Jennifer’s almost-four-year-old son John kept trying to lean over the edge and yell at his bigger cousins, so Robert or Mark or Angelina or I would grab his ankle or hood and prevent him from falling off. The big kids would then leap back onto the slow-moving wagon, or occasionally jog along behind just for fun. Ever the proud grandpa, Uncle Frank of course let Brady help him drive.
We stopped by Grandma Gracie’s old house, now inhabited by cousin Jerry and a few roommates, which Uncle Frank had just completely renovated. Jerry plans to add a back deck in the spring, but for now the kitchen sliding doors overlook a story-high drop to the backyard, where the hayride pulled up and stopped, teetering on a hill. We perched there while Dave (who with Candy had somehow managed to miss the boat—er, wagon—and who had driven the half-block down the street to the house) attempted to figure out everyone’s cameras and snap a picture of the wagon from the kitchen looking down. Eventually, just when we were about to pull away again in search of more raspberries, he snapped the shot.
After the hayride and the child-heavy chaos at Uncle Frank’s, Mark and Vanessa, Dave and Candy, and Robert and I retired to Mark and Vanessa’s house to talk. We started out with grand plans of a movie, but with Brady asleep in the back room upstairs, and Aurora reading herself ostensibly to sleep downstairs, we stayed in the living room talking until almost one in the morning. The last time Mark, Dave, and Robert—the three oldest male first cousins—had gotten together was Mark’s wedding, and possibly Dave’s wedding before that, so they really had a chance now to enjoy each other’s company.
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Created: 8/26/04. Last Modified: 8/26/04.