For the first time since I was a very small child, our family vacationed together. The whole family. It was my mother's birthday wish to get everybody into one house in the Destin, Fla., area. As often happens when you ask someone to commit to something that will take place in six months, we all said yes.
Family history, however, predicted that not everyone would make it, and it wasn't being cynical to think so. I know a lot of families vacation together, and honestly that amazes me. To me, it can be like herding cats.
We all have work or school obligations, outside commitments for the kids, including athletics, as well as old-fashioned financial worries, so it seemed likely someone would not be able to make it.
One grandson did miss a soccer tournament, and most of the kids missed a day or two of school. In probably the biggest surprise for me personally, they seemed upset by that. What's that about?
Wisely, my sister, who instantly, though reluctantly, became the de facto organizer of the event, made sure we all paid up well before we headed down. Money tends to strengthen a person's commitment.
About a week out, we did learn that one significant other would have to miss out, and illnesses delayed the arrival of two families, but by midafternoon last Friday, 22 of us were gathered into one house in Miramar Beach. We ranged in age from 22 months to 83 years.
After only a little bit of negotiation regarding where everyone would sleep, we settled into a routine that included eating, drinking, swimming and drinking, though I may have the order a little confused.
It was my firm belief before the trip that things would either go very well or very poorly. We all like each other and get along, so there wasn't really anything specific to point to, but putting that many people into one place can be tricky. Anyone who has ever tried to get a large group to agree on which restaurant to choose or which movie to see knows what I'm talking about.
We would be making those types of decisions every day for four days. Just on the food front, we have vegetarians, part-time vegetarians and just plain old picky eaters among us, so it seemed logical that someone was going to get their feelings hurt at some point.
But the simple truth is we were all thrilled to be together, at the beach or in the pool, laughing and picking on each other, and the whole event was a huge success.
If I had to say why it went so well, I think it was because everyone agreed before we went that nothing would be planned out ahead of time, and each person was given the space to do whatever he or she wanted to do.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...