wasn’t it a party

7 July 2009

When I was a kid, the funnest moments ever were summer and Christmas events with my cousins.  The EVENT OF THE YEAR was that weekend when our Michigan cousins would come to stay at our house and we’d all go over to spend a day at Boblo Island amusement park.  I was one of the bigger kids, and eventually we were allowed to tool around the island on our own.  One year we decided we would break the record for rollercoaster rides.  I think we rode it 27 times or something like that, which probably wasn’t a record of any kind.  Another longstanding favourite ride was the Wild Mouse.  Before Boblo got an honest to goodness rollercoaster, the Wild Mouse was the ride most anticipated.



Christmas parties were boisterous, noisy affairs.  We all loved the after dinner sing-alongs, during which Grandpa Herb would entertain us with his electric guitar.  Us kids would sit around on the floor and request our favourites like Hey Jude, If I Had a Hammer, and Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.  Dad and I got an acoustic guitar one year for Christmas, and Dad took it up and began to play along with Herb.


Since we’ve all grown and made families and lives of our own, our visits seem to occur at few-and-far-between weddings and funerals.  And that’s just too bad because we’re as always just as happy to see one another today as we were way back then.  When we heard cousins were planning a surprise party for Aunt Sharon’s 70th birthday over the 4th of July weekend, we were really glad for the opportunity to reunite.

So anyway, the day after Canada Day, Cathy, her kids and I leave the Manitoulin to drive to Bay City for the party.  We decide to break up the trip and leave a day early and stay somewhere along the Bruce Peninsula for a day at a beach.  Alas, the weather doesn’t cooperate with anything resembling laying-around-on-the-beach-sunshine, but we have a good time poking around the little town of Southampton, and spending the night in a rather smelly 70’s style motel.

Next day we’re back on highway 21 pointed in the direction of the Sarnia/Port Huron bridge.  We shop at the duty free and then a Port Huron mall.  By the time we get to Bay City at dinner time, we’re ready for a beer and seeing everyone at Janet’s “pre-party party.”  Coming into the city, we watch for the big Texan Restaurant sign to wave us the same greeting he has waved since we can remember.  I had noted a number of lifelong landmarks along the way, but the Texan is a favourite.  We didn’t have signs anything like this in Amherstburg growing up, so he was wonderfully exotic. 



We all trickle into Janet and Mike’s and have a relaxed and happy party in their pretty backyard.  Not surprisingly there’s a great spread of food.  We enjoy showing off our children; many of the littlest ones I’ve never seen before.  Everyone jokes that Aunt Sharon, who loves a party more than anyone, is going to be pissed about missing this one. 

Next morning we cut up potatoes for the giant bowls of potato salad.  Mike makes us cups of coffee and cuts up the watermelon for Janet’s last minute *&%$)@!!%$*? fruit salad. The twenty somethings, who extended their own version of the party into the morning hours, attempt to sleep in and nurse hangovers.  Except Renie who is up before anyone, decorating her beautiful and seemingly endless 4th of July cupcakes.  We each squeeze in a shower at moments we find it free, and actually get out to Brian’s country home not long after the allotted time.  There we find a beautiful party setup sitting amidst a gorgeous summer day.  We start drinking sangria and everyone just wants Aunt Sharon to get there.  True to form, my wonderfully theatrical aunt receives the party with joyful aplomb.



There’s lots and lots of picture taking going on.  Cheeky Uncle Rod hangs a Canadian flag in the tent near the 4th of July cupcakes.  Aunt Sharon opens the presents we weren’t supposed to bring.  Little kids make friends instantly, as little kids do, and run around wielding light sabres and eating cupcakes.  Everyone grazes on turkey, pulled pork and corn on the cob.  There is a slide show of old pictures, which we watch a couple of times.  Mimi gets pushed in the pool in honour of her 30th birthday, and kids and grownups swim. 

Michael and son Zac and their band provide the entertainment. It’s a wonderful moment when Michael busts out grandpa Herb’s old electric guitar and plays Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.


Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport Compressed 

We party late into the night; us cousins and our various spawn are not in any hurry to pack it in.  Next morning we descend on Aunt Sharon’s home where she and Lloyd are cranking out breakfast and coffee.  No one really wants to leave, but it’s back to the real world for most of us. 

Before we leave on the final leg of our roadtrip, us cousins talk about doing a party again next year, maybe on the island.  I hope we do.  This kind of familial spirit really shouldn’t be wasted.  Anyway, it’s still really fun.



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