Here we go, my first official guest post. Patrick is here to start telling his side of the story. The starting point… PEI weeks… AKA the M family “reunion.” His explanation of why it isn’t all as crazy as I make it out to be. The first of a few of Patrick guest posts, where he looks at the other side of the craziness that is our life and other relevant matters.
First, allow me to introduce myself. I am Patrick, Trisha’s wonderful (if you believe all the lovely things she has said about me) husband. I must take this opportunity to say she is an amazing wife and best friend, much more than she’d ever take credit for!
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ll tell you what PEI means to me starting at the beginning… 17 years ago- long before I even met Trisha and likely before I had any interest in girls at all! I’ve gone to PEI with my family almost every summer since with the photographic evidence to prove it but more on that later. Don’t worry I’m’ not going to give a year by year account or anything. That would be difficult anyway since they all tend to blend together and/or I forget half my childhood as Trisha likes to joke. It’s true that I don’t always remember my childhood vividly but I like to view it as remembering the highlights! I may not remember the first time I stepped onto the red PEI soil but I do remember the countless days of fun I’ve had on it.
As Trisha has alluded to in previous posts my family on my Dad’s side is a small army and proud of it. As one of my Uncles during last year’s trip said “We are like the Kennedys but without the money”. Most of the M family is based in one city in NB but there are people who come as far away as Ottawa with kids in tow. When it comes to the annual trip to PEI we M’s take the expression “Go big or go home” seriously. When you have 40- 50 people staying in the same place each year it has the potential for lots of fun or controlled chaos as Trisha might describe it. By same place I’m not only referring to PEI itself, I’m referring to the same set of cabins/big house/chalets just above a beautiful mostly private beach. I think that one of the reasons I enjoy going back to PEI every year now that I’m older is that it’s like going to a place where time has stood still. Granted the accommodations have been modernized to include nice (but unnecessary in my humble opinion) Chalets with satellite, Wi-Fi etc and even the landscape of the beach has changed a bit as cliffs have naturally eroded. However, for the most part it looks the exact same as when the M clan first descended upon the area which is amazing to me in our ever-changing world. In fact, one of my Aunts traced the M family tree and discovered that the first place the M’s came when we first immigrated from Ireland was none other than PEI. So you could say in a way we are returning to our roots!
The week spent in PEI with my brother, sister, parents and everyone was one of if not thehighlight of every summer. The beach was basically in the back yard only a stair case walk down from the cabins we stayed at pre-chalets. We basically had it all to ourselves besides a couple other small families and people much farther away on the public side. The beach as pictured below is beautiful with the perfect sand for building sand castle villages, sand sculptures, holes that become hot tubs, burying people and/or being buried. The ocean is also teeming with creatures such as jellyfish, fish, crabs, lobster, mussels (all of which were caught at one time) and more. I know many people wouldn’t see swimming with sea creatures especially crabs and jellyfish as that appealing but as a child and to be honest even now it was very cool to be swimming with these weird creatures in their home. As young kids myself, brother and many cousins would enjoy catching large or small jellyfish in buckets and showing them to our aunts/uncles/parents to oohs and ahhs. The same can be said about crabs, but before you think our parents should have been given a visit by social services, it was all under the watchful eyes of the many adults around us. We were shown and encouraged to pick up the crabs the proper way so they couldn’t get us with their claws and although the crabs did get the best of us a time or two no one was ever seriously hurt. One cousin figured out the crabs would grab unto a stick if you put it under them so that became our go-to method of catching them. The crabs were particularly plentiful one year and we caught at least a dozen of them. I wish we could say we released every creature or crab we caught but a few of those crabs were left in the bucket a little too long and ended up being thrown into a bonfire later that night.
Speaking of which, bonfires have always been awesome and something we did a couple times during the week on the beach complete with marshmallows, s’moores, hot dogs and impromptu family sing-alongs which are hilarious with the different colorful characters in the M family.
Today I revel in the natural beauty of beach and ecosystem that is the Atlantic Ocean. I was actually disappointed this year when I didn’t see many jellyfish or crabs……that is until I stepped on a crab which let me know by a good pinch to my foot that it didn’t appreciate being encroached upon. In my defense I didn’t even see it as my eyesight is much worse than when I was a kid and only needed reading glasses. I asked my Mom (whose eyesight isn’t that much better) if she could see the crab which she couldn’t but she felt it give her the same greeting and we think we saw it scurry away. I tried to get my older brother who doesn’t wear glasses to come take a closer look but he oddly refused.
