the Gathering of the Clan, Chapter Three (or 3 for short)  

Posted by Alex Pendragon

I awoke in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps just before 6 AM. Or at least I THINK I woke up, since I don't exactly remember having slept period, but I assume I did, at least some. Of course, THE Wife could have slept through an earthquake and never noticed, and she and the rest of the cabin peacefully slept through the morning while I shuffled around, made some coffee, and eventually, as the clock neared 9 am, I decided to start some breakfast (eggs and bacon) and turned on some music (yea, old spoil sport thought maybe it was time to get things going). Eventually THE Wife and the other two clawed their ways to consciousness and we got ready to head out to commune with the rest of the family.

A lot of that day (Friday) consisted of us wondering around the tent and RV area where most of the family was concentrated. There were ALOT of pictures being taken, and my "niece" Brenna had her keyboard out and was playing with it, showing us she had some remarkable raw talent while at the same time denying she had any. She's a lot like her "Uncle" in that respect. I sing and people don't throw rotting vegetables at me, so it's all good. My Uncle AJ had this HUGE RV trailer that I think half the clan was sleeping in, while a couple of families had cabins like us.

Friday was mostly to get our bearings and begin the reconnection process for those of us who had been separated for so long. Before arriving at the park, my cousin Julie (the next to the youngest of the cousins) had promised to cook us (me, actually, it was all for ME!) all some crawfish etoufee, a purely cajun dish along with gumbo. All I had to do was provide the crawfish, so I managed to find some frozen packages of it at a Walmart on the way. There was no question about getting live ones, boiling and shelling those little suckers enough to feed sixty people would have taken all day! THE Wife and I had also taken a hike and found a delightful clearing on a bluff overlooking the lake that would be PERFECT for an Ostara celebration (Spring Equinox), so we decided to run BACK to that Walmart, a thirty minute trip each way mind you, and get some candles and such to perform an impromptu circle with. While we were there I picked up ANOTHER pack of crawfish for Cousin Norman who wanted us to try out HIS recipe for etoufee. You see, just because it's Cajun doesn't mean it's only cooked one way. But all that was for the next night.

The day wore on and we kept ourselves busy and then THE Wife and I and our cabin mates returned to our abode and started our own party after having a nice dinner of the remainder of the grilled chicken turned into a nice chicken salad. THEN we cranked up the karaoke and had a blast with that. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my Cousin Tammy has a pretty nice voice, and could actually do quite well with songs I just never could handle well. We were joined by my youngest cousin Angie (the one I held in my arms on that day in 1981) and her husband, as well as my "Sister" cousin Lisa and her adorable teenaged daughter Brenna (who has adopted me as the "coolest cousin" and her "Uncle Michael". She sat up her keyboard and quickly found out that she didn't know any song I knew, but she did manage some freeform stuff that amazed me and everybody else who heard it. Have I mentioned yet that this girl is an amazing artist as well? Shades of my late Mother Michele shines on in this child…….you'd be so proud of her, Mom.

We rocked on till the wee hours until yet ANOTHER cousin and his kids showed up late to the reunion and needed a few beds to sleep on, which meant a pair of those bunk beds we weren't using. When I last saw Wally, he was us the cutest kid you ever saw, but now he was a comedian who needs to get a job……being a comedian. He was a HOOT, and kept us up really late with his tales. Now, THIS time we thought we had the air mattress problem figured out and decided to open up the fold-out couch and park the mattress on TOP of IT, figuring that would isolate it from the cold floor and keep it from freezing us.


Apparently, just raising the mattress off the floor does not solve the problem. The think little mattress already on the couch-bed apparently was not adequate insulation to prevent the mattress from picking up the surrounding coolness. And thus began my third night of less-than-optimal sleep. Do you detect a theme here, my dear readers? Believe me, it's not all about me and my lack of sleep, but I'm trying to be accurate here……here.

