It’s defined by some as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, and I would agree. I’ve had my share of wistful and nostalgic moments lately, having just returned from a much too short, and long overdue family reunion. My heart is full.

The nostalgic moments of days gone by were remembered, and rehashed by fourteen (actually, fifteen, but one left before I arrived) family members. We spent too few hours together at a great bed and breakfast in Des Moines before parting ways, heading home to Washington, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Iowa.

Mom’s siblings…

My mom was the oldest of eight siblings. The first to pass was my Uncle Jim in Vietnam in 1969. The most recent, my Uncle Jerry who died in Florida a few months ago. My mom, was just a few years earlier. Today, only five siblings remain, and all but one made it back home.

The youngest four of my mom’s siblings were ‘stairsteps’ with my brother and I – each of us being just 2 years younger than the next. Sometimes we six seemed more like siblings. My brother and I were simply an extension of the Camp family at times.

There was a gap of several years before the next cousin was born, but then our family grew rather quickly – several cousins in a few short years. Then another gap before we had yet another burst of cousins, some of whom seem more like nieces and nephews to me as they’re not much older than my own kids. I so love that about big families.

…and my cousins!

That generation now numbers fourteen (if I didn’t miss anyone) and we were well represented with half of us there. Add a few much-loved ‘in-laws’ and you’ve got a perfect blend for non-stop conversations and great fun.

This somewhat impromptu reunion was actually in honor of my late uncle – or at least because of him. His daughters were together to spread his ashes in his beloved home state, and we came to be with them. Once that task done, there was time for reminiscing, telling stories, teasing, laughing, looking at pictures, enjoying great food, playing croquet, and catching up on life, as some of us hadn’t seen one another for a very long time.

Oh, for the days when we’d get together once a year. Great memories were made back then, and I sure miss those days.

Even those of us who moved away would nearly always be home for Christmas with Grandpa Camp (Grandma died when I was three).

The jigsaw puzzle on the card table was completed in a day or two. A well-worn deck of cards was always handy. Great cooks whipped out great meals in the much-too-small kitchen, and once the dishes were done it was back to card games, puzzles, or Spoons! (Ever play Spoons?)

Depending upon what teams were playing, the TV would often be blasting a play by play. In another room, there was sure to be a discussion on politics. Of course, THAT was not always a wise topic to initiate due to differences of opinion. We Camps were not stingy with opinions – we shared ours freely! (Surely you have differing opinions in YOUR family, too…don’t you?)

But, oh, those memories!

Several years ago (1988) Jim and I hosted a Camp family reunion. If I remember right, there were about 35 at the McAllister house for a long weekend. We played volleyball until no grass remained in our front yard. Tents were set up all around our house, and we had wall to wall beds inside. We gathered from Washington to Florida and all parts between! Grandpa Camp was still with us, and what fun we had.

Twelve years later, in 2000, the next oldest cousin invited everyone to Wyoming. I don’t remember how many of us were there, but – once again – it was great fun and there were lots of memories made.

Nine years ago, we gathered in Missouri to surprise the baby of the family – my youngest uncle – when he turned 60. That was the last time all remaining siblings were together – seven of them at the time – and it was a special time indeed.

As we were saying our goodbyes in Des Moines, and while we were hugging each other (Mercy, it takes a long time for everyone to hug everyone!) we discussed our next reunion. Who would plan it? When would it be? With our numbers declining, and our ages increasing, we don’t want to wait too long.

Life is short, Y’all!

If you’re blessed with family nearby, spend time with them. If you’re spread all over the world, make plans – even impromptu plans – then do whatever it takes to make it happen. I slipped away from a writers’ conference early to arrive a day later than the others, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was memorable and worth every minute!

Then several of us left earlier than planned the next morning to avoid a crazy mid-October wintry blast. I was actually in Iowa for 17 hours, total! Short and sweet, but I made the effort and we were together again. No regrets – that’s how I like to live!

Celebrate your family today – it’ll do your heart good! Oh, how I love them.

My heart is still full!

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

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