Uncle Mark and cousin Adam arrived that morning (from Pittsburgh and Raleigh, respectively), and Eric, Gary, Adam and Gramps went golfing at Skyland. Back at the house, Uncle Mark kept our kids entertained before naptime.
Guys, I don't know if you've heard, but Uncle Mark is HILARIOUS.
Uncle Peter and Rosemary were next to arrive from Illinois, around dinnertime that evening. My cousin Molly and her family got in around 6:00 (also from Illinois), and brought with them our pizza dinner! After dinner the kids burned off some energy outside, and my Uncle Nathan and his family arrived from Idaho around 8:30 that night. My littlest cousin Jackson found a fast friend in my cousin Adam, bonded together by Pokemon! Once the little kids were in bed, the rest of us spent the rest of the evening drinking wine, snacking, watching the Olympics and catching up. You know, the usual reunion routine!
Santiago playing soccer with Adam
Ellie remains smitten with Baby Milena and here was happily offering her some of her own water.
Little E.J. in Gramps's baseball cap!
Saturday was designated Memphis Kiddie Park Day, so we donned the kids in their Olympics-inspired reunion T-shirts and headed out. My cousin Jacob and his family arrived from Boston that morning and met us at the park, thus completing the group for this year's festivities (all Hestermans were accounted for except for my sister Heather, who was still in Tokyo, and cousin Sarah, so it was a really good turnout!). The kids had a blast riding all the rides, and a select group (the Nathan family, Adam, Eric, Mark and Gary) played some mini-golf.
Ellie and MIlena modeling the front of the kids' shirts: the Rio Olympics log, but with Parma Heights as the updated city name!
The back of the shirts featured the kids' names and birth order numbers, in the colors of the flags of their parents' home countries (Zazi and Kinga are representing their mother's home country of Hungary, Ellie and E.J. are representing the U.S.A., and Santiago and Milena are sporting the Mexican flag in honor of their father'a home country!)
Waiting their turn for rides at the Kiddie Park)
E.J. and Santiago on a ride
Gramps and his four kids!
The boys loved the rollercoaster!
E.J. and Grammy
Back at the house after the Kiddie Park, we had some lunch and passed the afternoon with backyard play and chit chat.
Gramps watching E.J. at play
Look at that follow-through! Way to go, Zazi!
Zazi and Ellie having fun inside with Uncle Adam
Molly reading to the bigger three of the "greats" (great-grandkids)
E.J. had a rough time waking up from his nap, but Uncle Mark was the cure for what ailed him.
Kinga's pigtails...oh man. I can't deal.
We also made time to take our official family portrait, plus a couple extras!
The attendees of the 36th Annual Hesterman family reunion!
The "grands" generation (minus Heather and Sarah, both very missed!) - I love my cousins!
And of course, Gramps and his Greats!
We had Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner that night, and carried out an old reunion tradition: the piñata! Molly generously provided the piñata and fillings this year, and the kids loved taking turns hitting Dory with the bat before pulling the strings to get their goodies.
This year's Dory piñata!
Santiago taking a swing at it!
Oh boy, those pigtails are back at it again. Plus the blue eyes. And the cheeks. You're killing me, Kinga!
With my best cousinsisterfriend
Santiago and Ellie out for an evening walk!
E.J. and Milena (we bought E.J. this Joe Haden jersey on a whim at Walmart and he never wanted to take it off!)
That night, several family members had fun extracurricular plans! Aunt Rachel had her high school reunion, and she looked lovely for the event (plus, she was well-coached on what wine to drink from her wine-loving sister/nieces!). From what we hear, it was quite the affair and she returned that night with some great stories to tell!
Unfortunately, my cousin Taylor ended up feeling pretty under the weather for most of the weekend, which altered plans her family had for Saturday night. The original plan was for all of them to go to Canton for the Hall of Fame game, but she and Aimee decided to stay back. Gary took Aimee's place, and they all made the hour (plus) drive to Canton, parked and went in to the game, only to find out that the game had been cancelled because the wrong paint had been used on the field and it was deemed unsafe for play. They sat in traffic forever to get back. Can you imagine? What a mess! They didn't get home until late that night.
