ULTIMATE ALBERTA SUMMERS!

Summer! A time of no school, travel, pool lessons, visiting Grandmas, backyard barbecues and not caring if one's neighbours are shocked that you spend your day on a lounge chair in the backyard and display an unseemly ‘plumbers butt’ as you arise to retrieve a cold one from the house.
 But there is one other great Canadian tradition still strongly upheld and enjoyed by many of us. The Family Reunion. In many cases it might begin with an anniversary, a wedding or some other special occasion, but in the end, especially if one's family happens to have some fifteen brothers and sisters-in-laws, a hundred nieces and nephews and great ones too. THIS is a family reunion!
 For the younger families, newly marrieds or those already with young ones, it’s a time to meet relatives yet undiscovered as they proudly show off their contributions to the family hierarchy. For the middle-age group, those 45-65 years of age, couples (‘la, still together after 40 years?!!) widows and widowers unconsciously lay claim to a particular spot in this bivouac, especially one that garners a lot of shade, to begin the serious business of reminiscence. The more senior, but not in the least less noticeable, take up arms and ready themselves to field hugs, handshakes, kisses and unsurmountable questions of family history.
 Family reunions are held in many different locales usually rented, such as community halls, city halls such as Legions, Elks and Lions Halls, as well as in Parks and Campgrounds. Because of the precarious situation our weather tends to inhabit, many reunions embrace the outdoors, but always with a healthy side order of some form of shelter. Thus, upon arrival at a private family reunion, one may arrive at what at first may look like a gypsy encampment or at the very least, an arousing religious revival!
 Everything from large ‘community’ style tents (a.k.a. Beer tents?) to 5th-wheels, enormous homes-on-wheels (for some they may be exactly that), tent trailers, large ground tents and should one find a stray relative sleeping in the backseat of his vehicle, so be it; these are the hardy group of Canadians family-oriented and dedicated to the last, whatever bug-bite or biffy to be endured. A hardy bunch, they improvise and they survive!
 These family reunions may span anywhere from a two day period to one week. I personally have never heard of one more than a week – the time ‘endurance’ speaks for itself, no? From B.C. shores to Saskatchewan prairies, from southern mountain communities to northern hamlets, from all across Canada , north, east, south or west, families come together either once a year or once every five, ten or fifteen years.They are ecstatic to meet again, living too far apart to be in constant touch. I believe one may say here, this reporter may have purportedly “.. put-her-foot-in-her-mouth ..?”
 Throughout the days of a family reunion, intermingling between the younger and older can reveal the best, and maybe not so, as the sharing of food and stories abound, the young generation begins a new chapter in their families’ lives, as the older generation educates, reconnects and bids ‘goodnight’ a LOT earlier to those ghostly shapes seen by the campfire, cold, bug bitten and sleepy but unwilling to give up their newfound friends and relatives as time runs out. It is a time also of shedding one’s pride when it comes to enlisting help in putting up a new-fangled tent, borrowing a cup of sugar from next door or finding the single relative one really trusts to help retrieve one’s false teeth from the latrine!
A family reunion is a telling experience, a healthy experience and one not to be missed even if  one considers oneself a ‘shirt-tail relative.’ Usually conducted in Canadian summer months, it could be held in a winter clime, but the idea of chopping wood to keep the stovepipe hot or the trek at lunchtime with near-frozen sandwiches out to the ice fishing encampment simply does not excite me!
 My trusty dictionary describes a reunion as a reuniting of the members of a group but it can be oh! so much more!

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