by Jan Grape
As I write this on Friday night I’m trying to finalize some housekeeping chores and getting everything ready to pack because I’m flying to New Jersey for our Tri-annual Grape Family Reunion. Yep, a whole bunch of Grape get together every three years to see what’s going on in the lives of the seven offspring of the family I married into forty-four years ago. In 1975, Mom Grape, who lived in Loma Linda CA, passed away and my late husband, Elmer went out for the funeral. His oldest sister, Ina was in the hospital in VA having just undergone mastectomy surgery and was unable to attend. Elmer thought it was just too cruel to only get to see his brothers and sisters in the time of tragedy but half lived on the west coast and half on the east coast and he’d settled in Texas. He was next to the youngest but always seemed to be listened to because of the three boys he was the most outspoken and so his idea was to have a family reunion the next summer, 1976, and have it at our house in Memphis TN where we’d lived since ‘72.
When he got back home and told me, I readily agreed. I had met all of his brothers and sisters already and knew there was a good chance we’d have a darn good time. And we did, despite the fact that the last two weeks of August turned out to be one of the worst summers for Memphis because of unusually high humidity. We’d lived in Houston previously but you never get used to high humidity. All of the brothers and sisters came with spouses except one sister recently widowed and one sis who have never married. A number of nieces and nephews came, I don’t recall exact number of each but we had 48 people who came during that two week time-frame. We had a small house, (1350 sq. ft. 3 bedroom,1-1/2 bath) but we had a camper and a friend loaned us a trailer and a next-door neighbor who was out of town loaned her house for bathroom privileges. A couple of people came in a camper of their own and everyone else fought for a space on the floor for a sleeping bag. We had snagged 3-4 army cots for a females only dormitory in the living room. We claimed all step-children and adopted children without any problems and still do. Everyone took turns cooking and everyone helped with clean-up. We took a riverboat ride on the Mississippi, visited the new shopping mall that Elmer had built. He was a superintendent in commercial construction and this was the first two-level mall within a five hundred mile radius.
It was decided that we’d have these reunions every three years because everyone lived so far away and that long time in between would give folks a chance to save up vacation time and extra money to make the trip to the next location. In 1979 we went to Fairfax, VA, to Ina’s house. And our sweet never married Esther had just married at age 57. She came but her new hubby couldn’t make it, then in 1982 we went to Cory, PA to Roger’s who is the youngest boy. In 1985 Elmer & I had moved back to Houston and once again hosted. Oh horrors, heat and humidity once again but we survived. We also had a wedding that year, Easter & Mom Grape had raised & adopted Jeanie and she and Alan had a lovely formal wedding with the reception at our house. Our house was a little larger, we did have 2 bathrooms yet somehow we managed although we had suitcases lining the hallway and sleeping bags once again littered our floors.
In 1988 we had moved to Austin and our niece Dona lived directly behind us, so guess who agreed to have the reunion. She had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and so did we. We had a gate in the back yard fence so people could walk back and forth easily. Plus we also had a Motel 6 just across I-35 which worked out nicely. But that year I said it was time for the younger set, the nieces and nephews, to take over the hosting job. In 1991 we went to Hyde Park, NY, in 1994 Council Bluffs, IA, in 1997 Bergen, NY and in 2000, our daughter Karla hosted the reunion in Nashville, TN. In 2003, our niece Dona hosted us at her lovely home on Inks Lake, TX (75 miles west of Austin.) In 2006, Kissimmee FL, I missed our reunion for my first time. Elmer had passed away only 5 months before and I just wasn’t up to going. In 2009 we went to Sacramento, CA. We had a fantastic time and as usual did a lot of sight-seeing.
This year, a nephew who lives in Little Falls, NJ, which is only 20 min. from NYC is hosting and I’m so excited to be going. I’m leaving from Austin Airport about noon on Sunday, July 1st and will stay until the 7th or 8th. I’m really looking forward to getting together with everyone. We try not to dwell on the ones we’ve lost because there are new little ones and new spouses every time you turn around. As usual we’ll enjoy each other’s company and see some wonderful new sights. I have no idea who will volunteer to host this awesome family reunion in 2015, but you can bet I’ll be going and having a “GRAPE” time.
Sorry, I didn’t talk about writing this time, but I’ve been recovering from a ear and sinus infection and with this upcoming super family reunion constantly on my mind, it just naturally was the only thing I could think of to write about. In case anyone is wondering, Knut Grape, the patriarch of this family (1871-1953) was 100% Swede. In Sweden they have an umlaut over the E but since we don’t use those marks in the USA we’re happy to just say our name is Grape. Elmer and I made two trips to Sweden and met a number of distant cousins. We now have some who come to our reunions and that is way cool.
Next time…I will be back on script.