Now it's somewhere around 4 AM and THE Michael is one unhappy, sleep deprived, but still awake camper. But the Sun came up, and so did people, eventually, and another day began on the shores of South Toledo Bend Reservoir. I forgot to mention that I took a few pictures of the sunset which happens right on the water, and I think you'll agree it is simply a beautiful sight. This was the BIG day, for which the family had rented the visitor's center meeting hall for everybody to gather and share in some good cajun cooking and visiting. You saw the picture on episode one of all the cousins during that first major gathering in 1981, right? Get a load of THIS one………

I think it was providence that I was to bring my make-shift karaoke system to the reunion, not just for the entertainment value, but for the use it was put too when I set it up in the meeting hall. First off, the gang of teenagers commandeered the system immediately, having fun with it while the rest of us clans-people of advanced age commiserated. Then, (was it AFTER we all pigged out on ribs and crawfish etoufee, or before?) we gathered the individual families together and one after the other, brought each one to the front of the hall and introduced everyone to the rest of the family, using the microphone of my sound system. It then occurred to me that MY Mother was the only one of the elders who had already passed beyond the veil, and there was no one to introduce ME. However, I knew right off the bat who to ask. My Aunt June, the YOUNGEST of the elder aunts and uncles, who had come all the way from Alaska to be with my Mom, the OLDEST of them, when she passed away, was one who was there many times for me when I needed a hand up, and this time was no exception. She was BEAMING with the honor to stand in stead of my Mom, and she proudly introduced me to the clan, the only child of Michele, the gypsy artist who just like her baby, always lived life her own way. Thank you, Aunt June. I love you.

Then, as a nasty storm front blew in to soften the light, we all gathered outside beneath the canopy of the visitors' center to have our group pictures taken; family by family, the whole clan together, and of course, a reproduction of the original 1981 group photo. Not everybody is there, and none of us resemble ourselves, but hey, it was thirty long years gone by! We simply got better looking! hahaha

Eventually the clock approached 9, and we had to give up the hall, and I packed up the gear and hauled it out to the car with the help of Norman, who long ago, knee high to a grasshopper, had tied me to a chair with rope playing cowboys and indians or something. And I couldn't get out of it! So we made our hugs and stuff and broke back up into our separate parties. Back at the cabin, Tammy, Lisa, Steve, Gail and yours truly relearned the ancient art of canasta, and played a hand or two. Lisa decided that riding out the now stormy weather was not best done in a tent, so she and Brenna joined us to spend the night in the bunk room. Now, THIS time I just KNEW we had this bed thing figured out. We put blankets down beneath the fitted sheet hoping it would insulate us from the cold mattress. Well… did….sort of. THE Wife slept well enough. THE Michael? Night FOUR and I MIGHT have gotten maybe four hours. Thank the Gods for adrenaline and coffee!

The next morning I met with a certain amount of trepidation. I had waited for this reunion, making plans and saving money and getting so excited, and just like that……time to go home. Back to life. Back to life far, far away from ALL of these wonderful people I was blessed to be related to and spent three wonderful days with. But more than anything, I was so overwhelmed by how all my fears of not being accepted or rejected for who I was or who they were……..were baseless. More than 60 people of all ages and creeds and religions gathered together here and totally ignored all that silly shit and simply LOVED one another and saw to it that NOBODY felt different. It was, perhaps I said this already…..spiritual.

And Bonnie, I want you to know that I will never forget how you took me aside and asked me what had happened to me in my childhood. I didn't expect that, and you wanting to know, and caring about it, meant everything in the world to me. Thank you. I will love you forever for that.

Next chapter, the return……….as soon as I recover from writing this one.

P.S. It took me so long to write this I didn't have time to install all the pictures I wanted, but I promise to devote a whole post to a pile of pics sure to delight those who were there and maybe even those who weren't.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 26, 2010 at Friday, March 26, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 slick comments

I am so glad that you are sharing this. I knew something was up with you (of the deep and life altering scale) with your Facebook updates.

March 27, 2010 at 4:31 AM

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