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Memorial Day weekend has become the time when many celebrate the start of summer & a long weekend with barbecues, picnics, and general fun-in-the-sun, ready to leave the cool, drizzly weather of spring behind. Amidst all the holiday sales, parties, pool openings, and other distractions, the true meaning of Memorial Day has gotten lost in the buzz. Memorial Day started shortly after the Civil War, when survivors remembered those who fell on the battlefields by decorating their graves & hosting parades in their honor. It wasn’t until the 1970s – nearly 100 years later – that Memorial Day became the holiday it is now.
Memorial Day weekend is especially dear to me because it is the weekend my family hosts its annual reunion – a gathering steeped in a tradition that spans generations. My parents took me to my first one at the age of 8, and I expected it would be much like the family reunions my friends’ families had: everyone meets at a park, they grill out & eat burgers with potato salad, and then the kids run around and play while the grown-ups mingle & chat.
I should have known ours would be different.
I should have known ours would be different when my dad insisted we make the 7-hour drive from our home in Dayton, Ohio to Crossville, Tennessee in the middle of the night so we could make it in time for breakfast. I was plugged into my Walkman headphones, probably listening to New Kids on the Block & wondering why breakfast was such a big deal. I mean, milk & cereal or eggs & bacon weren’t that exciting, right? (It turns out, breakfast was a big deal because my great-uncle Burl made the meanest biscuits & gravy in Cumberland county.)
I should have known ours would be different when we pulled up to Uncle Burl’s modest clapboard house at 6:00 a.m. & discovered that he didn’t just have breakfast ready for me, Mom & Dad, but rather a pile of hot biscuits & pot of steaming sausage gravy big enough to feed us, his wife Mattie Mae, my multitude of cousins (Cody, Gary, Rachel, and who knows who else), their parents, my great-uncle Fred, and anyone else who happened by. With leftovers to spare.
I should have known ours would be different when we bought ornate flower arrangements at the flea market that Saturday morning, then drove from cemetery to cemetery, replacing faded blooms with our fresh displays & sticking small American flags into the soil by the graves of our family’s soldiers. Dad narrated as we went along – “This right here is the grave of your great-great…and this was his wife…and their son fought in World War I….”
I should have known ours would be different when I woke up in the guest bedroom of Uncle Burl’s house the morning of our reunion & he wasn’t making breakfast in the kitchen.
I should have known ours would be different when I sleepily made my way to the front porch & saw him slicing lemons into a Styrofoam cooler while Uncle Fred dumped in a 5-pound bag of sugar & my dad held a running garden hose, the water filling the cooler at a slow, steady pace.
I should have known ours would be different when I asked them, “What are you doing?” and Uncle Burl answered in his thick, throaty southern accent, “Makin’ lemonade.”
I really should have known.
But it wasn’t until we drove down the shady, winding road to our reunion that I fully grasped just how different our reunion was. For one, the road we drove down was named after us.
And, most tellingly of all, my dad parked our enormous blue Cadillac Fleetwood not in front of a sunny park with swing sets & charcoal grills, but instead in front of, well, this:
What is going on here?! I thought, slightly panicked. Instead, I asked my dad, “Where are we?”
“This is our family cemetery,” Dad said proudly, waving at people walking by carrying covered dishes & buckets of fried chicken.
“Why are we here?”
“This is where the reunion is. We get to eat, then hang out with our ancestors.”
He’s making fun of me! I thought and flopped back in the seat. “I am not eating in a cemetery! That’s gross,” I said, with the kind of defiance that only a preteen girl can muster.
“OK, but your mom & I are getting out & taking the keys with us,” Dad replied, opening his car door.
I reluctantly got out of the car & saw at least 4 full-size picnic tables set up just outside the cemetery gates, covered with delicious food – chicken & dumplings, potatoes, biscuits, cakes, pies, and puddings – with the Styrofoam cooler perched at the end of one of them, people already eagerly ladling lemonade into disposable plastic cups. “You gotta get some before it’s all gone!” Cody said as he rushed by to get his cupful.Well, I guess I’ll try some…I took a sip from Dad’s cup, and then immediately joined the throng of my chatting, back-slapping kin around the cooler.
