We had our whole family together this past summer. When they start showing up, the signs are always the same:
* Noise levels rise. No one can speak in an indoor voice when we are together. We are happy to see each other, so we laugh and talk and shout over each other. Kids run up and down stairs and through the rooms, shouting and laughing. Uncles toss kids upside down and tickling/wrestling are common. We tell the same stories over and over, with editorial comments shouted from another room, reliving classic family moments. I sometimes imagine, after everyone leaves, that some of the sounds linger, that some of the voices peep from corners where they might have been trapped, that echoes of laughter rumble out of closets and across the ceilings.
* Cups vanish. We finally instituted a system of plastic cups. We keep a sharpie by a tall stack of disposable white plastic cups, right next to the sink. Each person puts a name on a cup in the hopes that we will all be able to have our own cup and not spread too many germs. At the same time, we don't have to run the dishwasher three times a day just to have clean drinking cups. We line them up in the kitchen window--or, as the line gets longer and longer--against the back-splash. A new tradition has started in the last few years as the grandchildren have gotten older. It started with our boys. One would write his name on a cup. When he came back, the name would be crossed out and a nickname (usually "stinky" or some other such lovely epithet) would be written instead. As the grandchildren watched uncles play this game, they got into the act, so some cups are mostly black with one after another name crossed out. Hard to tell, eventually, whose cup it really is.
* Shoes pile up. We are from Alaska, so we have always had the habit of removing our shoes when we enter a home. It has continued, even though the need is not really the same in Utah. So, when the family gathers, so does the stack of shoes by the door. It's a messy way to enter the house, and it can cause some interesting times when it's time to leave and someone has to dig through the pile to find his or her shoes. And there are, inevitably, lost shoes. But when I see this pile of shoes, I can't help but smile. It means my family is there. And that's a happy thing.