The Belly Laugh

The year rolled around, and it was suddenly time for the family reunion, or Grandma's party, as we all used to call it in the old days. For the family reunion on my father's side is always held on the Sunday in July that is closest to my grandmother's birthday.

My father and brother and several cousins are members of a hunting camp in Juniata County, along Lost Creek, and that's where we gather. People drive for miles, bring food, hang out for the afternoon, walk up to the falls, take some pictures, enjoy time with family, dip their hot toes in the cold, clear mountain water.

Alas, it has somehow - accidentally - become an unlucky event for my oldest sister. One year, her dog died on that day and she did not make it up to visit us. Another year, she tumbled down an embankment and fell in the creek head-first.

The year after that, she wrecked her car. And last year, she was in the hospital, with the physicians telling us she was dead for all practical purposes, and that all that was left was the decision of when to turn off the machines. (But then she went ahead and proved them all wrong; she had a miraculous recovery, and she and I returned to the beach last month to celebrate!)

So she told me a few days before the reunion that she wasn't coming. It wasn't a good day for her; somehow things always took an unlucky turn. But on Sunday morning, she changed her mind. And so who did I see at the family reunion but a bunch of my favorite people, including my big sister?

Before the family potluck meal, a group of us walked up to the falls on Lost Creek. It is a well-known spot to all the area locals. The water in the creek is cold and refreshing any time of year, and the woods are cooler than the surrounding area.

My cousin and I had been walking behind the main group, taking pictures of the scenery. It felt like I had come back to my true home, the shady mountain where I grew up. Sidebar: It was warm enough that my husband and I had actually gone wading in Lost Creek on Christmas day last year; a first for us, and possibly a thing we will never get to do again.

And so it was that once we arrived at the falls, we all had to take off our shoes and wade in the creek. I was taking pictures of the falls, taking pictures of my cousin taking pictures of the falls, taking pictures of family. I had the camera in my hand and was taking pictures of my sister's and my feet in the water, when my husband asked for my camera so he could take a few shots of the two of us sitting there.

He took a couple of straight shots of us, with us smiling and looking well organized and proper. But for the last shot, he ripped his shirt up and showed us the fuzz on his belly and chest: "Do you see my fuzzy belly? Nobody can resist! Try to hold yourselves back!"

Then he snapped our picture as we laughed. I myself am on the right, with my mouth wide open laughing, as per usual. That's my oldest sister on the left, and I think she's trying to hold herself back from attacking him with gusto (for surely that fuzzy belly IS a difficult thing to resist!).

Then we put our shoes back on and walked down through the woods and had our meal. And from there we went to my mom and dad's house to visit for a bit before heading home. My little sister cut us a cauliflower from my father's garden, and I danced around the yard wearing it on my head like a Carmen Miranda hat. Yes, I can be silly that way; when given the chance to sit it out or dance, I always choose to dance . . . no matter HOW many funny looks I get.

I look back upon last year and realize again how fortunate we all are, and I am grateful. What a difference a year can make. I am happy to have been laughing rather than crying on this day, and I know at least ONE other gal who thinks so too!

Hats off to Mr. Fuzzy Belly for this shot, by the way. Thank you, dear husband, who provided the original fuzzy belly that gave my sister and me such a great big belly laugh, and then preserved that moment forever.   <3

The soundtrack: John Mellencamp, Between a Laugh and a Tear.

Prior family reunion shots and stories:
2012 - Caution: Ent Crossing!
2013 - My Father and His Two Sisters, Laughing
2014 - Cool and Green and Shady
2015 - A Walk to the Falls

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