After months of planning and preparing, which led to a week of entertaining a big crowd of family and friends, it ended. In a whirlwind of chaos, it all unraveled as planned. Then, everything slipped back to its normal state of being.
But the return to status quo did not quite happen over night.
When the last of our relatives pulled out of our driveway, our house suddenly became eerily quiet. Within hours, I began to experience something I’d never experienced before. I slipped into host-family hangover.
The host-family hangover has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol consumption. As the host family for this year’s family reunion, I had precious little time to imbibe in anything other than coffee and water. My withdrawal was directly related to the sudden lack of people in our house combined with nothing pressing left to do.
For the first few mornings after the last guest pulled out, I woke up wondering if enough coffee was being brewed. I was also wracking my brain trying to remember what I was supposed to make for breakfast. But there was no one left to feed at 7 a.m. My kids are still in bed at that inhuman hour. Those of us that are awake cannot consume two muffin pans of baked eggs, a couple dozen English muffins, and a cookie sheet’s worth of bacon.
Once my senses brightened and I realized we were no longer cooking for the masses, I began to relax just a little. But when I walked into the kitchen and glanced at the pile of dishes my midnight snackers left in the sink, a knot formed in my throat. The knot dissipated when it dawned on me it’d only take ten minutes for one person to get the kitchen back in order.
We had a great time during our week of reconnection and fellowship. It was a great honor to be the first of my generation to host our annual family reunion. And when you have that many people around helping, it doesn’t matter that the kitchen is constantly jam-packed with drying dishes, soaking dishes, leftovers, prepped food, a full garbage can and a pile of recycling.
But as the host family, we started to wonder if our kitchen would ever look like it did right before the first guests arrived. We also imagined what the living room could look like if not for the cots, sleeping bags and piles of pillows stacked on suitcases.
A couple of days after the family departed, we did find the kitchen and living room again. And after a week resembling a rest stop parking lot, our driveway was suddenly accessible. Our household members had to readjust to coming and going as they pleased. No one had to be found, interrupted and begged to move a car so we could run to the store to get another onion.
Even so, I spent three days after the last visiting car pulled away stressing over where our cars were parked and resisting the urge to park on the street just in case we ran out of toilet paper.
When I did have a moment to myself during our reunion week, which I believe happened in the shower on day three, I was consumed with appreciation for my grandparents, great aunt and uncle, parents, and aunts and uncles, who all had been through this before. For over four decades, I took our July 4th gatherings for granted.
One of the perks of hosting, in addition to not having to travel, is that we won’t run out of food for the rest of the summer. Our pantry, refrigerator and freezers are still filled to capacity. We have plenty of cooked foods as well as ingredients to make summer side dishes. And we have enough meat to last until Thanksgiving.
My first post-reunion grocery store outing consisted of purchasing a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs. I giggled when the cashier asked for less than $10. I had become accustomed to bulk purchasing in anticipation of our crowd.
Hubby and I were thrilled to break the generation barrier for my siblings and cousins to host future gatherings. My children look forward to traveling the country in years to come as we rotate the reunion between hometowns that get further away from each other with each passing generation.
And since there are a dozen of us, I expect it will be a while before it’s our turn to host again. By then, my boys and nieces will be nearing hosting age. If our family grows big enough, Hubby and I might never have to host again.
Except for the fact that everyone had such a great time in North Carolina. It will be hard to keep them all from begging to return to the zip lines, zoo, vineyards and our pool-adorned backyard.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.