It is still the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted.
I started to look forward to visiting my large, loud, strange family & spending the holiday weekend “eating with the dead” as my dad calls it. I learned to appreciate the utter weirdness of it all – from the tour d’ tombstones, right down to the hose-water lemonade. I looked forward to Uncle Burl & Uncle Fred’s stories, and was amazed by their youth & vigor, even as they aged well into their 80s. I remember the year Uncle Burl went hunting – with a crossbow! – and bagged a large wild boar that we later barbecued & ate, and I remember how Uncle Fred, a World War II vet, would give me a hug at the end of our visit, covertly stuffing a $10 bill & handful of Werther’s Originals into my hand as we embraced. Both men passed on a few years ago, but they never lost the spark in their eyes or the vitality with which they lived each day.
I won’t be at the reunion this weekend – it’s a bit tougher to get from Seattle to Crossville than it is to make the trip from Dayton to Crossville – but I’ll make it back someday, and I can’t wait to once again see this sign & drink some delicious lemonade.
All pictures are the author’s own & may not be used without permission.
RSVP is a local business & proud of it. Our office headquarters has been located in Centerville, Ohio for all of our 15 years of business, and our employees are both familiar with & active in the communities they serve in Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington, and most recently, Indianapolis. We take pride in being small & local because we believe it helps us better understand our clients’ needs & struggles. When you call our office in Centerville, I answer the phone – Hi, my name is Renee – and I help you get in touch with the person in our office who can best assist you. I also write & distribute the minutes for our weekly staff meetings, maintain client records, and manage our calendars and data gathering systems, in addition to generally trying to keep everyone else sane in the face of constantly looming deadlines.
That’s not terribly unusual for an administrative assistant. What is unusual is that I’m doing all of these things from my home office in Seattle, Washington – and probably with one of my cats in my lap.
I haven’t always worked from a home office. From 2011-2013, I worked in our Centerville office, and as far as I was concerned, I was going to keep working in that office until they pried my cold fingertips from my keyboard. Life, of course, had different plans for me: in August 2013, just as I hit the big 3-0, my boyfriend – a talented mobile app developer – was offered an incredible opportunity to work for a large tech company headquartered in Seattle! One month later, we sold my car, loaded our belongings into his Honda Civic, and drove across the country to start a new life in an unfamiliar city.
That’s how I became one of the millions of people who work remotely. Remote employees usually work from home, but sometimes they’re in coffee shops, airport lounges, and even planes themselves! The office as we used to know it has become less ubiquitous as businesses work to accommodate & respect their employees’ personal lives. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, 39% of companies now allow employees to work remotely. A remote office is now less of an anomaly & more of an expectation, and this rings true even for small, local businesses, like RSVP. In fact, president & publisher of RSVP, Tony Sucato, recently said, “The goal is for all of us to eventually be able to work remotely.”
Not everyone thinks that is something to strive for in the business world, and some companies are actively working to curtail the remote trend. In 2013, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer mandated that employees work from a Yahoo! office. Explaining this decision, Yahoo! Human Resources director Jackie Reeses said, “Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.” This, admittedly, hits home for me. I certainly miss my co-workers & the jokes we shared, or lunch runs we would make to grab mid-day bulgogi at Kabuki (P.S. if you live in Dayton or Columbus, go there on my behalf! I miss their food). Less tangible than lunch dates & inside jokes, though, are the small nuances you pick up on after sharing an office with people for years and years. When I worked in the office, I could tell if Jodie had a sick child at home, or if Heather was talking loudly because she had too many cups of coffee. Now, I am no longer privy to these details, and I miss out on the minutia. Yahoo’s decision was, at least in part, motivated by a desire to re-establish an office environment & encourage the sort of daily interactions that I miss now.
