There’s an old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that states: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” I tend to think that fish is smelly from the get-go, and guests? Well, it depends on who they are. We once had 52 relatives stay with us for a weeklong Fourth of July celebration and never tired of them.

Some of the British cousins whose trip to the U.S. kicked off a weeklong Fourth of July family reunion. Fifty-two relatives – in guest rooms, tents, motor homes, campers and travel trailers – gathered at Sandra Crompton Messier’s China home. Photo courtesy of Sandra Crompton Messier

The whole shebang started when my four long-lost adult cousins from England came for an extended stay with us. The rest of my large family wanted to meet them, too, so we invited everyone for a bit of fun. Our only concern was that our septic system, might be taxed with all the extra flushing, but many of our family planned on driving up in their RVs, so we figured that would help with the burden.

A few days before the Fourth, people began trickling in. From our mothers and aunt and uncle, to sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, their families and their dogs, they arrived from Virginia, Rhode Island and Connecticut to meet or get reacquainted with our British relatives. Some were in campers, others brought tents. The older folk claimed the extra bedroom and our enclosed porch, while some of the younger ones used our camper, our van and a couple of our tents. Motor homes and various-sized travel trailers maneuvered for spots in our back yard. It was chaotic but wonderful.

During the days, we played badminton, bocce and horseshoes. Smaller groups went exploring in our woods, or drove up to the next town and hiked to a local waterfall. We went for walks, rides on bicycles and the four-wheeler, played cards and board games. We pitched in to make our meals and enjoyed sitting by the campfire, telling stories, and catching up with one another.

Our kitchen and two bathrooms got used a lot. A. Lot. Washing the never-ending supply of dirty dishes, taking showers, brushing teeth – you get the idea. The younger children scampered and scurried about, reveling in the freedom of the moment and happily playing with their cousins. Babies giggled gleefully as the grownups passed them off to outstretched hands. Our home bustled with music, joking, laughter and love.

At the end of the week, people began packing up. Some of us gathered the children together to keep them out of the way, while others helped coordinate the logistics of moving the campers out of the yard and onto the road. Family members hugged, loaded into their vehicles and waved goodbye as they traveled down the road and out of sight. We never had a problem with the septic system, nor did any of our guests ever begin to smell.

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