One of my favorite times of year involves my family’s trek out to Detroit for our annual family reunion. Next to Christmas and Thanksgiving, I consider it one of my most favorite “holidays.” It is my mom’s family who holds the reunion, often at one of the little parks in St. Claire Shores, MI right on the beach of Lake St. Claire. We missed out last year thanks to a wedding (my own!), but this year I was excited to hear about the rekindling of a fond family tradition.

Saturday afternoon I spent time picking out just the right recipes for my contribution to the picnic potluck. I choose a zesty homemade corn and tomato salad and a sickingly sweet pistachio pudding salad for dessert. When Sunday rolled around, I packed our cooler with these two large salads, 8 hamburger patties, a bag of rolls, some beer and lemonade, and my husband’s personal potato salad. We hit the road on that sunny day and coasted along until 2.5 hours later we rolled into the parking lot across from the park.

As we entered the park, I saw that it was a popular place. There were at least 5 other large gatherings going on at the same time. Even though I hadn’t seen some of these people in years, I was quickly able to establish my family. I could see some of the older men setting up a game of horseshoes, a family tradition at these parties. The tables were covered in food, but more importantly, Italian food. I saw a baked ziti, some lasagna, salad, fresh Italian breads. I must say, us Italians don’t want anyone to go hungry; we love to cook and share our food! As my husband and I entered the circle of tables, family came running over to great us. Most of them had not met my husband before, but they quickly embraced him as one of their own; hugging and kissing him on the cheek. He must have turned about 8 shades of read with all of the older women cooing over him. He definitely stuck out like a sore thumb in this group; the Italians with all of our brown haired heads and eyes and him with his Swedish/Irish fair-skinned complexion, blond hair, and blue eyes. My mom’s aunt even asked if he was from Australia!

After my parents and grandparents arrived, everyone assembled at their tables, and the food was passed around. Talk was non-stop; I caught glimpses and phrases of multiple conversations going on. I wanted to hear about everybody and everything; it was nearly impossible to keep up. After the meal and some birthday cake to celebrate my Grandpa and Great Uncle’s birthdays, people resumed mingling. Our wedding albums were produced which brought a small crowd of people, mostly my mom’s female cousins, who wanted to pour over the glossy photos. Finally, just as soon as the day had begun, it came to an end. Clouds began rolling in that afternoon, and a storm beckoned. We packed up our belongings, and spread our kisses around to our loved ones, promising emails and phone calls to keep in touch, before packing up our car and hitting the road once again.

I feel so blessed that I have family that enjoys getting together on a regular basis to celebrate our love and friendship. I know of so many other families who are broken from divorce; others do not get along and feud too much to make it worthwhile spending their free time together. I hope for every person that they at least have an opportunity to spend time with immediate family on a routine basis in order to enjoy some food, fellowship, and bonding to help strengthen the ties that keep families strongly united.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Family reunions are a time to strengthen family bonds and to catch up with loved ones whom we may not see very often.

2.) Food and conversation may seem like basic daily necessities, but when combined with the right people, it is a foundation on which love and tradition can be built.