I will not be able to adequately describe the scene in the photo above. And my words cannot express what took place in the last late night moments of the 2011 Bennett Family Vacation. It's a personal moment, but deserves top billing on my blog tonight.
I'm sure you have the same kind of bonding with your family. I hope so. After Mother and Daddy went home to be with the Lord, we determined to keep the home fires burning, to stay close, to watch out for each other, and to meet up at least once a year, face to face. Well, this year was my turn to host, and when I was appointed last year at Petit Jean Mountain near Little Rock, Arkansas, I was asked to have it in my corner of the world. Knowing me, as most of you do, I'm a North-of-Florida kind of girl, desiring to head for the Great Smokey Mountains or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I reluctantly settled on Orlando. I thought we could use Disney as the main attraction.
Only six of the siblings could get to this one. We missed you Lynn, Caren, and David! We ended up with thirty-four at Thursday evening's welcome party. We typically have twice that many. I think that says a lot for Florida (or should I say against!). We all love the mountains and much cooler climes. So next year, I'm hoping the choice will be as far from Florida as we can effectively roam.
Notwithstanding the heat, the traffic, the crowds, and the fact that few around us were speaking English (there were 105 French students in our resort, and of course Disney World was covered up with a gazillion Adidas stripes, every footy speaking a different language), we had an amazing time.
Friday morning (brother-in-law, Dave's, birthday!), some of us headed out to The Magic Kingdom. It was blazing hot; when we got there the first parade was just ending and one million people were on the streets and sidewalks. We pushed through the crowds and made it to sanity street, started our day totally wilted when we heard thunder, the sweetest sound on a hot summer day. It started to rain, and we were in Disney heaven. It drizzled practically all day, keeping us cool and hydrated. Splendid! That night, we watched the electrical parade and made our way to the gates, ready to rest the weary.
Saturday was reserved for Downtown Disney. So much to do and see. Another highlight (granddaughter, Nichol's birthday!). Everybody (except for some of us old ones) wanted to stay all day, so they did. My family gathering time had already been postponed twice, but it made no difference. We were just aiming to please, wanting everyone to have a good time!
It was nearing midnight when we gathered on the grass inside the playground of the resort, the only place not locked up for the night. There were street lamps. Nice for ambiance, but not really enough light to read some scripture by. So I quoted two verses from Psalm 16: "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. ...I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." That's precisely what our parents taught us... to set the Lord before us and to be steadfast, to pass the birthright to our generation. There was something else our parents taught us by example, and that was to be patriotic, to love our country and to respect its military. Our dad was in the Army Air Corps between WWI and WWII, somewhere in the 1930's, and wanted to go back in when war broke out. Thank God he didn't. There may have been just two of us instead of nine. I went down the line in our family, calling off the names of those who have served from our clan, right down to my grandson, Adam, who is just six months away from serving five years in the US Army.
If you've read my "As Thy Days" blog, you know my brother, Mike, took his boot camp and was shipped out to Vietnam. After ten months in the war zone, in the heat of battle, he was wounded. They treated him as best they could in a field hospital in Vietnam, then flew him to Japan via Manilla for more surgery. He spent the remainder of his time in an Army hospital in the States before he mustered out.
Mike and his wife, Gloria, had no idea what we were doing late last Saturday night, but after I talked a bit, my brother, Steve and his wife, Jenny, sang "America the Beautiful" and the National Anthem a capella, with family voices backing them up in four part harmony. My brother, Charlie, spoke directly to my oldest brother about his service to our country. Then Charlie stepped to the bench behind him and took out the military flag from our dad's funeral. My sister, Eloise, had placed it in a lovely frame. Charlie took it over to where my brother was standing and presented it to him.
The picture at the top tells the rest of the story. And when I thought it could be no more poignant, Gloria said this... "The Bennett family thought God saved Mike's life for them, and no doubt he did, but I like to think God saved him for me." Such love and devotion! All weekend, you could feel the love of family; and while we missed those who could not be with us, I sensed that everyone might have given this a ten on the scale. I've noticed as we all grow older, we grow more nostalgic, closer, and more protective of the legacy we have been left by our parents.
I'd like to thank Tracy for recommending several resorts, from which we picked the cottages and for giving us all a sugar high on her famous homemade goodies.
I thank Angie, who took to the streets in search of beach bags and all the wonderful pieces she found to go inside them, especially the items that had her special touch, such as the hand painted mugs and designer bookmarks. I also thank Angie for helping me purchase food for Thursday night's party and for making the centerpiece (more sweet treats, which the kids loved), the luscious fruit and cheese trays, tons of bags of candy, and so much more, to say nothing of the fact that she drove me (and that with one booted-up leg!). I was feeling sorry for her hobbling about the stores on crutches and a boot until I saw her wheeling that "scooter" around the grocery store! Good job, Angie! You are rock-hard, shatterproof, and one of the most generous people I know!
Sunday morning, we all rose early and prepared to go our separate ways. We will meet again during the year, but not all at the same time. So we wait until next year when my oldest sister, Pat, takes a turn at hosting Bennett Family Vacation 2012. We look forward to it.
Jane Bennett Gaddy
For the Bennett Family