Looks like we got ourselves a HooHah!


‘The Family Reunion, taken to a whole new (Henry) level’

Well, no one who appeared in one of my commercials died this week. (Are you still out there, Betty White?) Or not that I know of, anyway. So “HooHah” story it is.

Now let me be clear. The Henrys did not invent the “Family Reunion.” Family reunions have been around, oh, I’d say probably since the invention of Large Extended Families. No doubt some of you readers can recall sticky gatherings of seldom-seen aunts, uncles, and cousins featuring picnic tables laden with summer dishes like jello salads (urk) and glorified rice (yum). Games like Corn Hole (a real “thing”, I kid you not) and wiffle ball and sometimes even croquet would be played (though our “croquet” was decidedly non-Downton-Abbey-esque, involving lots of violent “sending” of opponents’, i.e. younger cousins’, balls, resulting in much wailing).

Gathering of the Henry Clan featuring sweaty, crying cousins (I’m down in front next to the boy sucking his thumb)

The other side of my family, the Petersons, had Family Reunions too. They even gave theirs an idiosyncratic name. I dimly recall attending something called the PAL Reunion in Belvidere Park. (This was in Belvidere, Illinois, the closest metropolitan area/gathering place for my farm-residing relations.) The “PAL” stood for, I believe, Peterson, Anderson, and Lindstrom. Yup, these were the Swedes. 

A couple of great aunts whooping it up, PAL style. That’s me being awkwardly held by a somewhat-older second cousin

Now, the Swedes did know how to have fun. But suffice it to say that their brand of hilarity was, well, subtle. The Petersons’ idea of crazy out-there behavior would be to have a second slice of raspberry pie. And maybe, if they were feeling really wild, they’d let you heat up their coffee. (Yes, they brought coffee to these reunions. Swedes never go anywhere without an adequate supply of coffee.)

Needless to say, these PAL affairs were alcohol-free, which could have been one reason they were so, well, sober. In fact, to this very day I can’t recall anything but coffee served at any gathering of Petersons. (Well, sometimes my Gramma P would have some Silver Tea, which was, I kid you not, hot water served in a tea cup.) Oh, in later years some of my cousins would furtively sip from beer cans during gift-opening at Christmas. And I remember one time when somebody brought a bottle of wine, which my Aunt Marilyn served in teensy-weensy cordials glasses. One bottle. For, like, 17 of us.

But even those sedate Petersons were raucous compared to those Wacky WASPs I married into. The Dude’s family has fun together (I guess), but I honestly can’t remember them even having a Family Reunion, much less one with an idiosyncratic nickname. Gosh, maybe they did and I just wasn’t invited (!)

The Dude’s Fam poses outdoors in summer attire (Dude second from left). I’m not sure what the occasion was, but it sure doesn’t look like a lot of Hooin’ or even Hahin’ was going on

But back to the Henrys (thank goodness). These HooHahs evolved from gatherings we used to call WCT, which was short for “Wayne’s Camping Trip”. Wayne, AKA The Dude, used to go camping with a bunch of buddies each summer.  Some Henry would ask “when’s Wayne’s camping trip?”, I’d go “it’s coming up in August”, then take the opportunity of his absence to fill our Amagansett house with as many sibs and kids who could squeeze in. So we just started calling the gathering “Wayne’s Camping Trip”, even though there was no “Wayne” — or even camping — involved.

The last WCT, held in (I think) ’01. Note how hot and sweaty we all look

These WCT hoedowns were, in fact, pretty fun, until our numbers grew so that we were stacked like cordwood in my gosh-it’s-nice-but-wish-it-were-bigger-even-with-no-Wayne-in-it house. That last year we even had a nephew stashed in the stairwell.

So my Youngest Younger Brother Doug came up with a solution: we’d get together in a venue that could hold us all. Which happened to be, that first year and for a couple of memorable times after, at a former boys’ camp in Maine. This place had it all: mountains to climb, a lake (called, believe it or not, Lake Wayne) to swim/canoe/fish in, and a big ole main house where we could gather for meals and games and wine-fueled crazy nonsense, Henrys definitely not being teetotalers. Oh, and there were little cabins we didn’t have to share with anyone else (well, unless you count mice).

Now, I honestly can’t recall which of my sibs came up with the name “HooHah”. Could’ve been any of them, hilarious as they all are. And, speaking of hilarious, those HooHahs certainly were.

We had fun all day and all night too. S’mores were consumed after giant vats of industrial-sized-kitchen-brewed chili. Movies were watched on screens fashioned from sheets. (‘The Princess Bride’ was a big hit. I’d resisted seeing it for years, thinking it was a — yuck — animated kids’ movie.) And, of course, we played games — some silly, and some even sillier. One night we even gave each other (temporary, thank goodness) tattoos. This was back when tattoos were shocking and when we tried to get our kids not to have them. (Friend-and-Fellow-Mom Linda to her teen: “No, that’s not an anus tattooed on my ankle. That used to be a butterfly. And that’s what happens when you get a tattoo.”

