I just returned from my wife’s family reunion in New Harmony Utah. No I’m not kidding; it’s a real name, and a real feeling.
Having been an only child, and one with older parents at that, this is a serious change from my day to day life. Being able to have an internet business, and being a writer, one is afforded a degree of personal freedom that is unequalled. I get to go where I want, do what I want any time I want to, and have my friends over or visit them when I want, but it’s all on my terms. My life is quite organized. When it’s time to shop the stops are all planned sequentially and the timing is such that the stores are usually quite empty. Shopping in the morning (right after the commute dies down) allows me to skip the traffic jams, not have to wait in long check-out lines, and generally avoid people.
This “planning” and organization went out the door the second we got to the airport. The only two airports that grant access to New Harmony are Salt Lake City, about 4 hours away, and Las Vegas, about 3 hours away.
We chose the latter. Despite the hedonistic appeal of the city to foreigners to gamble, drink, and purchase sex, Las Vegas is to me a quintessential arm pit. After the obligatory visit to the Bellagio fountains, the city seems to run out of charm quickly, and have that replaced with street barkers handing out whore trading cards amid the rubble of a shabby tinsel town drowning in its own excrement. There are other places to “party” and certainly other attractions around the area, but the “strip” doesn’t hold up well if you stray off a block or two, or have to behold it in daylight.
In three hours we went from 2,001 feet to 5,800 and that was among the least of the changes. The skank of the bowels of Vegas yielded to the amazing desert and Zion Park. The painted rocks and canyons were an absolutely stunning contrast to the city behind, and we quickly lost the hurried frustrated feeling and began to succumb to “vacation mode.”
Upon arrival at our hotel, we were greeted by a few family members (only about 10) milling around the grassy area by the swimming pool, next to the lobby. It was not clear at the time, but this was to become the family conference room for the next few days. There were Pace’s flown in from Florida, Denver, Portland, and Chicago. My wife came from a family of 5 kids, and the families descended on this tiny “Little House on the Prairie” community with the eagerness of a cloud of locusts on a ripe corn field. After serious deliberation it was decided that the cloud would migrate towards a local Mexican cafeteria. Every place we descend upon immediately becomes Pace Place. The kids range from 2 years old to 21, the eldest being my daughter who actually gave up another huge family reunion with her mother’s (we divorced a few years ago) side of the family. The entourage of the Robert Leslie Pace “posterity” numbered 21 folks for this event, so getting everybody to agree on anything is nothing short of a miracle, but it gets done.
We held golf tournaments, the great 5K “Pace Race” the morning of the reunion, had the reunion itself, visited local aunts, parents, grandparents, and cousins, had a family softball game, field trip to Kolob canyon with another fairly long jaunt, and visited the family ranch and graveyard, all with absolutely minimal planning and discussion. There was barely any dissent, actually none among the family, and a minimal amount from the resident “only child.” Things didn’t go according to plan, because there basically wasn’t one. Dinner, save for the structured events, seemed to simply occur. The plans for breakfast got botched the first day, but we all got fed. Nobody seemed to keep track of which kids were riding with whom, to what destination, but in the end everybody arrived safe and happy. The girls all got along great. My 21 year old daughter became the “pied piper” of the younger cousins, a role identical to that she would assume when she returned home and drove up to Pine Mountain Lake to be with her Mom’s family of 20 or so.
The weekend ended with an impromptu Fourth of July parade, the time actually not set until the passing thunder storm could be assessed, and a carnival on the baseball field at the end of the street. It wasn’t clear who paid for all the prizes for the kids, but it’s a pretty small community (population 190 as of 2000) and they take care of each other.
On the way back in the plane there was a young adult that thought it would be a great idea if he plopped his head in the window to watch the landing, and make sure that nobody else could. It seemed odd to observe the “it’s all about me” attitude that can be the mantra of so many. It is my sincere hope that the feeling of community and family love that has been my experience this weekend, can linger a bit in my day to day life and help me to live it a bit more skillfully.
Thank you Mary for sharing your beautiful family with me.