My dad’s family has been getting together about every five years for a reunion, the latest being this past weekend. We had a great time, talking with people we hadn’t seen in years. Unlike Melody’s reunion which was a relatively unstructured weekend at an Indiana state park, this one centered around a luncheon with several activities happening around the meal, and a few before and after.
While there are a lot of Fujimotos, this reunion encompasses three Murakami sisters, which is why the reunion bears that name. There were 141 of us who made it, quite a large number.
Last time in 2011 was the first time I was on the reunion committee, but it was more as a contributor rather than a core member. That was different this year, so it was interesting to follow along with the progress of the different pieces. I was responsible for putting together a booklet with photos and biographies, as well as a slide show. Because of the nature of my tasks, most of what I did was at the tail end, after all the information was gathered by my cousin Tim.
Every now and then, to take a break from working on the booklet, I started getting photos ready for a slide show. Most of them just involved a quick resize, but others needed editing so you could better see the people or to enlarge small photos and clean them up. I decided to just run the slide show as a screen saver, so that way I could randomize the photos and I wouldn't have to try to mix them up by hand.
Once I sent the booklet file off to the printer, I started working on a wall-sized family tree. It was at this point I noticed typos in small segments of the family tree I scattered throughout the booklet (I had caught others earlier). A few of them were minor enough (lines not correctly connecting, etc.) but there were some I didn't want to go uncorrected. I sent some errata pages off to a local printer and cut them up, ready to paste into the final booklets.
The night before our trip, we all checked into our flights. We were all on the same reservation, and I saw that Tynor was the first to check in. He does enough travel that he got TSA Pre✓, but the rest of us also got the expedited screening when we checked in, which was much appreciated.
We were all going to try to meet up on the way down to the airport, so once we left the house, we all started sharing our locations with each other. There was a bit of drizzle, but we didn't get too wet. Melody and I hopped onto a short bus ride to campus, then walked down the bottom of Rainier Vista to the light rail station, where we met Tynor. Kellen and Noël got on at the next stop, and we rode the train to the end of the line.
As expected, we got through security pretty quickly, although the normal lines were actually quite short (only a dozen or so people waiting to have IDs checked). It was a bit early for lunch, so we got drinks from Dilettante, waited a bit, then grabbed something to eat. Kellen, Noël, and Tynor were also able to grab some Pokémon before we boarded. While on the flight, we were able to see Mt. Rainier through the clouds.
After arriving at LAX, we found our way to the car rental shuttle, where there was no line at the counter. The agent was explaining that the computer was being slow, but after at least 5–10 minutes, other agents started asking each other about the computers. Ends up none of them were getting any activity, so someone did a complete reboot. Once that was done, the rental process was quick and we were on our way.
Even though we had landed at LAX, we were going near the Long Beach Airport for a social at the hotel where the reunion was going to be. It took us quite a while to work our way through traffic, much longer than I anticipated. We did arrive for about the last 20 minutes, so at least we were able to say hello.
The next stop was the Long Beach Café where we met my Aunt Frances for dinner. The place is known for large portions, and they lived up to that reputation. As always, it was great to catch up with her.
We went back to Downey, and proceeded to open the windows so the house could cool down. While that was happening, we went on a walk; I tried to make a large loop, which hopefully helped to catch more Pokémon.
The day of the reunion had arrived. I needed to arrive early to help set up. Melody and Kellen went with me, while Noël and Tynor went with my parents.
When we arrived, a few people were already getting things going. My cousin Tim arrived with the A/V equipment, so we hooked my laptop up for the slide show, and it seemed to be working. I also had a thought that I could try to update the slide show with photos people were posting to social media, but there was no cell reception in the room, so that idea was nixed.
Next up was hanging the family tree banner. Packing tape started out OK, but it didn't really hold. Fortunately, a cousin got push pins, and that did the trick. (Good thing; the tree was pretty popular, with several people pointing at it. It would have fallen down several times with just the tape.) The booklets were going to be handed out at the end of the program, so we tried to find other things to help with. Before we knew it, people were starting to arrive, and the reunion was under way.
There were so many activities going on during the reunion, I'll focus on just a few.
Group photos are always challenging, and herding 141 of us is a guaranteed challenge. We all migrated outside, some sat in chairs, some on the ground, others stood on risers. Since there was no back rail on the risers, we needed to be careful to not fall off; I was in front of a pillar, so I just steadied myself against that, and Melody against me.
