Summer Is For Crazy Family Reunions

For the last 30 years, give or take a year or two, my dad’s side of the family has gathered for an annual family reunion. We called it “Christmas In July” when we started. We celebrated Christmas because MN weather made Christmas celebrations unpredictable in December.

We have gathered in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Our first gathering was in Webster, South Dakota. There were less than 20 of us. This year, over 30 of us converged on New London, MN. My grandparents have passed and my dad’s generation are now the patriarchs. They are the grandmas & grandpas and great-aunts and great-uncles. My cousins and I are no longer at the kid’s table. Our 9 kids have taken our place.

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We play cribbage. Half of us only play once a year and have to be coached through every move. Some of us have been “coached” all the way through the championship game!

We eat way too much.

Now that our numbers have grown and there are more generations of cousins, each year we try to figure out what relationship we actually are to each other. What am I to my cousin’s children? Cousin-aunt? First cousin, once-removed? What are my cousin’s kids to my kids?

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And, no matter what else happens, we always tell stories of the Henning family history. Who shot the turkey roaster? Which aunt climbed the windmill when she was a toddler? Discerning fact from fiction is nearly impossible.

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We’re making new memories. Some year, we’ll be telling stories of the 2016 family reunion. How we crammed 30 people into a house meant for 26, Missy’s amazing oatmeal butterscotch cookies, and how we sat at the table and played on this old-fashioned contraption called a laptop computer and played a game where we diffused a bomb- and lost because Morse code is tricky.

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