We'd come to Surfside Beach, Texas (a few miles west of Galveston) for the 2013 Rosser Family Reunion, hosted by big-hearted members of the Texas Rosser branch named Steve and Millie. They'd rented four houses right on the beach, hiked up on stilts against winter storms, but high and dry in the late-June weather for us all to enjoy.
My husband and I had a beautiful private bedroom with a king-size bed and a balcony overlooking the beach. The kids had to share bunk-bed rooms, but they soon settled in.
We had a whole week to swim, visit local attractions, spend time with 80+ family members (some of whom we'd never met) and over-indulge on pot-luck meals served in the biggest house's kitchen and dining room. I didn't even attempt to compete in the matter of desserts prepared by the best home-cooks you can imagine! -- though I did contribute a salad or two.
One day we visited the Houston Zoo with most of the Wyoming contingent of the family (my husband's sister and one of his brothers). It was HOT.
But there were so many animals I'd never seen before, including an albino alligator. This beautiful creature is carefully washed with scrub-brushes by his attentive keepers on a regular schedule.
I even got to feed a giraffe!
In the evenings we relaxed on the balcony of the beach house while the grackles (which looked like crows with extra-long tails but screeched like jays) waited for us to drop food. (They were everywhere, like camp robbers at an Oregon campground).
The next day we drove a rental car that was far nicer than anything we had at home, into Galveston to visit the Moody Gardens Pyramid Aquarium. It was an amazing, shiny blue pyramid structure, filled with sea lions, penguins, sea turtles and sharks.
My husband took a picture of me and the kids in a shark cage.
Hmm. I wonder if maybe he was thinking of keeping us there. . .
The Rossers are a musical bunch, and several evenings there was singing and guitar-playing. The houses were filled with children, from newborns to teenagers. They all seemed to have fun, especially the ones who were the right age for scavenger hunts and kite-flying.
One little niece celebrated her first birthday on Friday afternoon.
Everyone got along, everyone teased and laughed and reminisced. And the last night was a huge party with a band, lots of Rosser talent, and dancing.
I danced a little myself in my family reunion red T-shirt...
Here's my husband, his dad and our kids in the T-shirts.
Aren't they adorable?
The next day we had to fly home-- and we almost missed our flight! Our GPS unit didn't seem to understand that there was construction on the Sam Houston Parkway, and it kept telling us to take on-ramps that didn't exist. But we did arrive at the airport with 45 minutes to make our flight, and managed to check in and get in line just as the plane was boarding. I was so stressed out and relieved to have made it after all, that I fell asleep on the plane-- something I normally never do.
But the best thing about the trip was the amazing feeling of being surrounded by loved ones -- even those we'd never met before! The stress of daily life and our continued struggles in this economy melted away in the warmth and generosity of this wonderful family. We couldn't seem to stop them blessing us-- and we never could have made the trip without them.
In fact, one morning as I soaked in the huge garden tub, enjoying the peace and relaxation, I felt the Spirit of God speaking gently in my heart. "You are always this safe, this taken care of, even when you don't see or feel it," it felt like He said. And I knew this message was the family's gift to me.
Rossers, you are all amazing.
Marrying into this family was one of the best things I ever did.