Saturday, December 01, 2007

The elements of a successful family reunion.

Our recent Thanksgiving in Arizona provided me with an opportunity to marvel at the well oiled machine that has come to be known as the "Marin-Moss reunion." How did this event come together so successfully? Some might argue it was the well stocked liquor cabinet in the hospitality suite, but I daresay there was more to it than that. Since I did absolutely nothing apart from showing up with my kids, one of whom decided to get sick and spoil the fun anyway, I thought I could at least pay tribute to those who worked so hard to make this event so nice.

Now, before I get any emails reminding me that so-and-so did this, and so-and-so did that...let me preface this tribute by saying that lots of people did a lot of unseen and unappreciated things to get this event off the ground. All of us did something..well, maybe not me..and maybe not Monkey Sr., and maybe not Jordan or Mina..but everyone else helped. Here's a few that get the gold stars.

Some people are good at organizing. And some people are titans of organizing. Luckily the family has its share of these women, and without them, this reunion would still be occurring via email. Above, Cindy takes a few precious moments to relax after all her hard work. Monkey Sr. wishes he could relax, but he is desperately trying to ignore the screaming child next to him - Miss Mina, who I chose to cut out of the picture.

Location, location, location. It's been said before many times, and is all the more true in the context of a good family reunion. You gotta pick the right spot. Thanks to Amy and company for helping in this regard. We stayed at the Scottsdale Westin-Kierland resort, which was a perfect family friendly spot. It had everything you could ask for when catering to the needs of a large group, with an equally large number of kids. There were multiple dining options, indoor kid activity centers, outdoor playgrounds, daily crafts for the kids by the pool, a gorgeous water park, a lovely golf course, a spa, courtyards to relax in, outdoor fireplaces to roast smores in the evening, and even bagpiper at sunset...quirky, but charming nonetheless.

As though this wasn't enough, Amy acted as our cruise director and put together the activity suggestions for the day - designed with both kids and adults in mind. They ranged from mornings at the local miniature train rides, to afternoons off for the ladies to spa. (I like to think of spa as a verb.)

Credit for serious legwork in scouting locations needs to be given to Audrey and Richard. Here she explains to Little Monkey why Arizona won out as the reunion destination. In addition, if you think you're a good negotiator, you need to test your wits with Audrey. Her skills were put to great use in arranging the lodging rates for the group, among other things, as well as deals on spa treatments (thank you, thank you, thank you!) From my perspective, Audrey and the west coast contingent were also the driving force in keeping the momentum going. When an event is this long in the making, it's easy to lose focus. The distractions of all the details start to build start to sigh at the number of emails flying back and forth.

The whole point of a family reunion is to be with family. And emphasizing that helped make the plans a reality.

It may not seem obvious as first, but never underestimate the importance of attire for a successful family reunion. Thanks to Bunny, the whole gaggle of us sported the right commemorative t-shirts for the family picture. It ain't easy ordering clothing in such a range of sizes and colors. Look how nicely she's dressed. And Jack too. Clearly, she was a natural for the job. As though this wasn't enough, she also brought along toys for the kids which were enjoyed by all in the hospitality suite.

Ahh... the hospitality suite. You think it's enough just getting rooms for everyone? No way. You need a central location where everyone can congregate to discuss the day's plans, catch a quick bite, lounge on the couch with a drink...or cheerios, as the case may be. The hospitality suite was enjoyed by the big people (look at me back there lecturing my kids) ...

And the little people too.

If you want to plan a reunion coinciding with a major national holiday like Thanksgiving, you better get a place with big tables. Cindy and company did a great job finding restaurants for each night we stayed in Arizona. This is no small feat. We were a BIG group. I'm still feeling sorry for the poor waitstaff working the nights we descended upon the establishments. Having worked such jobs in my youth, all I can say is that tipping = good karma, people.

Finally, the most important element of a great family reunion is! No, I'm kidding. Family, shmamily. The most important element of a great family reunion is a set of committed grandparents willing to babysit all those kids at night so the rest of us can go out and drink...err, I mean bond.

After seeing some of the pictures capturing their behavior while on duty, maybe committed is the right word for other reasons.
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