'My family reunion was a rollercoaster of emotions'

Jeanie's family at their reunion. Image: Supplied

“Why wait for a wedding or for someone to die? Why don’t we have a family reunion?”

As neither of those events were on the horizon, I instantly agreed. My youngest brother had obviously been giving this some thought so we discussed it and made plans. His wife, a great organiser, galvanised into action booking accommodation and setting up a Facebook page to let other family members know. There was a little dissension on some of our plans, but we powered on regardless. Our ages ranged from 60-70 and the four of us had not been all together for 25 years.

We come from New Zealand, but two of the four siblings live in Australia. We chose to meet at a small beach town, Foxton, NZ, where we stayed twice a year during school holidays, all our school lives. We could not imagine what it would be like now, but that was part of the adventure. We were there for a week so we had plenty of time to explore. All 15 of us, covering two generations, gathered and we commenced to pour income into the local hospitality industry. Often we were the only ones in a bar or restaurant, but we were always very impressed with the places we randomly chose.

During our first day and before some of the younger generation left us, we visited our home town, Ashhurst. All four of us lived there during our school lives. We began at our old home where our parents lived for 35 years. They had bought the house 66 years ago, and I was stunned to find that so little had changed. Roller doors on the huge garage my dad built and an awning over the driveway and selling off a portion of the very large block were the only major changes. Even the coal range my mother cooked on was still in place, as was the front gate my father had installed.

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The house was so small; how did six of us live there? As there was no one home, all 15 of us wandered all over the large block, peered in windows and took masses of photos. Fruit trees planted by our dad were still bearing fruit.

Next stop was our primary school. The original buildings were still there, but it’s now doubled in size. The swimming pool we all learnt to swim in is now a car park.

We visited the Catholic Church we attended and from where both my sister and I were married. We had our own pew so we all sat down on it for a memory photo. Apart from a ramp up to the door the church was still exactly the same.

Next stop was the local cemetery to visit our dad’s war service grave site. Back in Palmerston North, we visited our grandmother’s home. It was like a second home to us all as we grew up. It had also changed very little.

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The day was quite a roller coaster of emotions, but very important for our children to share it all.

The following days were full of visiting local towns and hunting out interesting tourist attractions. We found our uncle’s name on a war memorial in the nearby town of Shannon. Most days we returned to our motel by late afternoon where we commenced to consume a lot of vino while discussing our day.

The reunion was considered to be such a success that plans were set in motion to meet again in 18 months time.

When was the last time you had a family reunion?