Sunday, September 09, 2007

Family Reunion... 37 in 107

Okazaki Family Reunion / Murrieta, CA 9/3/07

One day in May 2007, I started thinking about having a family reunion, similar to ones that have been done with my dad's cousin's families. I emailed some of my family and cousins whose email addresses that I had. As with email, it took us awhile to settle on the format and the date. Then my cousin Russell, put together a yahoogroup listserve. Finally, Auntie Taka said, let's just set a date. Sooner the better. Then my cousin Rod and his wife Wendy generously offered their home in Murrieta. My cousin Roxane set up an Evite page so we could organize the food and activities, and we were a go.

When we were growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, our family got together every 2nd Sunday for Omatsuri, which was going to the church service at my grandma's house. As kids, we would play on the bunkbeds in my cousin Cherie and Jayne's bedroom. As we got older and grew into teenagers we stopped going every month. But aside from jumping on the beds, my best memories of those 2nd Sundays was the potluck-style lunches served by grandma's church after the service.

The Food - It's not a family event, without starting with good food. Some of the food included spinach dip, veggies and fruits, teriyaki chicken and teriyaki salmon, tri-tip steak, hot dogs, BBQ veggies, chicken casserole, California rolls, sushi, red rice (sekigohan), gobo, somen salad, veggie stew, asparagus, chinese chicken salad, cake and ice cream sundaes.

The program. We had thrown around a lot of suggestions and ideas for activities for the reunion. In the end, people put together things of their own, Uncle Fumio asked me to emcee, and we had a program. We started with introductions of everyone, and an amazing 37 of us attended, with 9 months old Kimiko being the youngest member of the family. Traveling the furthest were my cousin Jackie from Hawai'i, and my cousin Ryan's son, Ryan Michael and his girlfriend from Ohio.

Cousin Marlon's wife Hiroko translated some writings of our Great Grandma Yone from Japanese to English. Grandma Yone was a Head Minister of a church in Japan and with my Grandma started something like 13 churches from Portland to Los Angeles back before World War II, so Hiroko also translated some of her writings.

Then Auntie Taka read a very touching story about her camp life in Heart Mountain, Wyoming and wrote about her 9-year old sister Sumi, who died in Crystal City, Texas, shortly after being reunited with our grandfather during the war. Auntie had circulated the story on the yahoogroups listserve, and so my Uncle Fumio, her younger brother also wrote some of his memories, which included their life after camp in Seabrook Farms, New Jersey, where my grandparents worked after the war. (Our family's camp experience is one of 110,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in 10 concentation camps during WW2.)

My mom got up with a photo of all 13 of us cousins in 1974, the only (??!!??) photo she can find of all 13 of us. She asked for everyone to list their ages and birthdates so we can put together a family roster.

Then, Uncle Fumio, Auntie Taka and my mom, stood and sang some childhood songs in Japanese, kind of amazed that they could remember the words to the songs.

At that moment, I was sad that my mom's oldest sister, Auntie Kumi and her family weren't able to attend the reunion that day. We ended the program with a celebration of Auntie Taka and Uncle Rick's 53rd wedding anniversary.

The pool. Did I mention that it was 107 degrees that day? And that there were 37 of us? Well, we all fit into the pool at Rod's house. They had a cool shallow end that was about 1 foot deep and big enough to seat us all. Because of the heat, we ended up spending much of the day playing in the pool. With 8 small children, that was a good place for us all. We had a blast.

So I think everyone who came ate a lot, learned a little about our family's story, and had a fun time. For those who couldn't make it, Auntie Kumi and Uncle Yoshio, the cousins (Ryan, Tina, Nina, Cherie, Roxane), and the next generation, we hope you can make it to the next one. We MISSED you! Seems like people wanted to make this an annual reunion, and are already throwing out possible dates and locations for 2008!


Anonymous said...

Great blog. What a great family get together.

Fran (Maiya's Bubbe)

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