The glorious tradition of Sib Weekend

The glorious tradition of Sib Weekend

By Juhi Pande | 5 September, 2015

read somewhere that you can use a bowl and a magazine to catch it. 

“Well, we used laundry baskets on our heads and got some tennis rackets for extra protection.”

“What if it hides all day and his friends come and join him at night? That won’t be fun.”

It’s early morning in a large house in New Hampshire. I’ve come down for breakfast to the kitchen and there’s a smattering of people hanging around discussing various ways to catch/deal with a bat. Patty Woo, the one behind the bowl and magazine suggestion, found a bat flying around her room the previous night, and, like any normal person, freaked out a little. She is one of five Woo siblings. And the reason there are 18 people congregated in a large house in New Hampshire discussing bat-catching methods is because it is
Sibling Weekend.

The youngest Woo sister, Barbara, started the tradition of Sib Weekend — as it is officially known — 32 years ago with a trip to Maine. The getaway was to revolve around white water rafting down the Kennebec River. The success of this two-day white water rafting trip, which included extreme water splashing competitions (as well as general races down the river), led to the foundation of Sib Weekend. 

The idea was simple. All five siblings — Elaine, Beverly, David, Patty and Barbara — would find one weekend every year, get out of the city, and spend two days reading, swimming, playing games (board and otherwise), hiking, biking, cooking, eating and spending time with each other. All their significant others were invited, and as time went by, children started to get invited come along too.  

The idea was simple. All five siblings — Elaine, Beverly, David, Patty and Barbara — would find one weekend every year, get out of the city, and spend two days reading, swimming, playing games (board and otherwise), hiking, biking, cooking, eating and spending time with each other. All their significant others were invited, and as time went by, children started to get invited come along too.  

I was initiated to Sib Weekend in 2012 by Elaine’s son, and also my husband, Michael (who was then my boyfriend). I hadn’t understood the enormity of the tradition until I was (somewhat) immersed in it. This was the first time I was meeting Elaine, so naturally I was a tad nervous. But within two hours of landing in Boston and warm effusive hugs and introductions later, we were all stacked into a car full of food and bags, and headed towards Rockport. The next two days were a blur, not because I met all the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandfather, but because there was so much to do, and a whole lot more to eat.

The Woo siblings are a formidable force. Three are doctors (Elaine, Beverly and Barbara), Patty has her own talent management agency and David is a retired math teacher. But that’s not what hits you if you spend a weekend with them. Love for food (special shout out to steak, oysters and foie gras), the inherent need to win everything (Scrabble, card games, any sport including jigsaw puzzles and dominoes), the virtue of never giving up (explained clearly by a game of Kubb that lasted roughly 2,000 hours), and a closeness to each other that is quiet, beautiful and permanent in a way that I have never seen before is what stands out. 

Dinnertime is a big deal during these weekends — and in general. Everyone eats at the same table, and the food comes in waves. The conversation is varied and usually ends in a game that has been designed by one or many of the siblings. The one I was privy to was about knowing your partner. Voices fell and rose, there were people shouting, people trying to cheat, people getting called out, a scoreboard, and a sense of crescendo that didn’t ebb. 

It’s no mean feat to keep a tradition going for 32 years. From Cape Cod to Vegas, to Lake Placid to India, to the Grand Canyon, to Ireland and Scotland, Sib Weekend can boast of some impressive domestic and international venues. 2015 was New Hampshire, next to a lake that looked like it was made of glass. Despite the weather forecast indicating rain, we lucked out with a lot of sunshine. It took an hour for everyone to settle in and then trot down to the lake and leap in. Then there was the bat incident, paddleball, walks, Kubb and a chat about the origin of Sib Weekend. 

Tracing back to 1984 was a solid group effort. Spouses and kids helped recollect what happened during each Sib Weekend, incidents were recalled, pen was put to paper, and through it all I saw Elaine, Beverly, David, Patty and Barbara get married, have babies, juggle time, miss the odd weekend, have their children go away to school, watch them graduate and get jobs, and in turn come for the weekends with their partners. The tradition has been perpetuated with an ease that makes it feel only natural. 

On that recent sunny day in New Hampshire, I noticed that after swimming for a while, the four sisters had assembled in middle of the lake on some floats. At that moment they weren’t Michael’s mother or aunts. All I could see were four girls, hanging out, chatting and soaking in some sun. Time stood still. Just like it does with all good memories.

 

Juhi Pande has been travelling and collecting stories her whole life. She likes mathematics, chewing on bits of plastic and Björk. Her point of view is a patchwork of odd perspectives, naiveté and (occasionally) insight.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.