Summer is just around springtime’s corner—summer with its gentle timelessness, its pastel skies, its fluffy white clouds, its slow, sweet mornings, its long lazy afternoons, its cool swimming holes under weeping willows, its fun, its freedom … its family reunions.
“Family reunion?” you say. “You mean that deadly get-together where everyone says, ‘My, how you’ve grown!’ and ruffles your hair?”
No, not that kind of family reunion. I mean a family reunion where cousins and kin congregate from all over and spend a glorious day, or three, or four, sharing some exciting experiences that you’ve helped plan—things you want to do like boating, climbing, and swimming, interspersed with … well, let me tell you about our family reunion.
We held it last summer in Heber Valley, Utah, the birthplace of our parents, J. R. and Mabel Price, on the 25th through 26th of July so that the early-comers could start the reunion with a good old fashioned 24th-of-July parade. Our group included the five Price children and their families—spouses, children, and grandchildren.
On the afternoon of the 24th, families began arriving at the Adams farm in Layton, Utah. The horses were saddled, the volleyball net was strung, the canoe was in the pond, and horseshoes were ready to pitch, so as soon as the hellos and hugs were over, the fun was on. There was even a little pony cart for the children to ride, and as our numbers grew, so did the excitement. Finally, by late afternoon, almost everyone had arrived. We ate dinner all over the place—on the lawns, under the trees, on the porch—“family hopping” to see everyone and try out their vittles.
The July evening was perfect for a hayride, and young and old climbed aboard for a tour of the farm. All was pleasant and peaceful as we jogged along munching goodies.
Suddenly, gunshots pierced the air and over the hill rode a gang of desperadoes who circled the wagon and rounded up the wallets. But Uncle Beech’s wallet was empty! That made the outlaws angry, so they threw him over a horse and carried him off over the hill. Adults laughed at the sight, but Uncle Gen’s grandkids called out: “Call the sheriff! Call the posse! Deputize the clan.” But just then, over the crest of the hill rode Uncle Beech, the captured gunmen walking in front of his pointed pistol with their hands skyward. The wallets were retrieved, and the desperadoes set free after they promised to repent.
That was about as much excitement as a family could take for one day, so we headed back to the farmhouse where we passed out our matching cartooned T-shirts (silk-screened by one of the clan, with a different color assigned to each of the five Price children and their families) and received schedules for the next three days’ events. We ended the day eating homemade ice cream and cake and singing our homemade family song, “The Price Family Tree Is a Mighty One.”
Our official activities began at noon on Wednesday, July 25, in the Heber Third Ward where we had workshops for all ages and inclinations. “Workshops,” you say? “you mean those classes where you go and listen to boring lectures?”
No, not that kind of workshop. I mean ones that you’ve selected ahead of time on subjects you’d really like to hear about, like “Preparing Joe Cool for a College School,” “Putting Music in Your Life—or Life in Your Music,” (whichever you need). The “Beginning Drawing” class began drawing young and old alike, and kids were wall to wall in the “Crafty Kids Crafts” workshops. The dads really went for the class on “Interviewing Your Children.” Teaching one another as a family added a special dimension as we shared ideas and talents.
And speaking of talents, they were spread out all over the cultural hall when we went in there for a refreshment break in the middle of the afternoon. There were hobbies and talents suitcased in from Arizona, California, and several parts of Utah—all arranged and labeled for us to ooh and aah and “I didn’t know Julie could do this” over.
We spent the evening sitting under the stars at an outdoor theater. Moms and dads and big brothers and sisters could all attend the show, thanks to a group of special girls from the Heber City wards who volunteered to babysit.
But don’t think the children were ignored. The next morning the upstairs room at the inn where we were headquartered was swarming with little kids making Play-Dough patties and painting pretty pictures.