As for the rest of us who stayed put at the house, as soon as the kids were tucked snug in their beds we resumed the ritual: wine, snacks, Olympics, chatting. Honestly, it's my favorite part of the reunions! (No offense, kids.)
Sunday morning was church morning, of course. The kids were very well-behaved and looked adorable in matching church clothes! After church we had our usual portrait session for all the families.
Gramps and his kids, in age order!
The Peter family
The Becky family
Zazi and Ellie really hit it off at this reunion. I love this picture of the two of them!
Santiago and E.J. looking oh-so-G.Q.
I mean. Honestly.
We kept ourselves busy the rest of the day with crafts/coloring, pop bottle rocket ships, Mentos/Coke experiments, and playground and backyard play.
Uncle Peter's rockets are always a hit!
Rocket launch spectators
Ellie and Grammy
Santiago got the rocket!
Mentos in Diet Coke! It really is a thing!
Zazi and the church
The late afternoon led way to a new form of entertainment: water balloon fights! We went through tons of water balloons and everybody had a blast (except Alex, maybe, whose phone sadly fell victim to all the water fun!). All the play was followed by an huge group clean-up effort (hello, billions of balloon pieces scattered all through the grass), after which the children were rewarded with Olympic medals for all their hard work. (Oh, to live a life where people give you medals when you clean!)
Henry is after Uncle Peter!
Zazi, Henry and Jackson are ready to go!
Ellie and Henry teaming up against Jacob
Ellie going after Arturo (she didn't like the exploding balloon situation, so she chose to squeeze water out of the tiny hole at the top instead of smashing them!)
Milena and Kinga with their medals
That evening we had BBQ for dinner and some of us went for a nice walk around the neighborhood (Jacob and Zita were hunting Pokemon!). When we got back, the next door neighbor brought his bunny over for a visit!
Jacob showing Ellie the Pokemon Go app
A little off-road exploring!
Quick break at a playground
The visiting bunny
Then sadly, that was the beginning of the end. Uncle Mark and Adam left Sunday afternoon, and Jacob and his family were leaving early Monday morning, so we started the good-bye process. Ellie spoke for all of us when she plopped down on the stoop with her head in her hands, sad as could be because she didn't want to say good-bye to her cousins.
Poor thing. Been there, my friend.
Cousin love! This just warms my heart. I have always loved visiting with my cousins so much, and I hope they all grow up feeling the same.
Unfortunately, the Nathan family's Hall of Fame Game bad luck continued upon their departure, with flights delayed and cancelled like it was nobody's business. Poor souls! Such a long way to travel, and to deal with all that hassle...bless them. As for the rest of us, we departed early Monday morning, followed by the Molly family, Aunt Rachel and my mom and Gary. And that was the reunion!
Before leaving, I made sure to linger a little longer and say some extra goodbyes to my Gramps's house. While we were there for the reunion there was serious talk about him moving to an assisted living facility, just to make life a little easier for him (well-deserved after 94 years, I must say!). Of course, that would mean the end of a very long era of family gatherings at his home. My mother's generation grew up there, and mine basically did as well. Even as recently as last year, my son was taking his first steps in that house. That house has been the setting of countless happy memories for our family, and for the past 21 years it has been my anchor to my hometown. I never really had to say goodbye to Cleveland because we were always going back to that house; it remained constant. As this year's reunion drew to a close, my heart ached to walk through the rooms as my mind brought forth vivid memories in each. It's hard to say goodbye to such a place. But, at the end of the day, those beloved walls are just walls, and I will forever be thankful to them for housing my family and my childhood and my memories. It was a good house.
My Gramps has since moved to his new home and I'm so pleased for his new venture. Thank you, Gramps, for hosting our family and building this incredible clan! We love you so much.
Thank you, family, for getting together for another great reunion weekend! I'm so lucky to be a Hesterman.
To see the full set of reunion photos, click here.