My mom, brother, and I got back from our week-long vacation in Atlanta Sunday night, and I must blog about it! We'll get to the title later.
To start out, I wanted to mention that we rented a car this time around. My car has been well-traveled over the last four years with trips back and forth from Cincinnati (though I've never actually calculated the mileage, I'm sure it's quite a large number). To add to that, my mom's car and my car don't have air conditioning, and my brother's truck needs new tires. So, we got a rental car, a nice red Chevy Cobalt. It was a great little car, and except for the right rear tire needing air on two occasions, I enjoyed driving it. If I were in the market for a new car, I would seriously consider getting one of those, though probably not red in color.
This was a vacation to end all vacations since we were gathering most of the family together for a sort of reunion. Those in attendance included my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and their spouses, and even the second cousins, most of whom I had never met. Of those that had to travel to the Atlanta area, my immediate family arrived first. When we got to my grandparents' condo, dinner was waiting for us, though we had to eat by ourselves since we got there later than planned... But the other two families that live in the area (Duane's and Cheryl's) were there to welcome us, which made for a great start of our vacation.
The next week saw the arrivals of relatives both by car and by plane. Some of these people, like my Aunt Dawn's kids, I haven't seen in about 6-7 years. And then of course this was the first time that I got to meet their little ones, which was great. My grandparents' house was indeed a full house, since there were twelve people staying there at one time, and 28 people there for dinner one night. What a crowd!
This gathering of the masses was all centered around one main event: dinner on Friday. Unbeknownst to my grandfather, we had gathered the family together to celebrate his 80th birthday. Since his real birthday is in December and many of the family members can't make a trip at that time, my grandmother decided to have a get-together in the summer when most of us could get the time off to travel. It was truly a great idea, especially since he was clueless as to our motives. This was funny because there were three major clues (the biggest of which was a cake that said "Happy 80th Birthday" on it, hidden in the laundry room) that could have spoiled the whole thing, but he merely shrugged them off and paid no attention to them...WHEW!
As with any family gathering, there is, of course, great food. My one request was stuffed cabbage (golumpki), a Polish dish that my grandmother's family loves. I did help make them one night, and we ate them not only that night but a few nights later for leftover night. My cousin Duane made the main course for our celebration on Friday night which was a delicious grilled chicken dish similar to that made at the popular Italian restaurant Carrabba's. Every day with the family was filled with great meals and desserts, so I'm sure I gained at least five pounds from that week!
Another given at a Beauregard get-together is the playing of games. Card games like Foine and the nickel dice game are a must, so I made sure to bring a couple rolls of nickels to this gathering. I'm not sure how much money I ended up bringing back home, but I am pleased to say that I won a few nickels here and there in the course of those games! The title to this blog refers to a remarkable hand I received in one particular hand of Foine in which I bid that I would take a Foine, or the whole 100 points. Listen to this hand: Ace, King, Queen, and Jack in one suit and Ace and King in another suit! My grandfather said he had only witnessed one other such "Foine" bid in the last 30-40 years, and that individual took all 100 points as well. That was without a doubt the best hand (and the luckiest hand) I had ever received in that game, and it felt GREAT to win!
In addition to the stay-at-home games, we are an active bunch to boot. Every day was filled with swimming and playing outside in the hot Georgia air, so most of us came back home a little darker, too. Also, on two different occasions, my mom, brother, grandfather, and I played tennis at a community park not too far from my grandparents' house. My grandfather says that he hasn't played tennis in several years, so we did a good job of whipping him back into shape. The first day I played with my mom, and my brother played with Grandpa, and the score at the end of our real set was 4-6 (we attribute our loss to practicing too long in the beginning). The second time we played, everyone was playing better and we decided not to practice as long. However, due to an unforeseen kids' tournament, we weren't able to finish our set and ended in a tie 4-4. But it was great exercise anyway, and we had fun playing. My mom and I also attended a work-out "class" conducted by my grandfather at their complex's fitness room. Needless to say we felt much better after a work-out, and of course Grandpa is a top-rate trainer.
One other good part about family get-togethers is the chance to go on outings around Atlanta. We didn't do as much sight-seeing this time around, but we were able to get out one day that week. We decided to go to the Cyclorama in downtown Atlanta, which is a Civil War museum that showcases a 360-degree painting and diorama that depicts the Battle of Atlanta. It was truly a remarkable sight, and very informative as well. However, the most memorable part for me was the fact that there is a life-sized figurine of Clark Gable in the diorama part. Apparently he and the cast of "Gone with the Wind" attended the opening of the exhibit, and he enjoyed it so much that he wanted to have his likeness captured in the diorama. Well, it is there dressed as a dead soldier (Confederate, I believe), and the speaker makes an effort to point out this particular soldier during the course of the tour.
Also during our Atlanta excursion, we decided to go to the Varsity to enjoy a hot dog. Yes, I am Mr. Food, but this was actually Uncle Tim's idea...maybe we should call him Uncle Food... Anyway, the food was great and the atmosphere is unforgettable. "Whaddaya have, whaddaya have?!" If you haven't been there or heard of the Varsity, you should check it out.
After what seemed like the shortest week ever, our great vacation was finally over on Sunday. We were able to have a great time catching up with so many people, and had fun doing it. It has been entirely too long since we all got together, but the consensus seems to be that we want to do this kind of reunion every summer from now on. I'm not sure if that will come to fruition or not, but I really like that idea. Blogs and networking sites like Facebook are not enough at times, and the ambiance at a family gathering is like nothing else I have ever experienced. There is nowhere else where I feel more "at home" and comfortable than when I am around all those people. I just want to send out a big Thank You to everyone that helped make this vacation great, with a very special thanks to my grandmother who orchestrated the whole event. I sincerely hope we can do this again very soon.