I went to a family reunion recently. It was a group of relatives from my Mom’s side of the family. I only knew a few in attendance but I forced myself to get around and introduce myself to some of the people I didn’t know. I found out that some of them were descendants of elders I loved to go and see when I was a child. My parents were great at attending, and dragging me along, to family reunions. In fact many of the folks at this reunion sort of passed me by until they found out whose daughter I was and wow! That made a huge difference in their willingness to talk with me. This really got me to thinking about the importance of family.
First of all, I loved my elders and still do only now I am approaching that stage in life where I am one of the older cousins. As a kid I loved nothing more than to hang out at my grandparents’ home or great-grandma’s house. They were cool dudes, you know? I loved to play the piano with my great-grandma and great-aunt; in fact my great-aunt gave me music lessons for years. I loved to ask questions and more questions and more questions and they seemed to love answering all of my questions…well grandpa didn’t like to answer my questions; he is the one that dubbed me “Chatty Kathy!” I loved to stay every vacation from school with some of my relatives. In fact I could spend a week or two with each relative and never be home during the summer and that was pretty cool!
My grandparents, for instance, lived in an old log cabin and they had an out-door toilet which made going to the bathroom interesting and educational…interesting smells came from there too! Why was it educational? Because where else could I read the old catalogs and magazines they used for TP! (I know too much information!) It seemed the wasps loved to hang out in there which made you extra careful in using the facilities. They did have running water, but it was only cold water so grandma always had a large tea-pot shaped pot on the stove filled with hot water. Washing hands after using the privy was in the porch at the dry sink. I never understood why they called it a dry sink but my Dad explained that it was a sink but didn’t have piped in water to it. So washing hands was in an enamel wash pan and that was pretty cool too!
My job was always to be grandma’s helper so I got to help wash dishes, cook and do whatever she needed help with. I loved following my grandma around. Every summer she had a huge garden and I would try to stay up with her as she carried buckets of water to the garden. The truth was that I couldn’t keep up with her as she was in much better physical shape than I was and she didn’t have asthma like I did. She was just a little thing, in fact when we grandchildren reached fifth or sixth grade we often handed down our winter coats and sweaters to our little grandma! When she passed away I saw my old school coat hanging in her closet some seventeen years after I had worn it.
My brother’s job while staying with our grandparents was to help grandpa as much as he could. He got the fun jobs like going for the milk cows and then milking them every evening. The cows stayed in the corral or barn at night and then after being milked in the morning they were led to the pasture to feed on grass. He also got to ride around with grandpa in the pick-up and learn new cuss words. Grandma didn’t cuss so I didn’t get to learn any new words, however, I did learn how to make some of grandma’s favorite recipes, brownies, pecan pie and no-bake cookies! I am glad that I wrote all these recipes down because grandma didn’t use a recipe when she cooked and years later my family were still able to enjoy her recipes when she no longer made them.
I also loved spending my summers with other extended family relatives. Some of them were old but I found out that they were pretty smart as well. Some had indoor plumbing and some didn’t. Some had gardens and some didn’t. Some raised sheep, pigs, horses, and Black Angus cattle and some didn’t. I loved each and every one of my relatives and I went to church with all of them. I believe that they all had a profound effect upon my faith in God. I am forever grateful for the time they invested in me as a child and as a young adult.
Yes, family is important and yet I often wonder why I am such a procrastinator in going to the annual or bi-annual family reunion? As a child I looked forward to the reunions. It was a time to enjoy good food, way too many desserts and no one watching what I ate. But more importantly it was a time for lots of hugs from aunts and great-aunts as well as play time with cousins my own age. We had some fun running and hiding and laughing with all our cousins. And the teasing from my uncles…oh how I miss that. “Do you have a boyfriend yet? Are you still attending church or have they barred you for singing too loud? Have you killed your brother yet, I don’t see him here? What’s that coming out your ear?” They would usually find a quarter or two in my ears. Oh how I do miss my uncles.
As I watched my son at the most recent family reunion I was reminded of all the fun I had as a child playing with the cousins. Children don’t need long to make a friend. It is so much harder for us adults than it is for children. He had so much fun and was so tired each night that he remarked he was glad the weekend was over and he could rest before summer vacation ended and school began again.
My parents, siblings, and grandparents are all deceased and I think being the only one left to represent my own family is hard. Maybe this is why I procrastinate in attending my family reunions. I feel lonely as I see all the generations that come together, great-aunt so and so and her four or five generation of kin who come in comparison to just me and my son. It reminds me of all that I have lost to attend the reunion. I feel sad, but really I shouldn’t.
I am going to try to have an attitude adjustment when it comes to attending future family reunions. As the only representative of my branch of the family I want to show that our branch of the family tree is still growing and thriving. I can take photos of my children and their families and share them with all who will take the time to get better acquainted with me. Every family has those who live too far away to attend the reunion, my family is no different. I need to celebrate that I am alive, that someone in my branch of the family tree is still swinging! I need to be a better relative. How about you and your family? Are there any reunions coming up?
Until next time……Katherine