Summer hosts outdoor parties, picnics, clambakes, and reunions. These gatherings go by several names. My family has such a party each summer at my parents’ house. It goes by a few names—The Family Picnic or Clambake, The Reunion, The Crazy Truglio Day (as neighbors may refer). It doesn’t matter what it is called. Everyone knows the drill.
My parents’ big house has a vast yard that overlooks the Great South Bay. Dad built winch systems to lift small boats in and out of the water, ladders and anchor moorings so we could all play in and on the bay through the summer and into the fall. Since 1968, the homestead has been the perfect venue for gatherings of all sizes including, but not limited to, weddings, birthday bashes, anniversary parties, and graduation celebrations. Everyone looks forward to the Family Picnic/Clambake.
On the designated day, relations, and those who have been with the family for so long we consider them relations, converge for a day, sometimes two. Three to four generations hugged, gossip, eat, and exclaim how big the kids had grown. They come from neighboring Long Island suburbs, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. Some arrive by boat—weather permitting. Long distant relatives do not come every year, but there is always a cousin or three who show up from California, Florida, Oregon, or Italy.
Eating is a big part of the day. Over the years, we come to expect certain dishes cooked by certain people. Aunt Linda brings her sausage and peppers. Beautiful and delicious baked treats by Aunt Maryann temp little hands. Antipasto platters (I think it is called charcuterie boards now), eggplant parmesan, meatballs and ziti, and hamburgers and hot dogs fill the patio tables. Freshly dug up clams are steamed on the grill or shucked and slurped down whole. All day, the grill masters work their magic and the oven has a constant stream of food trays going in and coming out.
Play is a big part of the day. The bay is the backyard pool. Kids of all ages challenge each other to jump the farthest off the dock and who makes the biggest splash. If the bay is calm and there is a working speed boat, then water skiing and tubing rides happen.
By mid-afternoon, my dad would call out “Who wants to go for a boat ride?” Like the Pied Piper, a crew of cousins would follow him around the corner to the canal and board the Trulee, the 42 foot Morgan sailboat for a meandering sail. The boat could fit Everyone. Spirited bocce games would play out in the backyard and volleyball tournaments in the front yard. The little ones would dive on Slip-n-Slides and splash in kiddie pools. Stories are told all day and into the night.
Over the years, the Family Picnic evolved. Babies and in-laws are added. Losses are suffered. We miss our elders and those who left us too early. My dad and his brother, Uncle Vic, are the latest loss and the voids remain raw.
The 2022 Family Picnic will be the first one since COVID restricted our lives—since my dad and uncle’s passings. We had an experiment one last summer with just the immediate family. It was a good day, but not the same. Lots of things are not the same.
Instead of abandoning the tradition, my family decided to revive the celebration.
Our calendars have the first Saturday in August marked. It will be different, but that is how life works. New faces and missed faces will mix the familiar faces. Expected dishes and a few new ones (there is a vegan and vegetarian contingency in the clan) will fill the tables. Lots of hugs and exclamations of how big the kids grew and the stories will echo through the day.
Have a good week, Everyone. Make it Funtastic!
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