We don’t attend our own families’ reunions. There are numerous reasons: timing, location, travel, but the end result is the same – we just don’t go and, frankly, I got over feeling guilty about it years ago.
Every summer, however, we rent an RV, spend a week preparing our camping gear, the food, the clothes and then making the four-hour trek to a state campground on the Oregon Coast for a family reunion of a different flavor. This is a reunion of more than eighty families who have adopted children through Holt International Children’s Services. We come together as separate families with a common bond – the love of our children and the miracle that they are with us. We come together as separate families, but we all claim the same “grandparents”, Harry and Bertha Holt, who began the mission that, decades later, brought our children to us.
We camp in two connecting “loops” within the park, electrical sites on the inside of the loop, tent sites on the outside. Children ride around the loop on bikes, blades, and scooters – anything with wheels. Parents, coffee cups in hand or dogs in tow, wander around the loop, stopping often to greet, to talk, perhaps to meet a new child or a first-time family. “I’m going around the loop.” It’s rarely a direct trip.
People accidentally driving through our loop all have the same surprised, questioning look on their faces. This obviously isn’t a place where eighty individual families are camping, each staying nicely within the bounds of their campsite, careful not to look through the invisible boundary walls between sites. Instead, small groups of people stand talking in several places, teens are gathered at the intersection of the two loops, children are everywhere – not a typical loop. And then there’s the diversity. Not the diversity of back-at-home lifestyles that would not be apparent to these accidental visitors, but the diversity of color, the diversity of ethnicity. These children that bring us together come from all over the world. Added to the mostly “vanilla” variety of the occasional birth child, they are a rainbow of color. Some have handicaps that might seem daunting, but they run, they ride, they play hacky-sack, they climb sand dunes – handicaps do not define the person. The accidental visitors cannot possibly understand the depth of what they are driving through.
Then there are the activities. Beginning with the ethnic potluck, the week’s activities are as diverse as the families who sponsor them. Each day includes a schedule of arts & crafts, outings and activities; each coordinated by a different family. Some are specific to children of certain ages, some specifically for parents, some open to all. But each has a special flavor, a hint at the interests or background of the coordinating family – diversity at its best.
This family reunion is a special type, a special time. There’s a warmth and a camaraderie that defies explanation, but that brings us back, year after year, to share the joy of our families. It reminds us of all that is good in our world. What would our world be like if we could transfer this atmosphere to the larger screen? If we could all forgot the invisible boundaries? If we all focused on what we have in common rather than what makes us different? At this reunion, we come together as separate families, but within hours we are a community.