So my dad is from a tiny town in Michigan called Tawas, and he's the oldest of seven kids, so when the entire Wood family gets together it's considered a reunion despite the fact that it happens about twice a year.
I think the last time I visited Tawas was when I was about 12 years old, so I had to put a lot of names to faces this weekend and admit to several of my adult cousins that my only memories of them are from when they were babies.
My dad's been asking me to go on the Tawas trip for several years now, but I've been working over the Fourth of July for the past three or four years. This was the first year in a long time that I work at a family-oriented place that actually takes days off for holidays. I was able to spend four days hanging out with most of my 15 cousins, five aunts and uncles, grandparents - watching a Fourth of July parade, playing volleyball in Aunt Julie's backyard, watching the famously terrible Tawas City fireworks show, commandeering a 20-year-old kid's jet ski on Lake Huron. Small town life in the North is vastly different from the South and even more vastly different from the Midwest, and while I love hanging out in small towns and learning their differences I continue to be grateful that I live in a somewhat big city.
I'm also really grateful that I got to make the trip this year, and I hope in the future I can visit more often than every 13 years. About a year and a half ago I decided to leave a career path for which I was very passionate. I had a lot of reasons for quitting theater, but one glaring issue was that I worked all the time and was meant to prioritize my job over everything else. I was missing weddings, birthdays, family events all in the name of being passionate about my job. Being passionate about your job is cool and all, but being able to see 30 members of your family that you rarely ever get to see is way cooler.