I knew I wanted my own shot of the group photo (the photographer wasn't going to make digital copies available) so I set my camera across the driveway on one of the lights in the lawn (it wasn't completely flat, but close enough) then started recording a movie. I then took a frame from the movie, straightened and cleaned it up.
Another group shot we took was one of the Fujimoto cousins. This is the second time this year that all of us (except for Fay, who passed away five years ago) were together, but before that, it may have been the last reunion that we were all in the same room. This one was easier to get a shot of, since there were plenty of relatives who were taking photos; I gave my camera to Kellen for my copy.
There was a picture frame hanging from a tree at Kellen and Noël's wedding, and it got a lot of use. My cousin Kathy suggested we do that for the reunion too, so my dad made up a frame to be used. His intent was to have it on a stand, but as things turned out, people were using it all around the room before that got set up. I think it worked great both ways; people were so creative with it, including photo bombing. Kellen and I were the first ones to use it (we were there and Kathy wanted to try it out), but for some reason the two of us were at the far edges of the frame.
All of these frame photos are by my cousin Kathy.
There were a couple raffles that happened. The proceeds were meant to help seed the next reunion in five years; there was leftover money from the previous reunion, and it helped to have it available for deposits and other costs which came up before people started sending in money for registration.
For one raffle, families donated gift baskets, then you could put raffle tickets in for whichever basket or baskets interested you. Our basket had chocolates from Seattle companies, coffee from a local place, and a few other Seattle-themed items. My dad must have liked what we picked, because he put all of his tickets into that bucket. No small surprise that he won. Kellen won the basket which had tea and chai; since the chai was liquid in bottles, they boxed it up for my parents to send up here.
The other raffle was for cash, half to the winner, half for the next reunion. My mom ended up winning that raffle. Needless to say, our family was very lucky that day.
After all the activities, things people lingered to chat, but eventually the room started to clear. Before we knew it, there were only a few of us left. Kathy wanted to take a photo of our family, but we were too tired to move; she took the photo anyway, and it ended up being one of my favorites of all of us.
My parents headed home, but since we were going to go bowling that night, we changed clothes, since the weather was so hot.
Long Beach waterfront, dinner
We had plenty of time before bowling or even dinner, so we went down to the Long Beach waterfront to walk around. We parked in the downtown area, walked along the convention center, then worked our way down to the boardwalk; of course, more Pokémon were caught.
After we had been on the boardwalk for a couple minutes, we ran into my cousin Arleen and her family. (As it ends up, Arleen ran into my cousin Brian and his family at Disneyland too.)
Our thought in going down to the waterfront is that we could walk around to the lighthouse and back, but there was a festival going on, so the area right around the lighthouse was fenced off. We worked our way back to the car, but before getting in, we tried to figure out a place to have dinner. We decided that since we were in California, we should try to get Mexican food. Finding a place not far from the bowling alley, we headed out.
As it ended up, the restaurant was actually a taco stand. We decided to stay anyway, and ended up with great food. While we were there, we checked into our flights, letting Tynor go first, hoping for the best; we all got TSA Pre✓ again.
The last reunion activity was bowling. There must have been 40 or 50 people, but not everyone was bowling. Even so, we took up 10 lanes; the alley had over 50, so it wasn't like we took up the whole place.
Melody decided to not bowl, since she didn't want to stress her shoulder muscles. The rest of us got shoes, picked out house balls, and started rolling the ball towards the pins. Of course, we were all very rusty, so there were a fair share of gutter balls, but we did get a few strikes. Noël and I bowed out after two games, but Kellen and Tynor played on a bit.
It was fun to not only bowl, but to have another chance to talk to people while others were bowling. The Fujimoto families used to go pretty often, and it took me back to those days.
Sunday was a somewhat uneventful trip back, although we were pretty worn out by the time we finally made it to our homes. We did see Mt. Rainier again on the way home, this time without clouds. We also could see Mt. St. Helens.
It was a busy, full weekend, but at the same time very fulfilling and enjoyable. I did feel quite a bit of anxiety release, so I guess I did have a bit of stress about making sure my parts got finished. Like I told my cousin Janice (chair of the reunion committee), we were all there to help everyone have a great time, and it seems we succeeded.