Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Gathering of Persons

Family Reunion - a gathering of persons after separation. A meeting of people who have not met for some time .

I don’t really fully understand the reasons behind my dislike of the words “family reunion”. It may have something to do with the printed t-shirts I’ve noticed before, screaming the family’s last name in large neon letters along with the year of said reunion in a complimenting color. Or maybe its the picture in my head of various families crammed around picnic tables, chowing down on bbq ribs and nibbling uninhibited on corn on the cob, all while recounting stories of recent knee replacements, scary thunderstorms, and Florida vacations.

All without using the first napkin.

Anyway, a reunion of sorts occurred with my dad’s side of the family this past weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Allow me this appropriate pause. Gatlinburg is a destination like no other. The sights, the sounds and the smells alone are enough to leave one slack-jawed and wide-eyed for days to come. And that’s just the people.

Go-Cart racetracks, mini- golf courses and t-shirt shops number into the thousands, with outlet stores representing every consumer product imaginable. A favorite observed was the Beef Jerky outlet, a building that would have seemed more like a brightly lit mirage if not verified by my skeptical spouse. Who knew – especially in this sluggish economy – that there would be such a demand for dried out beef?

In Gatlinburg, the current recession is a misunderstood concept, a myth to be considered along with those who question the demise of Elvis or ponder the existence of unicorns. It is an idea that has not yet caught on in this mountainous area as evidenced by the overcrowded attractions and main streets spilling over with visitors. I am able to accurately describe and honestly relay this touristy information because for a few days I was one of them.

Our reunion- our gathering of persons- took place in a very large cabin, high on a mountaintop, with scenic views that could almost make you cry at God’s creativity. There were thirty-four people under one roof, ten of them under the ages of nine, but somehow, miraculously, it seemed to accommodate everyone.

(That is, until Family Karaoke Night lasted longer than the law should allow. My dad brought his machine along with a newly purchased Karaoke’s Greatest Hits CD he “won” on ebay. Unbeknownst to him, all of the songs were accompanied by the annoying recorder your music teacher made you learn to play in the 7th grade. You have not lived if you have not heard Brittney Spears, Oops I Did It Again, in recorder version.

Also, I must mention the surprised reactions at Mary Mac’s accurate recitation of Steve Miller’s, The Joker, which she has learned from watching her brothers play Guitar Hero:

“I’m a Joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker....”

Mary Mac: “Mom, what’s a toker?”

Me: “It’s someone who uses a lot of tokens to play the games at Chuck E. Cheese.”

Oh, don’t you judge me. You would have said it too.)

We visited two attractions while in Gatlinburg. Wonder Works, a touted “amusement park for the mind”, which almost made me lose mine. Fire Marshalls were curiously not present to witness the maximum capacity of the building being stretched in a way that reminded me of the elastic in my worn-out maternity underwear. Both exceeded human limits.

The children had fun darting in and out of the crowd while I stayed in a bug-eyed state of panic trying to locate the top of their heads among the swarms of people. It was difficult to relax amid the masses, some of whom demonstrated poor manners and a strong dislike for antiperspirants. Grown adults clamored over small children at many of the exhibits, and my usually effective evil eye did very little to deter the boorish behavior. I knew I should have used some ninja moves but my husband asked me to refrain after observing the size and temperament of those pushing to the front of the line.

The maze of games and experiments ended in an area designated for an arcade and laser tag. Twelve family members participated in laser tag, of which I must boastfully report I came in second place. (And this was after shooting myself for the first five minutes. Apparently my gun was turned backwards.)

A second attraction visited was Ober Gatlinburg, a German-themed ski resort and amusement park. The German connotation makes complete sense, of course, except for the tube tops, mid-drift t-shirts and bare-chested males riding the chair lifts. Who knows - maybe that’s how they roll in Germany.

Most of our time, however, was spent at the cabin, laughing and eating and catching up with family members, wondering aloud time and again, why we don’t get together more often. And then we remembered Karaoke Night and all made sense again.

All in all, it was a fun weekend and one that my children can joyfully file away as an adolescent memory to hold onto fondly, much the way I did at their age, with the same people, only with a few more laugh lines around the eyes earned honestly.

It will be with great anticipation that I look forward to the next time my person gathers again with those in my extended family. I may even suggest barbecue ribs and ears of corn for dinner one night.

Or better yet, print up t-shirts – or tube tops - to commemorate the event.


Elizabeth said...

All kids today must know the Steve Miller song (via Guitar Hero) - Zachary & I were going somewhere & it came on the radio & he started singing at the top of his lungs!! PS - I would never judge - I asked him what a "toker" was too!! I love Mary Mac's answer. Zachary didn't have one (THANK YOU!!).

Alan said...

What a great description of the tourist trap called Gatlinburg! How did you stand the smell for that long? The first time I ever skied was on the water soaked plastic carpet they used to call a ski slope at Ober Gatlinburg. I am surprised I ever wanted to ski again!

Joni, I am glad I stumbled across your blog. I am happy to see that you are doing well and living a fulfilling life with a wonderful family. It is crazy to think of how much our lives have changed since Mercer!

Go Bears!