South Charlotte

Family reunion is food for the soul

August is a wonderful month. It's the month of my family reunion.

As my husband, Tony, and I packed for our road trip to Michigan, my mouth watered at the thought of blueberries and sweet corn only my home state could provide.

I also was excited about getting my share of food for the soul, which is how I refer to my family reunion.

The 62nd Tylutki-Stafiej Family Reunion, a weeklong event, is held at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Mich. My maternal grandmother, Angeline (Stafiej) Tylutki and her brother, John, emigrated from Poland as youngsters, bringing with them a strong sense of faith and family. They passed these traits on to their children, grandchildren and various other relatives. I grew up seeing my many aunts, uncles and cousins several times a year.

Five generations of descendants are more spread out now. Included are first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins, second cousins once removed and so on. I had to look all this up, but basically we consider ourselves "the relatives."

We keep up with each other's highs and lows through various electronic devices, but nothing beats a hug. So we gather each year at Camp Dearborn.

The guys build a big bonfire, where we roast marshmallows, sing songs, and cut loose. The White Elephant Gift Exchange brought a lot of laughs, with Elvis on velvet a surprise hit.

Everyone stays in tents or cabins with cots, snuggling in sleeping bags. Camping is both fun and humbling.

It's fun when the weather is great, the boccie tournament is neck-and-neck, little children are laughing and the smell of food cooking on the grill is swirling through the air.

It's humbling when rain is coming down in sheets, accompanied by strong winds, and you have to trek a hundred yards to the latrine for a lukewarm shower.

"Tests your mettle," said my husband.

We're a very diverse group, held together by the common bond of love.

Entire years are planned around "Camp Dearborn Week."

We honor those who have left us. More joy is brought by the new faces added each year. Our family tree has strong roots, with branches that reach to the heavens. My bags are barely unpacked, yet I'm already looking forward to next August.