In 1988, when I was twenty-nine years old, my parents started a family tradition still going strong today. We just completed our twelfth Springer Family Reunion in the last thirty-three years. We have typically held these gatherings every three years. Only twice has our routine changed. In 1999, we decided to have the reunion a year early to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our parents, Paul and Virginia. Last year, we had to postpone the 2020 edition because of Covid, but we made it happen this year. In 2014 and 2017, we decided to hold back-to-back reunions in Trinidad, California, knowing that it would be hard for Mom to travel.
Our parents always taught us the importance of family, which is the overriding connection that keeps the tradition alive. Over the years, families change because of weddings, births, and deaths. Mom and Dad have since passed, but I’m sure that they’d be pleased to know that we’re carrying on in their absence. One way the reunions have grown the most in the last few years is with the birth of my grandnieces and grandnephews. Last week, there were five children anywhere from five years to six months old. There is also another baby on the way.
As my three brothers and I grew older, we managed to get ourselves thoroughly spread out across the country with one brother in each of the four continental time zones. This is significant because one of the brothers typically plans the reunion somewhere near his area of the country. From west to east, we live in California, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Here is the historical information about our reunions:
Springer Family Reunions
- 1988—Woman Lake (Minnesota)
- 1991—Buck’s Lake (California)
- 1994—Lapland Lake (New York)
- 1997—Breckenridge (Colorado)
- 1999—Arcata (California) Mom and Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary
- 2002—Paynesville (Minnesota)
- 2005—Luray (Virginia)
- 2008—Steamboat Springs (Colorado)
- 2011—Lake Tahoe (California)
- 2014—Trinidad (California)
- 2017—Trinidad (California)
- 2021—Two Harbors (Minnesota)
This year we stayed at the Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors, Minnesota. It was a lovely spot right on Lake Superior. As always, it wasn’t about what we did as much as it was about being together. There were hikes, a visit to Gooseberry Falls, butterfly outings, golf, games together most evenings, and lots of good food. Each family unit prepares dinner one night for everyone, and that’s part of the experience.
My brother, Jim, and sister-in-law, Nancy, started their own tradition as part of the reunions, marking each occasion with some article of clothing for everyone. I won’t remember everything they created over the years, but I recall hats, t-shirts, regular sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, and grilling aprons. This year my nephew, Tim, and his wife, Anna, supplied everyone with hooded sweatshirts to mark the occasion.
I don’t take the luxury of coming from a good family lightly. We had the most stable and loving upbringing. I knew that we were fortunate, but I learned to appreciate this fact more as I got older and saw the many fractured families from which my students came. There is no substitute for love and stability. Children raised in a home with love and discipline are more likely to be happy and successful.
One of the many things I learned from Mom and Dad was the value of money. They were very thrifty people who believed that there was no need to replace something if it was still usable. I remember many old clothes remained in their closets because they always said, “You never know when something might come back in style.” At their 50th wedding anniversary party, one of the mementos on hand was the original toaster that they got as a wedding gift. Being environmentalists, Mom and Dad encouraged us to recycle something whenever we could. They never tossed out food unless it had spoiled. Mom and Dad taught us the value of hard work, and each one of their four boys modeled this same behavior.
I make mention of their habits because they passed on many of their positive traits to us. It would be easy to mistake our parents’ thriftiness as cheap, but it was the complete opposite. Mom and Dad were generous with their money, and more importantly, with their time. They often made substantial donations to many organizations anonymously, but they also volunteered in their church and community. They did it for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.
One of the reasons I decided to write this post is because I have seen others who have had a falling out with other family members. I am aware of people who have not talked with a brother or sister in decades. In some cases, this situation persists because people can become quite stubborn. It seems it’s more important for them to be right than to think about the long-term consequences their actions are having on those around them. Children see these behaviors in their parents and may model them.
I taught elementary students for thirty-one years, and I often said that adults could learn a few things from watching children interact with one another. One beautiful quality that I admired in my 2nd and 3rd-grade students was their ability to forgive each other. It was more important to them to have friends and to get along. When they were upset, they wanted to make up with their friends right away. Forgiveness is one of the most important human traits. It is a model the rest of the adult world would do well to follow.
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for teaching us that family is essential. We will always look out for each other, and we will carry on the tradition you started for years to come.