On the other side of the room, moms, grandmas, and girls were creating something memorable. Steve and Gordon, two brothers of our clan, had designed a family flag, and this was the hour for the Betsy Ross Prices to shine. Some cut out patterns of things special to our family, like waves on a seashore (our traditional family vacation spot), the Arizona Temple (where our dad and mother had presided), pansies (dad’s specialty), and the open scriptures (our guidelines). Karen zigged and zagged all morning on her portable sewing machine. As the flag came together, we got more and more excited over traditions and memories and the family togetherness we were feeling. The others dropped in between swimming, horseback riding, and contests to see the pansies blossoming and the temple rising on the flag-red background. Red was dad’s favorite color. Our “New Glory” was beginning to unfurl.
In this afternoon, the big Prices, little Prices, and half-Prices headed for Park City and the Alpine Slide. Each of the five families was decked out in its own color-coded T-shirts, so it was easy and fun to spot whole families racing each other down the slopes. You could spot a few of those red and blue and yellow shirts on the golf course too as cousins competed on the greens.
But the day was not over—not for the teens and adults anyway. After the children were tucked in bed, we congregated again at the ward for a fireside.
“A fireside,” you say? “You mean a meeting where you listen to a speaker and try to stay awake?”
No, not that kind of fireside. A family fireside where you teach one another and exchange feelings about the gospel—where you reminisce about the lives and teachings of your parents and feel their precious presence even though they’ve been gone for some years—where you feel the Spirit of the Lord to such a degree that you glow inside. We wept as our older brother bore his testimony at the conclusion. He spoke by the Spirit and we listened by that same spirit. We were reluctant to conclude. We wanted to go on basking in the glow that we felt as we expressed our love to each other. We became spiritually acquainted that evening and caught a glimpse of what a celestial family relationship is like. Those who had not known our parents felt they knew them now.
And they knew them even better after the “Hopalong Heritage” ride we took the next morning atop two heaping hayracks. We began at the Heber Cemetery where Grandpa and Grandma Alexander are buried and heard stories about them as we decorated their graves with flowers. From there we traveled along the country road to the first little home mom and dad lived in after their marriage, and we were even invited inside by the lady who lives there now. All 83 of us filed through. That’s called Heber hospitality, and we found it all over the valley. We sipped root beer in the shop that long ago was the little confectionery, dad’s first business, and we sang our way over rocks and roads, seeing one special family site after another, as teens, tots, and old-timers told tales of our heritage at each site. We ended up where Grandma and Grandpa Price ended up—the Charleston Cemetery. Here we had a quiet conclusion as we honored them and our dear parents. Resounding in our hearts were the strains of our family song we had sung through the week, “The Price Family Tree Is a Mighty One.”
Meanwhile, back at the kitchen things were cooking—turkey and dressing and all the trimmings for the family feast that evening. And that’s not all. Scenery was being set up and costumes coordinated for a show depicting the Heber era of our parents’ lives.
How do you put on a show when the cast is spread out from Utah to Arizona to California? Well, you write songs and sketches and send them to family members in various cities and ask them to work up the numbers and be ready to perform. And perform they did, young and old. The finale featured the family flag and a parade of the clan, clad in costumes and pride as they marched and sang together:
We paraded and sang through many stanzas, until finally the march ended, the tempo slowed, and there we were standing in a circle—an unending family circle—holding on to each other and to our memories of this week. Through our tears we finished the song.
At that moment the Prices soared sky high as we felt the celestial meaning of family foreverness.
Our reunion was over, but not our union. That is stronger than ever before. Our reunion was over, but not our memories of it. They are history now, recorded on paper, on film, and in hearts. Our reunion was over, but not its effects.
“This reunion has changed my life,” said one young person.
“Every day was the best one, ‘exclaimed a little child.
“I’m so thankful to be a part of all this,” commented a new-in-the-family member.
“The family fireside was the greatest spiritual experience I’ve had since my mission,” said a young father.
“Teaching each other in this sort of family setting is different. It’s a higher level of learning and loving than I’ve ever felt, a celestial level,” observed one more.
Summer is just around springtime’s corner. It’s time to plan your family reunion.
“A family reunion,” you say? “You mean that event where everyone says, ‘My how we’ve grown—into the neatest family ever!’”