Until this past weekend, I had not attended a family reunion on my daddy’s side in 20 years. My twin grandsons were 18 months old then. I still remember their great Uncle Henry cheerfully pushing the double trouble around the room in their stroller while joking that, “These are my boys.” Some family members played along, “Sure they are.” Although he never had children of his own, Uncle Henry doted on his nieces and nephews, and we loved him dearly.
Virginia Beach was the ideal venue chosen for the 60th Parker Family Reunion which took place last weekend. God and Mother Nature must have conspired to make it a wonderful and memorable weekend for us. Balconies in our beachfront hotel rooms presented a picturesque waterfront view of the coastline and daytime temperatures, in the mid-70s, made me feel guilty about complaining about the humidity. Who would have thought that near the end of October people would be walking barefoot in the sand or splashing in the cool water as if it were mid-July? I even spotted someone kitesurfing on Saturday morning.
The banquet that evening was delightful, and although I was unable to stay for the duration, the time while I was there was heartwarming. Everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves. At one point, I realized that I was humming the O’Jays song Family Reunion. That song is a classic, and it should be the official family reunion anthem.
Always the sentimentalist, my joy was briefly diminished when my mind stopped playing the anthem and switched on a mental slideshow. Flashing on the screen were faces of some of my uncles, aunts, and other deceased family members including my dad and mom and cousin, Vincent, who left us a few short months ago. I wished they all could have been there. Perhaps in spirit, they were. As life will have it, at future reunions, someone probably will be thinking the same thing about those of us who were present this time.
Unlike a tear-jerking funeral or an invitation-only wedding, the family reunion is open to all family members, and some bring friends. Barring any longstanding resentments or feuds that turn into drunken brawls (to my knowledge that has never happened at any of our reunions), the reunion is often a joyful event where everyone shares old stories and creates memories for new ones.
Speaking of sharing stories, let me tell you what made my first night during reunion weekend unforgettable. Until now, no one except my son knows about it.
My life tends to follow a norm; a trip for me would not be a trip without some drama, or as my son might call what happened on Friday night — comic relief.
After a nearly 7 hour ride from DC to Virginia Beach – extended by two planned stops and a number of nerve-wracking traffic jams – my son and I arrived at the hotel around 7:30 p.m. We placed our luggage in the room, and stopped briefly in the Hospitality Suite before going back out to get some dinner. We arrived back at the Hospitality Suite around 9. After about an hour chatting and laughing about old times, fatigue from a long day caught up with me, so I excused myself and retired to my room.
I changed into my pj’s, and before going to bed closed the drapes. That made the room nearly pitch black except for the small green light on the smoke detector and the pumpkin orange numbers laminating the digital clock on the bedside table. My son who was sharing the room came in around 11:30, after hanging out with his uncle, and went to his bed on the side of the room near the balcony. Within minutes he was sound asleep and snoring like a gas weedwacker passing and revving.
As much as I wanted sleep, sleep didn’t want me. I tossed and turned and turned and tossed as the night wore on. At one point, I was lying flat on my back staring at the dark ceiling. I tried to avoid looking at the clock because I didn’t want to know how late – or how early in the morning it was. When I finally did a side-eye peek, it was 2:15 a.m. My intuition told me to get up and check the door to make sure that the swing lock was on. It wasn’t. I swung the metal arm over the peg onto the door-face securing it.
I’ve always had trouble falling asleep in a strange place and Friday night was no exception. If I dozed at all, I might have catnapped for about 30 seconds, but I don’t think so. I even ran out of sheep.
I was suddenly startled by the sound of the door bumping loudly against the swing lock. Someone was trying to enter the room. On the wall in front of my bed, near the corner, I could see a ribbon of pale light extending floor to ceiling. I determined that it was the hallway light showing through the crack in the door.
“WHO IS THERE?” I yelled so loudly that my son sat straight up in his bed as I was scurrying to the foot of mine like a Trump supporter running full-speed away from a Black Lives Matter rally.
“What happened?” My son asked excitedly. “What’s wrong?”
“Someone opened the door,” I said while rushing to the door that was now closed. I turned the double lock and then switched on the bathroom light. As I was returning to bed, my son, apparently in a groggy state of disbelief walked to the foot of his bed, looked toward the door and then looked at me.
“No one opened that door,” he said and added, “You were probably dreaming.” Then he returned to his bed and in no time was wacking weeds again. I, on the other hand, was more awake than before.
Some other person’s curiosity would have led them to open the door to see if someone was running down the hallway away from the room, but my mama didn’t raise any fools. As long as whoever it was was on the other side of the door and I was in the room, no problem. We were good.
“I wasn’t dreaming,” I whispered. While still waiting for the sandwoman to come and sprinkle anything that would put me to sleep, I began to wonder. Had I dozed off and dreamed that someone opened the door? I was sure that I heard the sound of the door bang against the metal lock. Whoever it was turned the door handle and probably thinking that the swing lock was unsecured pushed too hard against the door causing the loud noise that rattled me.
I was still awake 20 minutes after that. Since I had not brought my Kindle to read and grew tired of scrolling FB on my iPhone, I got up, went and sat on the side of the bathtub and began writing this blog post which I finished a few days later.
Before I realized it, it was 3:51 a.m. I knew I needed to get some sleep if I was to join my sister and cousin, Pat, to walk the boardwalk at 8:30 in the morning as we’d planned. So, I returned to bed thinking and began praying that I’d get to Snoozeville before dawn.
I must have had a Jesus intervention because the last time I remember glancing at the clock, it was 4 a.m. The next time was when I awakened around 7. I said good morning to my son who was standing at the balcony door looking outside.
“You should come over and see the beautiful sunrise.” He said. He made no mention of the door incident until later in the morning when he insisted that I dreamed about the door being opened and then walked in my sleep to the foot of the bed. I, on the other hand, know that it was not a dream and I don’t sleepwalk.
That’s my unforgettable memory of reunion weekend, and I’m sticking to it.