Beyond employee relationships, Yahoo’s Mayer was also concerned about out-of-office employees’ ability to be productive and ignore the many distractions working remotely may present. Writing for Forbes, David Sturt & Todd Nordstrom note that, “[p]ets, children, television, and the refrigerator can all be distractions for people who work from home,” and that remote workers who travel frequently face additional challenges, including noise, chatty co-commuters, and unpredictable work conditions. Still, I am not convinced that the distractions I now confront in my home office are any different from those I had in the RSVP office. Well, OK, granted, this wasn’t likely to happen in the RSVP office:
But something like this?
Now that type of distraction is totally possible. In fact, I remember when we had the roof replaced at RSVP and had to brush plaster off our desks because the work was so intense above us. We couldn’t even use the office phones because of the noise! How is that in-office distraction worse than, say, having a cat hop up on your desk for a quick nuzzle at the home office? I’m honestly not convinced that it is. Additionally, studies have often shown that employees who work from a home office are more dedicated and productive, logging an average of 4 extra hours of work per week & cranking their productivity up by as much as 13%. Remote office employees even report being more engaged in their work than their in-office counterparts.
Still, remote work is not for everyone – businesses & employees alike. Large companies like Yahoo!, whose bloated infrastructure hindered growth in recent years, need to maintain control over many facets & departments chock full of employees, and an easy way to do that is to encourage in-office work. Further, some people are simply not cut out for remote work; the distractions prove too many, or they simply use the office to create a physical separation between their home lives & their professional lives. Sturt & Nordstrom encourage those considering remote work to do it for the right reasons, and believe it comes down to personal preference. According to them, “it may soon be possible that everyone can choose the work environment that suits them the best.” That is, remote office workers can work remotely, in-office employees can stay in the office, and businesses can reap the benefits that come from a happy employee base.
Even though I miss the camaraderie of the office & the convenience of being physically close to our central location, I am glad I have the opportunity to work from home. Working from home allows me to keep a job I enjoy with people I like at a company dedicated to excellence – and those factors are important enough to me that I’m willing to work across space & time (thousands of miles & a 3-hour time difference).
Now if you’ll excuse me, Hemingway needs to see me for my annual purr-formance review.
Contributed by Renee Pugh.
All images are the author’s own. Unauthorized usage without proper credit is prohibited.
This past Sunday, it was RSVP Cleveland/Akron day at the Akron Aeros baseball game. Families from RSVP and clients from the local area were in attendance and it turned out to be an exciting day for everyone.
Thanks go out to the Akron Aeros management for providing such a wonderful facility and food for all of our guests. We highly recommend it for any business looking to host a fun day for their families and guests.
Renting a suite at a sporting event is well worth the effort. Having access to such a comfortable facility and the ability to entertain prospects, clients, and families really helps to make those important connections with people outside of normal business hours. Unlike networking events, attending a game is relaxed and fun. Everyone is there with the purpose of having a good time without the worry of having to be business-like or the pressure of industry talk. You’ll find that you will learn more about your prospects and clients in casual talk at the game within the suite environment which will lead to better relationships and communication going into the future.
For instance, we learned things about our clients such as where they come from, how their careers have evolved, and personal things that in many instances are entertaining. It’s funny how in a relaxed setting clients will open up and share things about themselves and families that you wouldn’t have found out under a more formal business setting.
The Aeros played well but couldn’t overcome Curve outfielder Alex Dickerson who nearly hit for the cycle, eventually losing 9-4. In the end everyone still had a good time.
Hosting an event isn’t limited to just a baseball venue, obviously, other sporting venues would be appropriate. Don’t forget about the “minors” also. It doesn’t have to be the big leauges in order to have a fun and productive event. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for customization of your event from the facility you would be renting from. Many of them would be happy to help add special touches or little extras to make your event memorable and stand out from others that your clients may have attended in the past.
Here’s how to get in touch with each of the professional baseball teams within the RSVP Kentucky Ohio Indiana footprint to schedule your company’s day to the game and personal suite: