For some people, a family reunion in Rehoboth Beach for 15 people, ages 8 to 84, with six on special diets, might seem like an impossible idea. Here’s how one family did it.
Andy, a family member in Atlanta, Ga., started the ball rolling for this year’s Fleming reunion by locating a rental house in Rehoboth Beach five months in advance for a June reunion. (Ten months or more is advised.).
Scott, another family member in Texas they called the “Czar,” got in touch with the owner and made the reservation. Dates chosen: June 6-13. All these negotiations were by email, text and phone. And, all of the arrangements and plans were shared with the family by email.
Family members from Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Delaware signed up to participate. Some began booking airline reservations and car rentals by email. One who could not do air travel stayed with a Lewes resident and family member so there were 13 at the rental house. All shared meals there.
“We communicated with each other even while we traveled to Rehoboth,” the group’s czar said. “The only time we weren’t in touch was when the planes took off and landed.” One of the flights was canceled and a five-hour delay kept people from coming to Philadelphia as planned. “We rented a mini-van and waited for them to arrive,” said Scott. “The rest went on to Rehoboth.”
Having someone on the ground in Rehoboth helped with advance visits to the house and arrivals. A meal was ready when all the weary travelers arrived in Rehoboth. Shopping for food for the first day was also done for them. One family shopped for special diet needs on their way to the rental house in Rehoboth. They had searched the web and saw that the store now has gluten-free tags on shelves to show where items are. “We were delighted,” said Andy.
The rental house did not supply linens but luckily, Betty, a family member, had some and sought help from her local friends. Family members tucked things like wash clothes, dish towels and bath towels and sheets into their luggage being ever mindful of the potential cost if linens had to be rented and the cost if their luggage was too heavy. This sounded really hard to accomplish, but don’t count out the generosity of local friends!
After a night’s rest, more food shopping took place for the one-week stay at the beach for both the usual beach meal needs and special diets. After a local referral, Atlanta shoppers Andy and Claire Lee-Fleming went to Hickman’s Meat Market after checking them out on the internet and later went there three or four times for high quality meats and chicken. “We liked the quality, the expert, custom cutting and the friendly, personalized service and advice,” said Andy, whose family has significant food allergies.
Luckily, the rented house had a large open kitchen with room for many cooks and helpers. Angelica, Claire and Becky shared the culinary honors with Andy doing the outdoor grilling. Everyone learned about special diet meals and how to make them palatable. Bob Jr. kept the kitchen stocked with treats.
Parking worked out even though it was the early summer season. Three parking spaces at the rental house and two parking passes for the week plus some quarters when needed worked out well. The house was three blocks from the Boardwalk and beach although those blocks were divided streets which made walking to the beach a challenge for some, but the reunion drivers soon found their way around. A great local map provided by the city for those buying parking passes was a big help in getting around either by foot or driving.
June weather was pleasant with only brief showers one day. The ocean was a little cool, but that didn’t discourage the beach-goers. Every day, they spent a leisurely time at the beach and then, they had a day or night visit to Funland, the amusement attraction on the Boardwalk. Youngsters such as Megan, Kate, Alena and Thomas as well as the adults loved the beach and Funland and were satisfied with those activities plus food and fellowship in their rental home. At another time, they could be interested in some sightseeing. Not this year!
Some who wanted to shop went to Browseabout Books and other shops near the Boardwalk, as well as the outlets. They also made Starbucks visits. Those who were interested in ”high tech” amusements included young 8-year old Thomas Fleming from Atlanta who used his dad’s laptop computer and iPad tablet computer to play math and video games.
Bob, the 82-year old grandfather spent time texting and sending messages in a computer version of Scrabble called “Words With Friends” with Krissy, his granddaughter from New York. They often texted to each other in the same room. But, on the low tech side, there were many group games of old-fashioned solitaire and other card games at the dining room table led by grandmother Lou.
Pizza from Grotto’s was a memorable meal with many different versions, including “Veggie Bianca,” featuring a seasoned white sauce and variety of veggies. There was even a gluten-free version. Those who stayed in Lewes picked up the order at Grand Slam. Not a piece was left.
Local musician Roo Brown brought her “Mixed Blessings” a cappella songsters to sing for the reunion group one morning. “You have a wonderful family,” she said afterwards.
Family members enjoyed watching the televised French Open tennis and New York Yankees games. There was a TV in every room.
The only down side of the reunion was the long and sometimes difficult travel to get here and return home. But, already, members of the group are talking about significant dates for a return visit. Two 80-year-old members celebrated their 80th birthdays this year. Someone has already begun talking about next year when “Uncle Gene” turns 85. There are more relatives in St. Louis and Kansas City who might, hopefully, be able to come next time.