Family Baby Shower In
the Cabin Built By Grandpa
My family is hilarious. I cannot think of a time or place that I have laughed harder than at family events; the ones where everyone shows up and we are able to let loose and surround ourselves with memories, smiles ... and above all, laughter. The family baby shower we recently threw for my cousin was no different.
Married just over a year ago to her high school sweetheart and long-time boyfriend, Matt, my cousin Jen announced a few months ago that she was pregnant. Her mother, my aunt Lucy, was overjoyed by the news. You see, Lucy is the “family planner.”
Every summer, my dad’s side of the family gathers at my grandparents’ house in Michigan. They retired where they grew up: a small town on the upper peninsula - a beautiful, serene place in the woods and on the water. They built a cabin and eventually a house right on Lake Michigan, and the whole family has come up north to camp on their land over the 4th of July since before I can remember.
The nights are full of campfires, fireworks over the lake, jokes and funny stories; my uncles pave the way towards the kind of laughter that ties your stomach into a knot, eyes wet by the punch line. The days seem endless - the sun always finding a way to make things perfect in the shade and out, wearing shorts or pants, sweatshirts or t-shirts: impeccable weather.
We play “holeyboard,” a game concocted of homemade turf-covered boards with 3 holes and different colored sets of washers—each hole worth a different amount of points. We hold family tournaments to determine who gets their name on the trophy that year.
We talk and sweat together in my grandfather’s self-built, iron stove-heated Swedish sauna, then run like asylum inmates into the freezing abode that is Lake Michigan in July, laughing like children as we wash our hair in the lake, diving under to rinse out the soap.
We grill and cook together, each family taking turns at directing meals in the small kitchen where the magic happens sans microwave, toaster, and George Forman-type eases. My aunt Lucy plans this all.
Elated by my cousin’s announcement, she began planning at once to add a baby shower to this past Fourth of July’s celebration. And what an event it was.
That day, we gathered in the original cabin my grandpa built when he first came to this land. The cabin consists of one large room surrounded by windows facing the lake. We often eat here, gather here and laugh here. It was a natural venue.
The first game was handed out and the rules were explained. Lucy had created this huge crossword puzzle - not an easy feat - completely personalized for Matt and Jen and baby. The clues required not only knowing both Jen and Matt very well on many levels, but their plans for the future, their hopes for the coming child … we cracked up, eventually working as an entire room of one family, trying to answer the tough ones.
Perhaps the laughter sprang from several clues relating to Matt’s career as a park ranger … shooting prairies dogs, fighting fires, spending the last year in Alaska … Due to his extreme knowledge of fauna, Lucy had thrown in random clues like, “baby gopher”, “baby bald eagle”, and “baby snake” (yes, these all have actual names). It was a great opening to the party.
But round two was the real hit. A large baby doll was placed on a table in the center of the room. The doll was dressed in pants, a shirt and a diaper. We were asked to pair up. Using only one hand each, each team had to strip the baby, diaper and all, then redress the baby again as quickly as possible. Everyone could choose which hand to use, so long as they used only one. One of my uncles would man the stopwatch. And so the games began.
One of my aunts and uncles took the stage. No time to prep, they just dove right in without strategy. The baby was flung into the air as they shook her, trying to remove the pants. The room erupted in laughter as they struggled - one yanking on one leg while the other tried to bring the waist of the pants down to her ankles … total time: 3 minutes, 23 seconds.
Everyone took a turn. Towards the end of the runs, every team’s strategy began looking similar, until my grandparents stepped up to the table. Mother and father of three, grandma and grandpa of seven, great-grandma and great-grandpa of one, soon to be two, they were hands-down, the experts on babies in the room.
At the start of the clock, my grandpa calmly raised the doll into the air over his head with his right hand, then slammed her down against the table in one swift swoop. Pinning her there by the neck, my grandma was able to remove the doll’s pants AND diaper in one clean sweep upon which my grandpa again, lifted the doll straight into the air, in dramatic fashion, and again, back down to the table, pinning her this time, by the legs while my Grandma, again, removed in one quick motion, the doll’s shirt from over her head.
My face was wet. The room was pulsating from the sight. So vicious, yet so efficient a team they were, undressing and redressing this poor doll.
I had brought my boyfriend up to Michigan that summer for his first visit. I glanced over at him while my grandparents stripped the baby and found him laughing harder than I can remember him laughing before. Pausing for a moment within myself, taking in that scene, I remember thinking: 'This. This is the world this baby is coming into. What a wonderful place this child will have in a family who can laugh like this'.
I will take Lucy’s ideas with me as my friends and I get older, get closer to babies … a shower is a time for laughter among family, among friends. It’s a time to celebrate life.
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