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      Families: An odd mix of pleasure and pain

      The progeny of Harkey and Loretta Quinn

      Ahhh summer. That season of vacations, swimming, backyard bar-b-ques. That time of year for ticks, mosquitoes and sunburn. Somewhere between those experiences of pleasure and pain lies the family reunion.

      The much dreaded/much anticipated family reunion. The sheer joy at seeing relatives you've missed, offset by the awkward conversation with a relative you barely know. The surprise at learning that great-aunt Edith's second husband is still alive. The consternation in realizing that bratty third cousin you were sure would land in jail is still around too. Oh, and he's a millionaire now, with an oceanfront home and 2.5 children.

      Oh, the pleasure and pitfalls when you bring together the extended family. Your children stick to you like a fabric softener sheet, alarmed by the overload of hugs from near strangers. The pride in hearing a favorite uncle say your children are stunning and so well-mannered.

      The massive Quinn family is hosting a reunion this weekend in Monroe City. We're talking a gathering so big we have two opportunities at registration. Yes, registration. Our family line is not in danger of extinction.There will be effusive displays of affection, a chorus of ear-splitting loud voices that seem to be a genetic trait of our bloodline. We'll have a knock-out slide show that a cousin has spent months making. We'll look at the family tree that another cousin has spent years researching. Our ancestors include a saint and a strain of royalty, tossed in with our share of sinners and scoundrels too. We'll have three solid days to reminisce about the good ol' times before we get on each other's nerves and go our separate ways.

      Next month, the Whiston relatives on my mom's side will also meetâ??maybe for the first time ever. This gathering will take place over the course of a solitary afternoon. This side of the family is comprised of more soft-spoken relatives who don't go in for public displays of affection. You can be assured there will be no drama because this is a fun-loving group. We'll play games that have entertained our clan for generations. We'll laugh and eat well, have some beer and then call it a night.

      Then there's the in-law reunion where we cling to our immediate kin like stranded survivors thrown a life preserver. While I might be able to throw a few wisecracks at my own blood, I wouldn't dare risk it on my husband's next-of-kin.

      The family reunion, with its fabulous carry-in dinner that carries the looming threat of food poisoning lurking in the mounds of potato salad. The worry about the weight you've added and the comfort of knowing your extended family doesn't care and they love you unconditionally.

      The blessing, the beauty, of family.

      Until we meet again...

      Take care~Sarah D.