I have a rather unique family. I here use that term very broadly to include my siblings and their children along with the children of THEIR children...24 of us in all. Every other year all of us take a beach vacation together. In the same house. For an entire week. Together.
Now I know, for many of you that sounds positively dreadful. The idea of going somewhere at considerable expense to spend quality time with your entire extended family sounds very much like a prison sentence NOT a vacation. But I must say that its actually a blast for us...ONCE WE GET THERE. We genuinely love each other for one thing so that helps. These beach trips have also been the source of many fond and often hilarious stories that have contributed much to the family lore.
The troublesome part is the deciding..that long and contentious process of e-mail battles and internet- scorching back and forth that takes place as we try to find a house large enough, nice enough, with worthy enough views, affordably priced, and available during the one 7 day stretch in the entire summer on which WE are all available. Whenever you notice a slow-down in the speed and reliability of your internet service in mid-January, its not because of some server issue or band-width utilization problem at comcast or verizon. No..its because the Dunnevant family Beach "dialogue" has begun!
Of course..my wife is the official hostess of this cyber-confab. She sets up a web-site for all of us to view the 16,000 houses we have to pick from from Virginia Beach to Pawleys Island. Then we eliminate all those without an elevator for Nanny and Papa. We then scrub all houses without a place for 24 people to sit at a single table for meals. Then we 86 all homes that cost more than $600 per person...leaving us TWO houses to pick from..one of which always has "dreadful carpet and ridiculously hideous furniture.
Now comes the fun part...planning the Dunnevant Family yard sale. Yes, every two years we all pile all of our junk onto Ron's mothers' lawn in Mechanicsville and every two years like a plague of swarmimg locusts, red-necks, scary-looking grandparents and assorted hicks descend on the pile. When all the dust settles and the rejected junk is hauled away to good-will, we find ourselves with close to $1000 to spend on groceries at the beach.You see..when my family goes to the beach for vacation it never occurs to us that we should go OUT to eat. No, no..each sub-family gets the privilege of planning AND cooking a meal for 24 in a strange kitchen with food that we have spent 4 hours at a strange grocery store buying and hauling to the car and then hauling up the elevator (thank GOD!!) to the strange kitchen where we have somewhere placed the mayonnaise that we can't find to save our collective lives!!!! Yes this is great fun and is often the subject of many uproariously funny stories...many years after the fact.
There always comes a time during every trip where things come together. Its usually in the evening after all of the little ones have had their baths and we're all out on the deck or out on the beach watching the heat lightning race across the sky. Somebody starts singing and before long the guitars are out we find ourselves laughing and singing Mom's favorite hymns. Its a good feeling. Everyone is there. Everyone is happy and it reminds us all why we do it.