One after another, they made their way to the secluded rendezvous location. Far removed from any population center, the predetermined spacious accommodation could be reached by GPS tracking only. The guest list, though expansive, was specific and selective. This rural yet palatial estate nestled near a grove of unassuming trees would provide sufficient privacy from any uninvited intruders, save a few stray cats.
Everyone’s calendars had been meticulously cleared months in advance. Some chose to travel under cover of darkness to avoid disclosing their whereabouts or, more likely, to heighten the anticipation of their arrival.
Well in advance of the mandated gathering, all the invited were thoroughly vetted, mitigating the need for any additional on-site questioning or searches. Personal belongings were to be kept to a minimum to allow sufficient space for the primary purposes of this year-end assembly and confab. Vast amounts of cargo were reserved for the essential provisions necessary to satisfy the anticipated near-endless intake by all attendees. While most all was for public consumption, additionally, undisclosed items, hidden and disguised, were required in order to gain entrance.
Having been summoned to participate in the collective activities, no distance would prove insurmountable, as some ventured from the furthest reaches of a continent near international waters, in order to attend. Their respective contributions to the interactions would be priceless. With one regrettable exception, no health, vocational, scholastic or athletic matter would interfere with everyone’s determined presence.
Among the eclectic group organized for the 48-hour undertaking were two skilled artisans who qualified as “highly-decorated” and served as head of the critically essential “advance team.” Down to the most minute detail, they sought to ensure nothing was overlooked and the environs bountifully accommodating.
Conversational agenda items included an orientation for newcomers, healthcare, infrastructure, particularly bridge building, strategic planning with regard to any future endeavors, personal fitness and diet, group problem-solving, especially those that are most “puzzling,” national politics, though only minimally, unrestrained religious expression, technology training (mostly as it pertained to Wi-Fi passwords and Smart TV operation) and, of course, some commemorations and milestone recognitions.
Scheduled practically around-the-clock, it was not unusual for cake to be eaten for breakfast and bacon to be frying in the middle of the night. A sensitivity to all palates was duly recognized, satisfying the desires arising from the vegan to the meat lover.
With such an exhaustive itinerary, much needed rest and recovery was squeezed in randomly with some taking time for the outdoor hot tub during a rain storm, while others power-napped on a couch while the movie “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” blared on a large screen in the background.
Even in such a short span of time, many so-called biological clocks lost touch with their original time zone. Infants slept in until 11 a.m., adults wore matching pajamas until mid-afternoon, and toddlers could be found participating in adult antics well past midnight.
Dining at a massive table for 30, grazing for food along the kitchen counter or heading out to a hallway lined with drinks and desserts, dietary sustenance knew no limitations.
From the outside it could be construed as chaotic, odd or directionless. True enough, it had some of all of that, which is what we love about our own cherished and memorable extended family gatherings, whenever and wherever they can occur, but especially over the holidays!
Familiar to some and unbeknownst to most, the expansive Inspiration Inn Bloom, located south of Oak Harbor, served as an ideal setting for the engaging and exhaustive family festivities.
The indelible and precious take-aways cannot be quantified, unless one itemizes the varied expanse of gifts traded between family members in the “White Elephant Gift Exchange” game, captivating an audience for nearly two hours New Year’s Day afternoon.
We will hold in our hearts a deeper love and appreciation for family members new, old, in between and soon-to-be. Thanks to a generous gift exchange, we could also hold in our hands any of the following: kitchen tools, brownie mix, adult coloring books, lotion and bath beads, wines and a wine stopper, coffee and mugs, tea bags, cat bingo, gift cards, craft beers, red slippers size seven, a therapeutic back-warmer, candles, peanut butter, the world’s smallest vacuum, eggnog, a light-clapper, herb growers, “The Greatest Showman” DVD, cutting boards, a Spam decoy, hot sauces, phone charger, a veggie spiral maker or even a one-eyed fox figurine. The possibilities for possession were utterly palpitating.
What better way to bring in the New Year than with enough family memories to last a lifetime!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org