By DOROTHY ROSBY
When I was a child, I daydreamed of living alone in a chicken coop in our backyard. Not the one with the chickens in it. No, my chicken coop would be decked out—and clean. My parents would bring me food, and none of my nine brothers and sisters would ever enter unless I invited them. I’d feel guilty admitting this publicly if I didn’t know some of them used to wish I lived in the chicken coop too. Also that they don’t read my column.
Anyway, I’ll bet they had similar fantasies, though theirs may have featured better accommodations. You like your space when you grow up with nine siblings in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom.
Things have changed. We’ve gone our separate ways. We all have plenty of bathrooms. But we still crave our space. That’s why for our annual sibling reunion, we take over a church camp. My family has me plan the event because I’m the most organized one in the bunch. Or maybe it’s because I live closest. Or maybe it’s because I can’t say no.
Whatever the reason, it’s up to me. When you throw in spouses and some of the kids and grandkids, our family gatherings are a little like a zoo with the lions loose—a lot of running around and screaming going on.
But after six years of planning the event, I consider myself an expert. I don’t know how your reunion will turn out if you use the tips below, but I do know you’ll be asked to organize it again next time. At least it works for me.
1) Schedule carefully for maximum attendance and convenience. You already know you should avoid having a reunion when school is in session. But did you know you should never, ever have a family reunion during an election year?
2) Keep in mind the reunion planner’s mantra, which incidentally, is the same as the real estate agent’s mantra: Location, location, location. For some relatives, tourist attractions might be a draw if the family isn’t.
3) Remember, one of the most crucial parts of any family gathering is the food. That’s why I don’t cook it. The staff at the church camp do that for us. Fortunately, they also do the clean-up, which is helpful because my siblings and I have a long history of fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes.
4) Be willing to forgive and hope that everyone else in the family is too. Remember, a family is like a pile of cockleburs. They stick together, but they can poke each other a little bit too.
5) Remember, a reunion is a perfect time for a family photo. But be prepared for everyone to complain while you try to line them up to take one. That includes all those family members who’ve been taking selfies all day. Be firm though, because the minute the photo is taken, they’ll all ask you to send it to them.
6) And most importantly, pick the right family. I’m joking! It’s probably too late for that. But if you can’t pick your family, you can at least pick the reunion that suits them. Mine prefers to spend the weekend hiking and shooting the bull—and there’s a lot of bull. If I forced them to wear matching T-shirts and do scavenger hunts all weekend, they might pick a new organizer. Hey wait…
Dorothy Rosby is the author of the new humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch, Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest.