It was my wish for many years now to have all of our children and grandchildren come together for an “immediate family” reunion. Last Christmas I shared my dream out loud to my daughter, Melissa, while they were here celebrating with us. We talked a little, and I shared a special event that was happening near Park Rapids, MN, in July, 2016, at our church camp that all of our children and even some of our grandkids have a connection to.
In a few minutes we were huddled around the computer searching “Google” for something I had heard about from a friend. VRBO…”Vacation Rentals By Owner”. It was new to me, but obviously not to a lot of other people! What we found was all kinds of homes, retreats, cabins, and almost every kind of structure that could be rented out for group vacations. We ended up finding The Schoolhouse, a place that has been refurbished to sleep around 25 people. It sits right on the main highway in Osage, MN, just eight miles east of Park Rapids. There is a lake and beach about four blocks away.
After making some quick phone calls to the other three siblings, everyone said they were “in” for a four day stay in northern Minnesota in the summer of 2016. My dream at least had begun! The pictures we saw were beautiful, and after talking to the caretaker a couple of times, it sounded like it would be a perfect place for our 23 plus – size group. ( Three friends ended up coming along with us, but we’ve always thought, “ the more the merrier”.)
The excitement grew throughout the winter, and more detailed plans began to take shape once summer arrived. Dan and I had agreed to cover the cost of the schoolhouse rental and the special event at our camp, Pine Haven Christian Assembly on Long Lake. EVERYTHING except food was furnished at The Schoolhouse, and we asked the four “kids” to furnish that. After all, they know what their families like to eat, and Dan and I are easy to please when it comes to meals. Texts and phone calls continued between them, and in the end more than provided for our meals and snacks for our reunion time.
Because none of us had seen this place in person, we were a little anxious how it would be. After all, we had not done anything like this before, sight unseen. I can’t even tell you how we felt when we arrived, got the key, and entered up the front steps and into the door. None of us could stop saying “WOW”…”Look at this!” “This is awesome” It was beyond anything that I anticipated or was expecting. We walked into two huge sections, one side a living room area, and the other a giant kitchen and eating area. Both were furnished beyond our dreams, and so very comfortable for our large group. Also on this level was a master bedroom and bathroom, plus two more men’s and women’s bathrooms. An outside deck also continued off the kitchen area with picnic tables.
As we continued down the old schoolhouse stairs, into the “basement” area, there was a laundry room for our use, four more private bedrooms, two huge, full bathrooms, another large living area with couches and comfort to be had. Just on the either side of that room were two areas with several bunk beds and “cubbies” for clothes and personal items. The whole place had been decorated and redone with the greatest of care. It was absolutely beautiful, and provided the space and comfort we were searching for. Fifteen grandkids, plus a friend. Four children and spouses. Plus two adult friends. And Dan and me. Twenty-seven of us, laughing, eating, playing games, sleeping, and just doing life under ONE giant roof!! My dream had been finalized and come true.
Two weeks before this event was scheduled, I was sitting in a wrecked car, waiting for my husband and the ambulance to arrive. My third thought was (after I spotted the cell phone AND unbuckled my seatbelt), “Oh, no, I won’t be able to go up north for our family reunion!” I was determined right there though that my family WOULD go…with or without me. God is good, and so was my family. I was able to ride by then, and everyone just let me rest and catered to me. I was so glad that our kids were in charge of the food and meals…everything else was taken care of!
The best compliments came from some of my grandkids. Intermittently during the long weekend, they would come up to me and say, “ Grandma, this is so much fun.” My feelings, exactly. And I had some happy tears as I heard them playing or jumping from the bunk beds and enjoying time together. My prayer is that we can do it again…many times. One of our greatest blessings is that our kids like to “come home”. But as families grow, it is hard for us all to fit into the space we live in day to day. So this was just one of my “dreams come true”. Thanks to my family for making it happen! I know it takes planning and sacrifice to get time off work, save money for gas and travel, and then “live together” in one space, no matter how big it may be. It was an awesome time, and I love all the memories and pictures.
For those of you out there who have families spread out, I would encourage you to try such an adventure. It not only gets you together in a physical environment, but there is so much connection time to be shared. Hope all of you are enjoying this last month of summer! Today we sat on the Maple Lawn patio with my dad and mom enjoying the soft breeze. Another kind of memory made!