17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

1 Mediocre Campground + 35 Years of Family Tradition = Priceless

We just got back from our Annual Family Camping Trip. Words cannot express how much I love this camping trip with my family. I look forward to it every year. It's seriously awesome!

The first year my dh came to the Annual Family Camping Trip (right after we were married), I remember him being a little disappointed in the whole experience. Not that he had a bad time, it just did not live up to the expectations I had set by my inability to stop raving about it for months beforehand. I just couldn't understand why he couldn't see it's awesomeness!

That's when I realized something. If you look at each years camping trip by itself, there is really nothing that special, awesome, or "super fun" about it. Some people might even call it dull. The scenery is not that pretty, the fishing is not that good, we don't have a boat, there are yellowjackets galore. The list of un-ideal circumstances goes on and on.

But here's the thing: my family has gone camping at the same spot, each summer, for 35 years. That's right, 35 years. This family tradition began before I was even born! What started with a large family of 9 has now turned into an event for a huge family of 70. Each year's camping experience is a compilation of memories from past years. That's why it's so awesome. And that is why nobody really "gets" it their first year--or even their second, third, or fourth.

Every year we tell the story of when "B"(now 28 yrs old) almost rode her big wheel of the cliff and her uncle "J" grabbed her just in the nick of time or when all the kids got lost on the Turkey Trail (actually this has happened numerous times). Or when "A" got a tick in his head or when "E" locked himself in the portapotty, or when "K" ran all the way from town into the campground (now, long-distance running at camp has become a tradition itself), or when we held a proper burial for our family's old canvas tent after a night of pouring rain. There are 35 years of memories at that old, not-so-ideal campground. Every once in a while, we talk about changing the venue for our family camping trip to somwhere "nicer" but that discussion never lasts very long. We go camping at the same spot because we have always gone to the same spot and no other place would ever be the same.

I want so much for my kids to have the same memories of camping with the family that I have. I don't want to just pass on the memories in writing or words. I want them to experience it and be part of it. I want them to know it for themselves.

I think this is the essence of tradition. There is something comforting(?), beautiful(?), amazing(?) about seeing my daughter play in the same dirt, walk on the same trails, and interact with her cousins the same way I did when I was her age (except I didn't play with my cousins, I played with my nieces and nephews who were my same age. What can I say--that's what can happen in some big mormon families!).

I appreciate so much the hard work my parents put into keeping this family tradition alive (especially now that I realize how hard it is camping with a baby) and the continued efforts of my brothers and sisters who have now taken over the coordination of the event. And when they completely peeter out, I am confident that the next generation will be ready to carry it on because we all know that it's totally worth the effort.

Moral: 35 year old family traditions don't happen without hard work and sacrafice by all family members. I think it's really hard to see the true value of a tradition when it's still in it's early years, but all the effort pays off a hundred fold down the road. So, support your extended family traditions today! Or, start a family tradition of your own!

P.S. To any of my family who might read this: please limit your comments to the value of family traditions and not focus on the greatness of our recent camping trip (although I do think it was the best year ever!).

Update: Reading around the blogs today, I stumbled across a few people speaking about their own family gatherings (and how they are miserable) and I realized I have one more thing to appreciative of: My family actually gets along (for the most part). We really do like being together. I think I can sometimes take this for granted but now I have been reminded that I am really lucky.

So, if you can't relate to a long-weekend of camping with your extended family because you would rather get a root canal than deal with said family, sharing bathrooms, food and chores in the dirt, focus on beginning some special family traditions with your immediate family. Because who knoes, maybe 35 years down the road, you actually might still like to hang out together. It could happen!


  • I recently had a very fun and successful family reunion. I think what really helped us was participating in myfamily.com the year leading up to it (thank you Carrie for introducing this to me). It was great b/c we didn't have to converse in catch-up or small-talk...we were all on the same page, b/c we had been in touch all year. There were a few who didn't participate in the website, and it kinda showed a little bit, and I hope that will make them want to participate more.

    Anyway, we didn't do anything extraordinary either...but it was a lot of love and a lot of fun.

    On another side of the family I love the place we have gone for reunions, but the past several years I have become an adult and seen (and been a victim of) many of the dysfunctions that exist, and right now I am not in a place where I want to participate, so that saddens me, but maybe someday that will change...for now that place holds fond memories of childhood for me, but I am not compelled to have my children "play in that same dirt" just yet. I wish it was different, but I can relate to both sides of your post.

