50 Years and Counting

Well, obviously, my four kids, their 3 spouses and their respective 9 children are counting! In honor of our 50th wedding anniversary, our children got together and surprised us with a week of celebration and togetherness at the Jersey Shore for the 18 of us. Overall, our ages range from 2 years to 71 years, so the beach was a perfect place to get together because we could all be kids again. Our 4 children rented two houses situated next door to each other which worked out really well (unless you made coffee in your kitchen and the cream was next door, or a Manhattan with the vermouth next door, or coleslaw with the celery next door).
Since our family, like many others, has spread out geographically over the years, some of us had a longer ride than others. The Chicago family spent about 30 hours on the road. The North Carolina family we won’t even talk about, because they had just moved there from CT and made two trips back and forth for the move, then drove to Jersey and back for the get-together. We drove about 5 hours each way and the PA group probably put 5 or 6 hours on their car. We won’t even mention the cost of the gasoline at more than $4.00 per gallon.
In addition, we (Dad and I) are well aware of the sacrifices everyone made to pull this off. For all, it was a financial stress considering a new college student, a couple of closed-for-the-week family businesses, a job with no vacation pay, and a big out of state move . The grandchildren sacrificed also – they had school, camps, sports, summer jobs and time with friends that needed to be rearranged and shuffled to accommodate the schedule. Thank you one and all for wanting to be there enough to change plans and give up things that were important to you.
For me, it was a very special time to bring the family together for a happy occasion. When we are so far apart in miles, we talk often, but hugs with out of town families are few and words cannot say how much I miss them. Interaction among everyone at once and cousins getting to know each other a little better just don’t happen often enough. Kids need to know how much their extended family loves them and cares about their lives, loves, education, books, sports, ad infinitum. They also need to know who the jokesters are, who takes the best photos, who’s the best cook, who can assist them in making some money on the side, who the musician is, who the writer is, and on and on. I hope these memories will last a lifetime – especially when we look back at everyone’s photos to jog the mind. Of course, they also learned that everyone can give advice. They may not need it now, but will learn that they have a resource when they need it.
I am so pleased with how our family turned out. I see 9 grandchildren, intelligent, poised, and most of them teens starting to feel more at home in their adult bodies. I also saw love in many places and especially enjoyed watching the two “boys” having fun together even though they are 15 and 2. I can see a 15 year old becoming a loving and caring Dad some day. The kids played each others’ sports and somehow managed to relate to each other even though they rarely get to spend time together. Sibling rivalry seemed to disappear (almost) for a few days of fun in the sun and all the grandkids found things to do together – swimming, boogie boarding, biking, cards, movies, water park, miniature golf, puzzles, Quiddler, Quibbs, etc. The adults did the same – coffee on the deck in the a.m. (whenever you felt like getting up); drinks in the evening, planning meals, cooking meals, eating seafood, and trying to keep the dishes from two houses separated (a really big chore). Of course, our sons’ favorite pass time is mercilessly teasing their Dad who manages to take the bait. We also took turns watching the kids at the ocean, making drinks, etc. If you felt like walking, you walked. If you felt like biking, you did. If you wanted to nap – that was ok too. Shopping was on the agenda too, especially when the kids found a candy shop in town. They needed to stock up every day, and the parents didn’t get too bent out of shape that they were eating candy. (Actually, it was a lot less expensive than crabs, clams and other seafood that they chowed down on!) I, luckily, was the designated nap person to get the 2 year-old down in the afternoon. Three Little Pigs and Three Bears later, we were both sound asleep.
We had some flat tires on bikes, some scraped knees, some bike mishaps for the kids riding into town, some ocean wipeouts, a pulled hamstring (me, of course), a crab bite, on so on. Nothing unexpected happened as a result of putting that many people together for a week. Disagreements were few and not unanticipated. I believe a kindred spirit exists in our family. Even though we are all very different, we are still the same. I hold a sincere appreciation for my daughters-in-law and my son-in-law for putting up with us as individuals and as a group. The eye-rolls were at a minimum and no one lost their sense of humor (at least, not in front of me).
Tom and Ann, thanks for all the planning, arrangements and organization. Teresa, thanks for helping in more ways than you want to talk about. John, thanks for giving up a weeks’ pay, driving 30 hours, and getting your car fixed so you could make it. Bill and Ingrid, thanks for being there in spite of moving out of state, and driving hours and hours and hours to be with us and leaving your new place in disarray to be there. Dick, thanks for taking fabulous pictures. This helps the memories last forever. Grandkids, thanks for giving up work hours, sports, driving forever, rearranging camp schedules and anything else you needed to do.
To my husband of 50 years – can you believe what our love for each other has brought forth? We are certainly blessed with a beautiful, caring family. Is there anything more satisfying in this life? I can’t think of a thing… except maybe a perfect vacation with all of us together to celebrate our love. Thank you all.

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