Mom shows off her thank-god-it’s-only-temporary HooHah tattoo

We Henrys are still aHooin’ and aHahin’, I’m happy to say. Though the regularity of our gatherings has slowed somewhat — kids having grown and flown the coop and all. Why, we recently got together for a pretty darned good HooHah out West. I don’t have a Great Group Photo yet, though Nephew Phil’s Wife Jessica’s sister took one on the steps of the fab HooHah House that Favorite-and-Only Sister Laura found for us in lovely Gearhart, Oregon.

I promise to share that Great Group Photo — and maybe more stories if I’ve had enough wine. But, in the meantime, in closing, here’s one of my favorite shots, featuring the newest — and definitely most adorable — HooHah guest ever:

HooHah welcomes our latest celebrant, Miss Madeleine Henry. (Note wine-toting great aunt in background)

Amagansett, New York. August 2017

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28 thoughts on “Looks like we got ourselves a HooHah!

  1. My daughter’s boyfriend has included her in a group activity that involves a bunch of his friends around the area where his family now lives and where he went to high school, just outside of Chattanooga, TN. They call it “mansgiving.” This event is of course held around Thanksgiving, day after I think, as you might have guessed from its name. They play a lot of outdoor games, most of them involving teams, usually of mixed gender, and eat a lot of different meats. I hope this event continues and grows, which I believe it has over the last several years, even though many of the original participants are now living in various other locales. Sadly, though, one of the married couples that I believe attended this event (or was it the annual out state trips daughter’s boyfriend’s college group of friends plan?) is already in the process of divorcing, which came as a shock to whatever group of daughter’s boyfriends friends they are in. They plan to stay friends, though, but probably only after pet visitation schedules have been settled. Gotta love this younger generation, I guess.

    • Well! I hardly know where to start. First, I absolutely adore gatherings of the family-and-friends kind. Second, if there’s anything I adore more, it’s Thanksgiving. So hooray to your daughter’s BF and friends. As for the divorcing couple, I can’t really throw stones, as they say, having divorced early myself. What doesn’t kill you makes you strong. Or maybe better friends? Anyway, I love Mansgiving (!)

    • Omigoodness! Where does the time go? Here it is October, and I just realized I never replied to your comment. And I don’t even have a Hoo Hah to blame! Please accept my belated-but-sincere thanks, and yes, we did — and do — have heaps of fun (!)

  2. my grandmother loves HooHas! Though I don’t remember the last reunion she had. Must be 8 or 9 years ago when Crash was just a baby. Or perhaps it was even before that when DW was still pregnant. There were 50+ people there and I knew a dozen of them. Yours sound more fun with sleepovers and wine and fishing!

    • I don’t know, StomperDad. I bet any gathering would be a blast with you and yours there! But I do have to admit that hanging out for a day or two (instead of just a few hours) does make it all even more fun. Say hi to your HooHah-lovin’ grandmother for me (!) xoxo

      • It was my aunt who ended up in the hospital for 3 days because of a slip-n-slide accident (compressed fracture in a vertabrae). Can only imagine what would happen over a few days!

          • No worries. My mom was already in a wheel chair because she broke her foot less than week earlier at the playground with her grandkids. Every time Bang sees an ambulance now (no matter where we are) he says “There goes Aunt Debbie!” Our family has learned to laugh at themselves because everyone else is already laughing. (Side note: even though we were laughing, we were genuinely concerned made sure she was okay and went to visit her)

          • Omigoodness! It just gets better and better (or worse and worse!) Seriously, I wish your family good health and fewer accidents in future. And I send you all my best hopes for pain-free family gatherings! (she said while guffawing at Bang’s ‘Aunt Debbie’ comment) xoxo

          • The ambulance was at our neighbor’s house and he asked if that was Aunt Debbie. We see them go by on the highway and he says, “There goes Aunt Debbie”. We live 1100 miles away from said Aunt 🙂 And when my mom broke her ankle at the playground my nephew asked, “Is she dead?”

  3. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Loved this piece, Alice, and loved seeing your Mom at David’s recently. There’s nobody like her! I’ll always miss having her close by! Madelaine is so cute! Roger’s not tooooo proud of his granddaughter, ha, ha.

    • Hey there, Ruth! Loved that you loved this one. Families — and family get-togethers, whatever you call them, are the BEST. And, since we’ve always considered you “family”, so glad Mom got to get together with you for Harold’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mr. Meisenheimer!!! Happy Get-Together, Ruth!!!

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