We also spent many of our nights at the “big house,” a large farm style house, where a good chunk of crew stays for the week. In the kitchen/dining room we pig out on junk food and play card games, board games (like Scrabble which my Aunts always whooped me at), and the fun but hazardous “Spoons”. Some years my very creative Aunt from Ottawa organized a radio style play we all had a part in, or a game show such as “Who wants to be a millionaire” but with questions about members of the M family. Not to mention the amazing themed treasure hunt/game Trisha described in yesterday’s post. Nothing is more awesome as a child then running around with your cousins getting clues from pirates or gypsies while being shot at by water balloons or guns in search of a treasure that you actually dig for on the beach that included toys, money, candy or all of the above. Now I enjoy watching the children run around and the adults being characters (as if they weren’t already a character in their own right). I’m hoping to be one of the characters one of these times.
Besides spending a lot of time at the beach and the big house, there were other traditions we would do every year which included horseback trail riding (we sometimes took up every horse), deep sea fishing (filled up a boat and sometimes even had to split up and go on another one), amusement parks, mini-golfing and one of my personal favorites the drive-in movie! I love the drive-in because its classic, old fashioned fun. It’s another case of stepping back in time even though drive-ins were replaced be movie theatres before I was born. Many of the other group outings have been stopped or replaced by other things but the Drive-in is one that has never stopped. Of course, with a group of our size we couldn’t just show up at places last minute and would often book/arrive early- the drive-in being no exception. We showed up more than an hour before the gates opened, however not only to park our cars in the first row- but to get the best seats in the house- the area in front of the screen where all of us plunked down together in camping chairs, blankets or the small grandstand to watch it together. Since we had a long wait we would get out of the cars parked in the line-up we would amuse ourselves by having impromptu games of catch. We also sometimes walked to the mini-golf course next door and played a round because we had that much time. But it was worth it and all part of the experience.
I was very worried this year when there was a good chance Trisha and I would miss out on part or most of the Drive-in since we couldn’t leave till after she got off work. But we made it in record time with a little luck, very quick pit stops and maybe a little speeding too. I wouldn’t have been heartbroken if I missed the movies they were showing-it was the whole experience M-family style that I really didn’t want to miss.
The same can said about the entire M PEI vacation. When my siblings and I got older we naturally started working in the summers so we no longer go for the entire week. However, we always make sure we got the weekend off to join everyone because experience has shown on the rare occasions I couldn’t attend that a summer without the PEI M vacation just doesn’t feel right to say the least.
We are no longer children but we have had the fun of watching the next generation of cousins grow up before our very eyes. For example, I remember nervously holding a baby around a bonfire (not too close to the flames though) who is now a seven year old boy who tries to stay up even when he is really tired and sneak snacks late at night (with Trisha’s help). I could go on and on about PEI and everything it means for me but I’ll try and sum it up. I think PEI is so magical and special to me because it’s a place where I have done/do some of my favorite things with some of my favorite people-my family.
Of course when you are born and raised in that environment all of the above is very normal and since we know each other so well its easy to forget how many of you there is. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when Trisha was overwhelmed on her first PEI M vacation (or any other full-fledged M occasion for that matter) last year. I regret now how disappointed/upset I was when she didn’t have as much fun as I assumed she would. I think part of it was that being the hopeless romantic I am, I had dreamed about having a wife to share the experience with as I walked upon the beach- I just hadn’t realized the culture shock she might have. Don’t get me wrong though Trisha exceeds the dreams I had and loves my large M family even more as time goes by. I happily walked the beach and enjoyed the ocean with Trisha this year. Nevertheless, I was still pleasantly surprised and overjoyed that she enjoyed a lot more this year and may want to go there for even longer next year. I’ve also long imagined bringing my future children along for the ride and look forward to doing so in the not too distant future. But I don’t think that we will be staying in the Chalets that are fully hooked into the world. No, we will be experiencing it how it’s meant to be in the basic but adequate cabins with no noise but the waves crashing below… and hopefully a large group of people chatting and playing games together.