By Bruce Stambaugh
Summer is for gatherings. The season of lyrical calls of songbirds and insects helps set the stage for people coming together for social get-togethers of every kind.
The warmer weather is a big incentive, too. Rain, on the other hand, can be a party pooper for all things outdoors.
At family gatherings, the kid in all of us emerges at dusk when the flight of the fireflies begins. Curious children run with jars to capture the luring light, fascinated with the elusive insects’ blinking ability. Hopefully the kids practice the capture and release approach to the illuminating inspection.
Corralling fireflies is only one checkmark on a long list of summer social events. Family picnics, school reunions, parties, parades, benefit sales, vacations, camping jamborees, weddings, garage sales, backyard cookouts, mud runs, races, ballgames, benefit auctions and fireworks all belong on a summer event calendar.
With their varying purposes, they still all result in people interacting with other people. Some see each other regularly. For others, it can be decades since they have last met.
Long spontaneous conversations ensue, some with participants standing the full length of the chatting. Along comes another familiar face, and the course of the discussion takes another turn, ears attentive to the new flow. What you would expect from friends separated by too much time and space?
Fortunately, gatherings involve more than gabbing. Well, at least the good ones do. Horseshoe and corn hole games, baseball, softball, badminton and volleyball are just some of the friendly competition.
Some prefer to relax on a bass boat or pontoon boat and fish the while away. If keepers are caught, it’s a double blessing on the day’s investment. A day at the pool or beach with friends and family can be just as satisfying as a string full of crappies.
I remember my late father’s group from work had an outing at one of northeast Ohio’s many lakes. I was so young I only remember tidy pastel cottages ringed the shores, and behind them towering hardwoods provided plenty of shade.
It was what happened under that cool canopy that sticks in my mind the most. The men were pitching horseshoes and kids were allowed to retrieve them. My math skills either weren’t the best or I got too anxious and stuck my hand in for a horseshoe when one came down hard on my small hand. A little cold water and a bandage did the trick, and I’ve steered clear of horseshoe pits ever since.
Dad orchestrated annual summer gatherings for our extended family for years. Named the Frith reunion, in honor of the maiden name of our mother and her two sisters, we would usually assemble at a shelter in the company park at Goodyear’s lovely Wingfoot Lake east of Akron.
It was a popular place, with families and extended families joining in the summer fun. Carry-ins were the rule, with lots of favorite homemade dishes laid out on the tables. As the children grew into adults, they brought boy friends and girl friends, and then spouses and later still, their own children as the years flew by.
Sadly, that annual ritual has passed along with the three Frith sisters. With generations of descendants scattered all across the country and beyond, the Frith family reunion may be rejuvenated with a multiple of offshoots that will continue the relational connections.
Being with friends and family in both formal and informal settings in the summer helps define the season. Without them, summer just wouldn’t be the same.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013