Miss Shirley's story began in 1862 when her great grandpa rode his penny-farthing bicycle from Morristown, Quebec to Windsor, Ontario to propose to the love of his life.
As it was with Adam and Eve, 2 people joined together and made a family, which grew, scattered and covered the earth. Elders died and children were born to fill the ranks.
The last time there had been a family gathering was in 1962. Over 40 years later, Miss Shirley and her three grown sons concocted the idea of a reunion. It took 2 years to organize a workable plan. As family archivist, Miss Shirley had the daunting task of tracking down the "new ones" and the "lost ones."
Children of children. One aunt and her husband had died tragically in their early 30's leaving three children to be brought up by a French-Canadian grandmother in Noranda, Quebec. Where were they now? By last summer, these cousins were in their 50's with grown children of their own. They had been raised without even knowing the extent of their heritage, that they had relatives looking for them.
The master plan for the Event slowly took shape.
Sent and accepted.
Discussed and decided.
How many days?
How many beds?
How many meals?
How many children?
How many boats?
Ten volunteer leaders assigned 5 helpers each, one team for one meal. Three hours duty from prep to clean up was their lot.
Colour coded tracking the lineage and corresponding wall charts depicting the family tree helped people place each other.
Last year was the "non-summer" of the century. Weekends washed away in torrents of rain. Tents were out of the question and so the brothers gave over their 3 cottages on The Lake. 74 living souls needed room and board Thursday to Sunday, August 2009. From Mexico, Copenhagen and all across the US and Canada they came. Strangers in a strange land, Mother Nature smiled on them with glorious, miraculous sunshine and Miss Shirley welcomed them to the fold.
Teenagers marshaled the younger cousins for swimming races, boat excursions, hikes, crafts, fireworks. Adults swapped stories photographs and memorabilia. From the first breakfast to the last campfire, camaraderie and love welded the old family ties.
On the last afternoon, the "lost cousins" from Noranda made their tentative appearance. They had demurred when their invitation had arrived.
-We don't know anybody and nobody knows us. Well...we may come for a couple of hours.
They were embraced into their long-lost family.
Brought together again.
At two o'clock in the morning, they tore themselves away, brushing off the tears streaming down their smiling cheeks.
-We didn't know. We want more. Let's do this again."
This story (a tale with many missing or faulty details, created for your reading pleasure) embodies the essence of Miss Shirley for me. A woman busy, living her life to the fullest extent of her talents and capabilities. She smiles in the face of hurts and troubles, laughs her way forward, focusing on the positives and drawing those around her into joy.
Family and Reunion are healing words. Do you agree?