The drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Lakeside, Michigan took 2 and half days.
We stopped outside Oklahoma City for one night, where we went to a minor league baseball game, and the following night we stayed at KOA (Kampgrounds of America) campsite in Springfield, Illinois. We arrived in Lakeside after lunchtime where we were reunited with immediate family.
Lakeside Inn on Lake Michigan
The inn was really cool, built about a hundred years ago, and kept in fairly good shape for such an old building. The rooms were filled with wooden furniture and Ye Olde Timey style artwork. Directly across the street was the staircase that led down to the lake. Lake Michigan is huge! No seriously, it's so massive that when you approach the beach, you are convinced that it is the ocean. Sandy shores, with waves rolling in one after the other - it’s only once you enter the water and realise that it is fresh water that you start to comprehend what is going on. And even then, it’s a bizarre experience.
That afternoon, we went for a refreshing swim in the lake, played on the beach for a bit and then prepared to meet some more relatives for a BBQ dinner. At dinner, the family reunion really kicked off with hugs and greetings with aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins. The inn had allowed us to book out their dining room, so we had a space for all of us mingle and catch up.
The following day, a bunch of us decided to the head to head to a part of the beach a bit further afield, about a mile and half down the road. We grabbed our gear and made the hike. We discovered that this section beach was virtually identical to the beach directly across from our accommodation, but we did not let this get us down. We swam, played frisbee and “smash ball”, and caught some sun. That afternoon, Sam and I visited a nearby disc golf course to play a round before heading back for dinner.
The real reunion
Friday’s dinner was when the bulk of the family was present at the reunion, so we were eager to see everyone. Some of these family members Sam and I were meeting for the first time, and others it had been between 4-25 years since we had last seen each other. Eloise (my second cousin) and my Aunt Roberta were responsible for the organisation of the reunion, and it was really fantastic. We ate a delicious Italian dinner while members of the family told stories of the different generations and history of the two families as far back as their lives in the countries from which they emigrated. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to see each other and everyone seemed to get along - most unusual for a family reunion!
Beach time round 2, and a divorce
Saturday, Sam woke up early to do a family yoga session with my uncle Loren. After breakfast, Eloise had arranged for us all to go to the beach. We returned to the same spot as the day before, but this time there were beach chairs and umbrellas waiting for us all. We were split into two teams for the sand castle building competition, which in ended in very unamerican fashion, with a tie. There wasn’t even a wrestling match to find out who was the winner! We threw the frisbee around, and went for multiple swims. It was during one of these swims when it happened…
I’ll come out with it. I lost my wedding ring. It came off while swimming in the waves of the lake. We spent a good 45 minutes looking for it, but to no avail. Needless to say, I was devastated. Losing the ring sucked, but it’s even worse that Sam and I are no longer married. That’s how it works right?
A final family dinner
That afternoon, my parents, sister and niece had to leave to catch their flights back to NZ, so we said our goodbyes. We decided to stick around for the restaurant dinner that night. Unfortunately there weren’t any available rooms for us to stay another night, so we would have to drive back to Chicago that evening after dinner. We were having such a good time, and did not want to leave, but alas we could not stay.
Dinner was really fancy, and Eloise had organised a projector to showcase family photos from the many generations. It was really great seeing all my relatives' childhood, wedding and embarrassing photos. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and then said our goodbyes to everyone. Sam and I both felt sad leaving the reunion. We met and talked with so many friendly and lovely people and we knew it would like be another long time before we saw everyone again. We decided that it must be a great sign if at the end of the family reunion you find yourselves wanting to spend more time with your family! We reminisced on the weekend all the way back to Chicago.
Again, we put in a good word for New Zealand, and even suggested it for the location of the next family reunion! While that may be a little unrealistic, we'd love to see some family down our way soon.
Lots of love,
Z & S