If you build a family cabin, they will come.
Story & photos by David Johnson
My wife, Sharon, and I own a cottage that’s huddled in the woods near Hancock, Wis. Our place is 1,300 square feet, with three bedrooms and three baths. We have a fair amount of space, but enough to host a big crowd? It took some coaxing, but Sharon was finally convinced that we could host a one-week reunion for her side of the family at our cottage. The final count was 20, consisting of four families, Omi (grandmother), and my son’s girlfriend. A recent addition to the second floor of our garage came in really handy as sleeping quarters for some of the 10 kids we hosted that week, whose ages ranged from 8 to 23.
Sharon’s sister and brother both flew in from Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, and her younger brother’s family came in from Whitby, Ontario. So, after almost a full year of planning, we were ready to kick off a week of indoor and outdoor games, boating, tubing, fishing, camp fires, and oh yeah – cooking for 20 people! But before any of the fun-filled activities could commence, a little bit of structure and a list of house rules were needed. So, as host of the reunion, it only made sense that a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the laws of the cottage, mixed with some humor, was in order. The presentation included kitchen-duty responsibilities, bedtime rules, boating safety, along with a run-down of the week’s activities.
Our plan was to keep everyone busy with activities and games and to provide some “first-time experiences” for our visitors. We played Frisbee football, bean-bag toss and Kubb. We went ATV-riding and fishing. We organized a scavenger hunt, and we pulled the kids and even the adults around the lake for some wild tubing. We even added a little competitiveness by establishing teams with trophies to be awarded. Don’t worry, everyone received a trophy!
We had anticipated the potential of some arguments breaking out during the week, perhaps due to close living quarters or lack of sleep, but we became less nervous everyday as it became evident that everyone was enjoying each other’s company and the outdoors. Some of the most memorable times were spent around the evening campfires talking and laughing about the day’s activities and making plans for the next. When it was time to say goodbye after six days, tears were shed knowing that it would be another year before everyone would be together for the next family reunion at the cottage.