October 16, 2019 | View PDF
I love my three siblings. After all, we grew up together, we knew what buttons to push if one of us wanted to start an argument, and we also knew the way to soothe those ruffled feelings. We banded together against perceived outside threats, we kept one another’s secrets, we understood and, in most cases, empathized with their problems as we navigated ourselves through childhood. In short, we grew up in a typical fashion and learned to respect and care about one another.
Of course, we all matured and flew away with the four winds. All four of us moved to different states and another country to lead our adult lives, which meant we seldom reunited as a family. The oldest, my brother, now lives in New Hampshire. My older sister lives in Ohio, I live in Montana, and the youngest, a sister, lives in Washington State. The last time all four siblings were together in one place was fifteen years ago when our parents died.
My younger sister and I always got along well. After I left Canada, I moved to eastern Montana to live near her and for twenty years lived about a half mile from her house. Six years ago we both moved to our respective current locations, but we made it a point to stay in touch, visit back and forth several times a year, and to remain close as sisters. However, I hadn’t seen my brother since my parents died, and I only visited with my older sister once in those fifteen years, and that was when she traveled to my home eight years ago to see me remarry.
The four of us started floating the idea of a family reunion about three years ago. Originally, we hoped to include the four of us plus the various children and grandchildren who cared to attend, but when we all live so far apart, and with everyone having their own obligations and responsibilities, finding a time period that suited everyone proved nearly impossible.
I wrote a ghost booklet a few summers ago and sent a copy to each of my siblings. After reading about our haunted little town of Virginia City, my sister-in-law expressed a desire to spend a few nights in a haunted house. I replied to her, “Boy do I have the place for you.”
That started the reunion process in earnest and we managed to agree on a week this past June to gather in Virginia City for a few days of fun and reacquaintance. I arranged to rent two places known for ghostly sightings, the Lightning Splitter house as well as a room in the Bonanza Inn, and the stage was set for a gathering.
Family reunions can get dicey, particularly when people meet for a week, rather than for three hours to share a turkey dinner, and then go home again. Four days can prove very long if any sort of friction exists among those in attendance, or family members harbor wildly disparate views on any given subject. My family is no different than other families, and our family has a member or two who have difficulty relating to other’s points of view or understanding other’s pet peeves and idiosyncrasies.
In my family, my brother is organized, a good money manager, and so right-wing conservative I expect he will soon resemble Hitler in looks. My older sister, on the other hand, is totally disorganized, a poor money manager, and so left-wing liberal that I suspect her shorts are pink. My younger sister and I are moderates; we see various points of view but do not approve of extremism on either side of the political spectrum. We also are good money managers, and have similar views on religion and education.
So, with such a widely differing outlook among the four of us, I felt a little trepidation about this gathering. Talking politics, religion, or education could prove disastrous, so among ourselves we agreed on a few ground rules. First and foremost, politics would not be part of the agenda. Second, we would not discuss money or finances, and third, we would skirt carefully around other hot topics like education, guns, and religion.
The scheduled dates for the reunion arrived. My brother, organized and ready, had made his flight reservations and car rental six months in advance. My older sister as usual dithered for months about whether she would fly out or drive, and a month before our reunion she finally made plane reservations but neglected to reserve a vehicle in advance. My younger sister of course drove from Washington.
My older sister arrived at the Bozeman airport first. I was working in Virginia City at the café when I received her first text bemoaning the fact that she had to rent an expensive vehicle because she hadn’t reserved anything in advance. Her second text complained that the vehicle was too big and guzzled gas. Her third text said she was returning the vehicle to the rental agency and would wait for my brother’s flight to arrive so she could hitch a ride with him instead.
My younger sister and her husband arrived first, followed in a few hours by my brother, his wife, and my older sister. So, we were ready to start a week together.
We wisely had agreed that we would spend mornings together and that people would entertain themselves during the afternoons, and we would reunite in the evenings for dinner and visiting afterwards. It worked well. We had plenty of time to visit, but had valuable breathing room as well. My brother, his wife, and my older sister visited Yellowstone one day, we all traveled to Bannack, we had an old-time photo taken, and everyone had plenty of opportunity to explore Virginia City and the surrounding area on their own. No one picked a fight; we were scrupulous in our efforts to keep hot button topics off the agenda, so the week passed well.
I think we all enjoyed ourselves, we appreciated the opportunity to reconnect and recall fond memories as well as embarrassing moments, but I’m not sure the four of us will ever get together in the same place again. We all have some age on us, travel gets more difficult each year, everyone has obligations, and our bodies sometimes refuse to cooperate, so possibly this reunion will be the last one. I’m grateful we made the effort to reunite, I am pleased to have the wild west photo of the four of us hanging on my wall that shows all of us happy and healthy, and I have fond memories of our week together in Virginia City.