With our family spread all around Australia plus a few in the USA, it is rare for all of us to get together. Since the kids have grown and spread their wings, the brood is getting bigger, so we make the most of any chance we get to spend time together.
In 2010 we travelled from Perth to Melbourne for one of these rare events, a Wood family reunion, held from March 27 till April 12. It was the second such event, the first being the family gathering in Ulladulla in 2006.
Here are some of the highlights.
Day 1: Perth to Melbourne
It was the first-ever flight for Jetson and the first that Olive could remember. Thankfully our infant Jetson had a good sleep for much of the flight, and Olive was so excited about it all she kept herself occupied too. It was a surprising arrival at the Tiger Airways arrival terminal, it was so basic we thought we had arrived in Asia! The barrage carousel was out in the elements, enclosed in a wire cage. It was a challenge juggling two kids and all our luggage out through the turnstile. It took us quite a while to get to the main terminal, pick up the hire car and put in the car seat. We finally reached Epping by late afternoon, and Olive did not take long to reconnect to her cousins who had been impatiently waiting.
Day 2: Sunday
We were straight into the family catchup mode with a gathering with mum’s extended family, a Mason family BBQ at Edwardes Lake. There was a bigger turn out of the Mason clan than usual, it was great to catch up with Luke, Jimmy, Bec as well as the usual crew, and great to be back where young Robbie spent a lot of his weekend’s running around the track.
Day 3: Monday
A business day, Rob had a meeting with a real estate company to discuss transferring our Melbourne investment property to them, which went well with a better deal for us. Not only can we claim this meeting as a tax deduction, but it is also going to save us money in the long term.
Day 4: Tuesday
It was raining, no surprise for a Melbourne day as it was fine yesterday, and our morning catchup with Leanne was not looking promising. Thankfully on the drive to CERES the rain cleared (also not a surprise) and we had a lovely time catching up with her and some of her workmates. We were back in familiar territory, as this cafe was one of our locals when we live in nearby Fitzroy North a few years ago. In the afternoon we dropped Olive off at Leanne’s for a sleepover, and Clare took the opportunity to go to the movies and see Avatar in 3D, the latest blockbuster.
Days 5: March 31
We had a family outing to the Melbourne Zoo, which we had been promising Olive for months. The highlights were the butterfly house and the baby elephant Mali. Ali and Reggie came along too, however, dad pulled the pin at the last minute.
Day 6: Thursday
It’s all about catch-ups! Clare went to catch up with a couple of the ladies from her old Mother’s group in Fitzroy North. It was another catchup with an old friend in the evening with dinner at Groove Train at the Docklands – Rob’s old schoolmate Joe owns the place and we had a great (free) meal and reminisce.
Day 7: Good Friday
It was a challenge to find a place open on this public holiday. We drove into Ivanhoe and strolled up and down the street to find the best place to meet Lois and Wisey for lunch. It was a bit cool, but the courtyard at the back was great to keep the kids occupied while the adult’s chatted.
Another sleepover for Olive at the Richards’ household. This way she would be able to have a special morning, waking up with her cousins on Easter morning. On the way home, Rob dropped into Epping Plaza for some last-minute easter egg shopping – a few bargains were to be had. We should leave it to the last minute more often. In the evening, we took the opportunity to go out for a kid-free meal – a lovely Chinese-Malaysian meal in Mill Park.
Day 9: Easter Sunday
While Olive was collecting chocolate eggs at Leanne’s, the rest of the family enjoyed a quieter morning and some eggs of our own from mum and dad. We picked up Olive and stayed for lunch – a great whip-up meal by Paul, utilising some produce from his garden.
We moved the visit of Gerald and Irene to the morning, so we could go to the footy in the afternoon. We saw an exciting game between Hawthorn and Geelong at the MCG. Thanks to Paul we got member’s guest tickets, and thanks to Leanne we got a better second level reserved seat.
We took the train into the city. It was the school holidays, so there was plenty on offer for kids. Olive joined a free circus skills workshop. We met Lois for lunch on our favourite food strip – the Asian food restaurants at the top of Swanston St. It was a tiring day for Olive and Jetson, and at the end, they were sleeping so we enjoyed the peacefulness with a customary coffee in a busy Melbourne laneway. We came back to a busy house, preparing for a well-anticipated visit from Uncle John (uncle Johnny!).
We picked up cousin Dan from the airport, then continued up to Echuca for the official start of our reunion. Our cabins in Echuca (actually Moama across the river) were perfect for our family catchup. A BBQ meal was a great way to catch up with the Stanny Woods who have come down from Sydney. The last to join us, Michael and his family did not arrive until late in the evening.
We were very grateful to Peter and Penelope for bringing their bikes. Everyone was having a loan. We rode the bikes into Echuca. It was a hard slog for Jacob who got a flat on the way and had to finish the ride with a very flat tyre. Olive was very excited about the horse and carriage on the main street, so Rob and she went for a ride. For our evening meal, we had pasta night with each family making a different pasta to share.
We drove into town for coffee at a nice cafe in the historic port area, Wisteria. We continued the family gathering for lunch at the park by the Murray River. We, unfortunately, got a parking ticket, we did not expect to stay in town that long. In the evening we had the big family gathering at the Star Hotel in honour of mum and dad’s 50th anniversary.
Mum toiled away most of the morning making a special butterfly birthday cake for Olive. After the birthday celebration, most of us went to play mini-golf, only just arriving before closing time.
It was pack up and time to say goodbye time before everyone heads off their separate ways. We drove back to Melbourne via Shepparton, and a play at the KidsTown playground, then a stop at Murchinson bakery for lunch.
We left what we thought was early for the airport, though things took longer than planned. It was a rush to return our car and check-in our excess gear. We made it just in time with help from mum who came out to see us off. Thankfully, once we were on the plane, it was another pleasant flight back with the kids well behaved again. Olive was particularly glad to be home again, and back to her Dora bed.