Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Once upon a time, a long time ago, there were three brothers and two sisters. They were not only siblings, though, they were the greatest of friends, and when, in due time, they married, their spouses also became close.

When there are ten of you, it's easy to stay in touch and keep up with all the news and events. When there are twenty, it gets a little harder, and when you start edging up on a hundred, it's practically impossible. Family reunions are one way to keep close, but they're problematic for the women, who tend to wind up taking care of the kids and putting together the meals. They're great in many respects, but I think for the women they can be almost more work than pleasure.

Years ago, my family came up a solution: We have a Parker Ladies' Night Out every year, toward the end of spring. There are no men allowed. There are no children, except for babies too young to be without their mothers for a weekend.

Weekend. I don't know why we call it a Night Out. It's always a weekend. We start gathering late on a Friday afternoon, and break up the party on Sunday. There's a kind of traditional schedule: Friday dinner is potluck, breakfasts are provided by whichever branch of the family has put the Night Out together (we take turns), lunch is wherever and whatever, dinner Saturday is a pre-selected restaurant, or sometimes, catered.

Between the meals, we play. We sit around and swap stories, take walks, go shopping, play games, and do crafts.

These are some of the things we've done:

One year, everyone was supposed to bring a story, a memory, about family. We all sat in Aunt Charlotte's living room, laughing and talking, while the recorder ran. I heard stories I'd never heard before, and laughed until my sides ached.

One year, we went for a walk on the beach and gathered bits of shell and flotsam, which we brought back to the beach house we'd rented, and placed in Mason jars half filled with sand, creating little arrangements. A small candle was placed in the center, so we ended up with a kind of lantern. In the evening, we put all the jars in a row on the mantel, and lit the candles, and then each woman, in turn, stood by her light and told a story about a family member who wasn't there, either because they couldn't come, or because they were deceased.

Another year, our hostessing group brought stacks of magazines. All our names were put into a bag, and we each drew one. Then we sat down with the magazines, scissors, and glue, and cut out pictures that seemed to us to describe the person whose name we'd drawn. When we were finished, we spread all the collages out on the table, and tried to guess who each page represented. There was a prize for the one guessed correctly most often. Then each women held her sheet up, said whose name she'd drawn, and told why she'd picked the pictures she had.

This year, of course, it was "our" turn, my Aunt Charlotte's, Mom's, my cousins, and myself, and we did the Generations Photo Coasters as our project. My cousins found a wonderful beach house to rent, which slept twenty-four, and had a hot tub, pool table, ping pong table, foos ball, and air hockey. It was beautiful, and horribly expensive, by my lights, but by the time we divided the roughly $600 a night by twenty two women, we each paid only about $70, plus dinner out, for the entire weekend. Not bad, really. In five years, when it's our turn again, I think my daughter(s) will get involved with the planning. In fact, my eldest already has the next spot picked out, a conference center near Silver Creek Falls, which is a beautiful area, with hiking, antique shops, and a well-known iris garden all close by.

Our Ladies' Nights Out are something we look forward to all year, starting, I think, as we drive away. The only complaints we get are that we don't have enough time! (In fact, our little branch of the family will do our own get-together this fall, and take five or six days. That oughta do it. Maybe.)

It's truly, to me, something the women in every family should get to do.
(No pictures tonight. It's nearly 1am, and I'm tired, but I'll insert some tomorrow.)


Wendy said...

That sounds lovely. My family is all quite far away so I am envious that you all get together as women. Silver Falls is a lovely area. A very good location for long walks. :)

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