Awhile back, I received an email from my aunt, Sister Gloria Fox. This August she would be a nun 50 years and she wanted my whole family to join her at her convent in Chicago, IL, for the celebration.
Since summer is Bob's busy time, he wouldn't be going, but I wanted to go. All I needed was a ride. Luckily, Rebecca and Andy volunteered.
The plan was to leave home at noon on Friday, and arrive at my girlfriend, Joyce's home in Mokena, early evening. I planned to sit in the backseat and not say a word about traffic - it was even suggested that I wear a bag over my head.
The bag wasn't needed, but when we got in heavy Illinois traffic, I kept my nose in a book and didn't look up - the times I did look at the traffic jam, I quickly looked away again. Andy said there was nothing to worry about since we were only traveling about 5 mph.
Ninety minutes later than our planned arrival, we pulled into my friend's driveway. I would be staying the night with Joyce and her parents, Emily and John. Rob and his crew met us there. After visiting, my family left for their hotel rooms.
That Saturday, there was a Manzke invasion in Joyce's backyard. Not only did Andy, Rebecca, Rob, Ethan, Seth and Rob's friend Kari arrive, so did Rachel, Dave, Arianna, Eli, my sister Karen, and niece Sherri. The Stephens' backyard pool got a good workout that day - I guess you could say this was family reunion number one.
Things quieted down toward evening, when everyone, but me, left for their night's accommodations - Rachel and her family went to Dave's parents' home, so the twins had time with their other grandparents, too.
Sunday was the big celebration for Sister Gloria. (I have to add sad news. Two weeks before, my Uncle Ray, Sister Gloria's brother, passed away. He was sorely missed but remembered with joy. Uncle Ray always had a joke for everything.)
My sister Karen made a three-tier cake and a sheet cake for the luncheon after Mass. These had to be transported by car to the event. Joyce drove the hour to Chicago, while Karen and I rode along, worried a road bump might cause cake catastrophe.
We were the lead car of three as we drove from Mokena, hoping not to lose Andy and Rebecca and Rob with his family in the traffic. Happily we all arrived safely at the convent, including the cakes.
The family reunion in Joyce's backyard didn't hold a candle next to this event. Sister Gloria met us at the door (she's my mother's sister and the youngest of eight). After taking the cake to its proper place, we started greeting and hugging cousins - I think the first cousin I met was my cousin Ron, from Hawaii. He had flown in earlier to memorialize his father, Uncle Ray, with his brothers Don and Val.
Uncle Art soon arrived and with him Uncle Bob in tow, who flew in from California. More cousins came. Some I didn't recognize and we reintroduced ourselves before remembering times when we got together as kids.
The group had to be shagged from our greeting room, to the Chapel for Mass. I was honored to sit next to my aunt in the front pew. When most of our family was seated (Russell and Cynthia had gotten lost and arrived in the nick of time; Cousin Val and his wife were late, too.) I stood up and turned my camera on the gathering. Of course, everyone was cracking jokes-that's my family.
I thought Rob was going to take a photo of the group in church, too. Instead he snapped one of me taking a photo of them.
I was proud to introduce my whole family around (except for Bob who was home taking care of my week-old chicks and other farm things). Arianna and Eli were well-behaved and extra cute. I guess I can say everyone was well-behaved and cute, even me.
We had a fantastic lunch with the Sisters of the Resurrection. Everyone loved the cakes Karen had made. The Fox Family crammed a whole lot of visiting into that afternoon.
Too soon we were heading back on the highway for the long drive back to Wisconsin. We left not knowing when or if we will see everyone together again, but cherishing our renewed and new memories.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net;