    And I love hearing about LL....virtual camping, is my kind of camping!
    posted by Blogger Kage at 8/10/2006 04:33:00 PM  

  • My Mom's family was 9 growing up and I had 9 growing up. My grandpa has 65 grandkids--and we camped too! The only way to do reunions of that size! I completely relate to your love of the tradition. We used to do skits with our cousins at the campfires to entertain ourselves and our aunts and uncles. We LOVED it! Those are some of the best memories that keep me and my cousins close.

    We also had ward campouts on the Oregon coast and, like you, we had the massive CANVAS TENT!! (My dad just got rid of it--I think he offered it to any of us but none of us could house the orange beast. It outlived us all.) My family always got the same campsite--D22. My sisters, friends, and I had names for all the interesting shaped climbing trees and places to play in the camp area. Although we were sure to be rained on every year they were the greatest memorial day weekends ever. I was so said when the ward started "getting creative" and changing location or when the old die-hards moved away.

    So, I share the love of such great memories with you, Carrie. Although they may not be the exact campgrounds in the future--I hope my kids have as much fun with cousins and friends as I did.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 8/10/2006 07:18:00 PM  

  • Being one that married into your family, carrie, I also didn't get it my first year. I'm glad that your DH was like that, too --I felt a little weird for not "getting" it also. :)

    But now I do. And I agree that this year was awesome! I'm so glad we were there!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 8/10/2006 08:20:00 PM  

  • I feel sorry for anyone who isn't able to experience the kinds of blessings I've gained from family reunions. On my maternal side we have one from my great grandparents' generation down every other year at the family 'Homestead' in Arizona. It's not uncommon to have 800 people at that one. On the same side (in the off years) we have one from the next generation down. It's gotten smaller over the years but even that one nets around 200. Though I don't go every time, when I was a kid these reunions made a bigger impact on my life than I ever could have known at the time. Even now, they literally remind me "who I am and where I come from". Those reminders have been front and center in my mind at most of the major crossroads I've come to in my life, and I can report the they've helped me make the right choice almost every time. (Though I've gotta cop to a few boneheaded choices...)

    On my dad's side we never had anything at all in the way of reunions. A few years ago we finally started with a simple afternoon picnic every year. I don't think we've had more than 30 people at any one yet, but it's still one of the highlights of my year when we get together, and I go home feeling just as uplifted as I do after the 'big' ones.

    Whether it's a full fledged reunion, a picnic, or any other family tradition, I believe the ties that bind us in these experiences are irreplaceable. I'll match my family weirdness and dysfunction up with the best of 'em, and unfortunately I'd probably win, but I still wouldn't trade the heritage I have and the blessings I feel from being part of the family I come from. Thanks for another reminder of that, Carrie.
    posted by Anonymous gcarlston (Old Man Squiddy) at 8/10/2006 09:43:00 PM  

  • We don't have much in the way of structured family reunions, but one tradition we do have that you mentioned is telling the same stories about family members' funny or memorable experiences over and over again. "Tell the story about ______" is a common phrase whenever more than a couple siblings get together. There are classic stories that have been around for 20 years, and new stories that get added all the time. The nieces and nephews have favorites stories they request.

    It was odd to go to my in-laws family parties. They get along great too, but the conversation centers around planning the next outing or the latest computer gadget. They don't tell stories about each other.
    posted by Blogger Melinda at 8/11/2006 07:08:00 AM  

  • My grandparents have a cabin that we grew up going to and now it's fun to take my son up there. That is where we announced that we were expecting and my grandma said "thank heavens I've kept the crib in that room!" It's also where my husband and I got engaged.
    We have already taken our son up to the cabin quite a few times and I can't wait for him to ride the 4 wheelers over to the same streams and overlooks, throw rocks into Silver Lake and build forts, roast marshmellows and eat Grandma's delicious cooking.
    My husband "gets it" when it comes to the cabin, and I'm thankful for that. We took some friends up there a few weeks ago and it was the first time that I was in charge...ahh! I didn't realize, like you Carrie, how much prep goes into these things.
    GREAT post - long live family traditions!
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 8/11/2006 08:16:00 AM  

  • Sweet post. My dh has a family vacation each year and I was prepped before marriage on how much it meant to him and now its so fun to see how much the vacation means to our own little family. I think simple family traditions are a great way to teach children that its not so much about what you get or where you are, but about the people you love and feeling connected.
    posted by Blogger trimama at 8/11/2006 09:23:00 AM  

  • Nice post. I feel inspired to try to get more obvious family traditions going now too. Thanks.
    posted by Anonymous Geoff J at 8/11/2006 02:51:00 PM  

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