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We had a family picnic not too long ago. We do it every summer. It took us dozens–perhaps hundreds–of emails, texts, and phone calls to plan it.
Location? No one has a perfect yard, so we needed a park. Ten or twenty suggestions later, we decided on one. It wasn’t convenient for any of us, and that may have been why we could all agree on it. Or perhaps it was the promise of a good mix of shade and sun, a playground, a wooded trail for the more adventurous to explore, and plenty of parking.
Saturday or Sunday? Early or late? One family had a commitment on Saturday, and one uncle wanted to stay flexible until the last minute, in case his weekly hike was likely to be ruined by rain. Two of the kids were to start Band Camp on Monday, so they’d need Sunday to get ready. Finally the Sundays outvoted the Saturdays and after some grumbles the date was set.
The menu was another challenge. “Tell me what you want me to bring,” was way more common than “I’ll bring potato salad.” Since no one was in charge, there was no one to decide what food the undecided folks should contribute to go with the hot dogs that are traditional. We ended up with three salads, two batches of hot dog buns, and no fresh veggies. But the still-warm homemade bread was good, and the baker did remember to bring butter for it.
The day dawned at last. That morning someone thought to check the weather forecast. “Cloudy, with a 60 percent chance of rain” and weather conditions that were good for thunderstorms and even a funnel cloud or two. One had been spotted about thirty miles north of the park already that morning, but it had been a small funnel that hadn’t touched down. Reactions (via email and text) varied from “No way!” to “I’ll bring my canopy.” The wusses outvoted the adventurous, and we decided to meet at Granny’s house. If the weather cooperated, most of us would fit on her deck.
It rained, but we never saw any funnel clouds. We ate around the dining room table, using paper plates and plastic flatwear. Only one soda was spilled, and since Granny had had the foresight to use a plastic-coated tablecloth, the only damage was some paper napkins and a cookie that drowned.
Everyone had a good time, all nine of us. How on earth do big families get anything done?
Every family is dysfunctional in one way or another, but mostly the Blankenships get along in spite of themselves.
Cecile, the family matriarch, has invited (read commanded) everyone to a family reunion at the ancestral ranch near Yellowstone. Annie brings inconsolable sorrow, Hetty dreads her parents’ reaction to her latest lover, Evan has a secret, and Serhilda wants to be anywhere else. With four generations living in each others’ pockets, everyone expects bickering, spats, hurt feelings, and perhaps a few secrets finally revealed. When the week is over, even Cecile wonders if the reunion brought the family closer together, as she had hoped, or created rifts so great that they’ll never be mended.
About the Author:On her way to a career as a writer, Judith B. Glad made a lot of detours–into motherhood, short-order cooking, accounting, management, graduate school, botanical consulting. Eventually she decided she had to write those books that had been growing in her head for years–romances all. She believes every story should have a happy ending, even if it requires two or three hankies to get there.
After growing up in Idaho–the locale of several of her books–Judith now lives in Portland, Oregon, where flowers bloom in her yard every month of the year and snow usually stays on the mountains where it belongs. It’s a great place to write, because the rainy season lasts for eight months–a perfect excuse to stay indoors and tell stories. Judith has four children, all grown, three granddaughters and a grandson.
Visit Judith’s website to learn more about her other books. While you’re there, take some side trips to view early 20th century picture postcards, read about 5,000 ways to earn a living, and see what a Mentzelia really is.