By Barb Arland-Fye
We didn’t look like a typical softball team even though 17 of us —adults ranging in age from 18 to 83 — wore the same “Team Arland” softball-style T-shirts. We also had a toddler and an infant with us at dinner at Manhattan Beach Lodge in northern Minnesota.
A curious couple approached my mom and dad, Ray and Mary Arland, and asked about “Team Arland” and the cryptic name that appeared on the back of our T-shirts, “Oxboro 80.” My parents beamed as they explained that their clan had gathered for a family reunion. “Oxboro” refers to my mom’s alter ego on Facebook and “80” refers to the new decade she entered earlier this year.
In the weeks preceding this reunion, Mom worried that few people would show up because of last-minute schedule conflicts, my husband Steve’s back injury, and young adult grandchildren with other plans. But at noon on the appointed Wednesday, the caravan arrived at the lodge with relatives from Arizona, Iowa and Minnesota. We circled the group, juggling luggage with hugs.
Like any other family, Team Arland knows highs and lows, joys and sorrows. But we remain connected through memories and experiences that began when Ray and Mary entered the sacrament of marriage 59 years ago. They keep us bonded, no matter where we live or how distracted we get in our busy lives.
The years peeled away that Wednesday afternoon on a rented speed boat that transported seven of us on a chain of lakes surrounding Manhattan Beach. Two of my brothers egged me on, just like in the old days, to accept a challenge: get on the giant inner tube attached by a cord to the boat and go for a ride. Not just a ride, but a wild one full of twists, turns and bumps on waves. A ride intended to test my endurance. “No, I’ll pass,” I said. But after my 19-year-old niece convinced her dad to drive the boat slowly while she rode on the inner tube, I decided to give it a shot.
I loved every minute of my ride and thought about giving a thumb’s up to indicate my brother Tim could accelerate the boat’s speed. But storm clouds rumbled overhead and rain started to fall. The boys reeled the inner tube back to the boat and we headed to the dock for safety.
All of us ate meals together. My mom and sister-in-law, Carleen, had stocked up on groceries, prepared veggie trays, fresh fruit, cheeses, meats and breads and displayed it all on the makeshift banquet table (dresser) in mom and dad’s room. We sat or stood wherever we could, catching up on one another’s lives and listening to Dad’s corny jokes. My mom marveled at how we never seemed to run out of food, like the Gospel story of the multiplication of the fishes and the loaves.
While I enjoyed the togetherness, I also treasured my early morning walks alone. I prayed and savored the beauty of God’s creation, inhaled the fragrance of fir trees and listened to the haunting song of the common loon, Minnesota’s state bird.
Everyone had their favorite moments. My son Colin anticipated this trip for months and was overjoyed to be allowed to drive the pontoon boat with supervision. My son Patrick bonded with his other young adult cousins, who abandoned their elders at night to play “foosball” and have a beer. Steve simply enjoyed being able to make the trip.
Pope Francis observes in “The Joy of Love” that “A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God” (No. 116). I think our experience as Team Arland fits that definition.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at email@example.com.)