Friday, July 26, 2013

Barr Family Reunion

I arrived at #5 Seabreeze last Saturday in my shiny red Prius cranking "Little Deuce Coup" with my 26 year-old son in the passenger seat.  We were the last to arrive actually and squeezed the tiny car into the last remaining spot, bounded out of my tightly packed car to welcoming arms.  Literally.  Hugs and kisses, smiles and laughter greeted us.  Even from those we had seen just yesterday.

It's the Barr Family reunion at Old Orchard Beach.  We wouldn't miss it for anything. And except for 2 summers, we haven't missed it in something like 32 years.  (I'll be happy to correct that number, but I am pretty sure that's about right.)  My in-laws and their four sons, their wives, and kids have all gotten together on this beautiful beach for a week at the end of July or beginning of August.  What we have is uniquely ours and incredibly special.  We've shared more laughs and yes, some tears, than most families do.  We repeat the same stories, and they are still funny. AND they're becoming the kids' stories now!

It's Friday afternoon, and our week here is coming to an end.  A few of the family members have left already.  We're doing laundry and eating up the leftovers today.  About an hour ago we said good-bye to the youngest member, sweet cousin Zoe, just two now. As she waved bye-bye to Nana, clutching her Cookie Monster doll and talking about eating "sushi at the airport" we all tried to smile, but it was not so easy when we saw the tears in Nana's eyes.

We will have one more family dinner tonight and maybe walk down to the pier for ice cream if it doesn't rain.  We will all pack up our cars and suitcases, and spend the next few weeks emailing and facebooking our memories and photos back and forth.  But the bigger picture is the imprint that this ritual has made on our lives, not that we did it this year, but that we've been doing this every year.

We taught our children that no matter how busy we were, this week was the most important week of the year.  We came to Maine right after babies were born, or when babies were soon to be born!  We came to Maine instead of going on a honeymoon! (And by the way, Michael, I would like to remind you that you still owe me a romantic get-away...)  We went to Maine when we had very little money to spend on any other vacation.  And we came up here when I had just finished my cancer treatments.  I did not even know yet if I was cancer free, and I was very weak and tired.  But I did know that I wanted to be surrounded by family, and love, and lots of energetic children.

Since I am writing this blog from the kitchen table of the beach house and not from my desk at home, I can't post lots of photos from the last 30 plus years, but please use your imagination.  Picture toddlers playing in the sand.  Little children laughing on kiddie rides at the pier.  Shots of sand castles that all look alike even though every year we exclaim, "THIS is our best one EVER!!"  And all of us laughing over cheese and crackers during cocktail hour.  The inevitable lobster fest, with my brother-in-law and me listening to Sugar Magnolia as we crack open the leftovers for lobster rolls the next day.

And then picture me again, not aging a bit of course, with the biggest smile on my face, wishing it would never end.

Good -bye for this year, Old Orchard Beach, and beloved extended Barr Family.  I'll see you all again next year, and I'll miss you until then.

I'll try to add more photos to this blog as I download them from my camera.  

Post script: as I finished writing this, and family returned from various outings, I posted the blog...asked for feedback, got a hug from my sister-in-law, and threats not to post any pix that were unflattering of anyone! A few minutes later, cousin Debbie, who actually lives here, came to say good-bye, with a fresh baked challah. With that I took out the Shabbat candles, and my brother-in-law got the last and best bottle of red wine, and we welcomed Shabbat as a family. 

The cars a loaded now and I have to go. But I just thought you'd like to know. 

August 2014:
I sat down to write about this summer at the beach, and I realized I had written these thoughts before. So instead, I'll repost, with a few additional thoughts after another great week!

As I mentioned above, we calculated that we have been coming to Old Orchard Beach for 32 years now.  We have only missed two summers in all that time.  Some of them stand out.  The summer after my husband and I got married (actually it was the week after we got married) we earned the only room with a double bed.  It was, after all our honeymoon.  (How many of you took your honeymoon with your in-laws, three brothers, two sisters-in law, and a baby nephew?)  One summer we rented a house where the walls didn't go all the way up to the ceiling, so you could hear absolutely everything everyone said in the house.  That was neat. There was the summer it was so unbearably hot, no one could sleep. And the summer it was freezing cold the entire time ... oh wait, that's every summer. 
Some things have changed.  No more buckets of toys, and boxes of videos.  And crates of cassettes tapes. I still ambitiously bring three books, this year I nearly finished one, which is a record for me lately.  Gameboys have given way to iPods and iPads.  My mother-in-law has finally allowed us all to participate in the kitchen so she can sit and relax and enjoy the company.
Three generations in the kitchen. 
The House Itself
First, let me say it's really quite a little house.

I posed the house next to my Prius to give you perspective.  Inside we sleep 9 or 10 adults.  We used to fit more of us, but at a certain point people started to care about little things like privacy, sleeping past 6:30 am, and having hot water for showers. So some of the grown kids opt for the hotel down the street.
It's decorated in "down the shore decor" of timeless lime green and sea foam blue that we really have gotten used to by now. What hit me a few years ago what that the photos of the owners children are still the same baby pictures as when we started renting this house 8 or 9 years ago.  I wonder what would happen if I surreptitiously replaced those outdated photos with our family photos.  (Here we have Uncle Ronald, eating a lobster.  Here we have Aunt Jean, working on a jigsaw puzzle...  all in those dorky tiny nautical frames they have all over the living room.  You get the idea.)

The Salami
A few years ago, when one brother couldn't make it, he sent a deli salami from LA to our beach house. My father-in-law got very excited about this, and missed several beach days, sitting in the driveway on his beach chair waiting for the UPS truck to come for this hard salami delivery.  No once can deny it was delicious.
The next year, the prodigal brother came to the beach with two salamis in tow.  And they were devoured.  But the following year, I guess he got busy, and forgot.  And I do believe that was the year my father-in-law stopped smiling, and the weather turned bad, and the kids got cranky, and well, things just weren't right.  So, I am now the provider of the salami.  I order two of those bad boys from Katz's Deli in NYC, have them delivered to my house, where I bring my lawn chair out to my driveway and wait for them to arrive.  This year the second one made it almost until our last day of vacation.

The Family Portraits

I could not get my father-in-law to smile, or even look at the camera, to the delight of his sons.
Three blessed kids, with their parents and both sets of grandparents. Aug 1, 2014. Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

The Cousins!  We are missing a few this year, and truly hope they make it next summer!
Photo credit: Vicki Barr

1983- do you like the leg kick? Or Adam's photobomb?

I guess we went out for dinner.  Once. Also, 1983,


1996 - the first year we started taking this kind of photo

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful!!!! How very special.