What is the first thought that comes to mind when you receive the invitation to the annual “Family Reunion” ?
I dread it, I will tolerate it, I don’t have time for it, It’s just a bunch of old people and nutty relatives?
I can’t wait, love seeing everyone and catching up, will meet new family members and fellowship with the elders, hope crazy Uncle Larry is there, he is so much fun!
After 50 years of family reunions I have observed that there is a general response that varies depending on what seasons of life we are in and the family dynamics we have grown up with.
As a kid I didn’t go to family reunions because we didn’t have them. Our family was pretty fragmented and had a degree of dysfunction that kept us from being close to family most of the time. So when I married my husband who had a very large family and experienced my first “Family Reunion” it was a bit overwhelming to say the least.
Everyone came Grama and Grampa, Aunts and Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, all of the cousins from the oldest to the youngest, there was even an aunt who brought her husband and her boyfriend! Everyone brought food of some kind and games to play. It was like a rerun of Walton’s Mountain, as a matter of fact it was on a mountain where my husband’s sister and brother-in-law lived on a farm.
These people were excited to see each other and everyone knew everyone else that was there. I recall thinking “I could probably only recall two of my Aunt’s names and maybe four of my cousin’s”.
Older relatives commenting on how the little ones had grown, younger ones smiling then running off to play, laughing and teasing one another.
The men quickly went off to visit with family members they hadn’t seen which always led to a game of horseshoes and or a discussion regarding fishing and/or hunting.
The women were left to visit, get food set up, and compare notes on kids, husbands and life in general.
My husband’s family was very kind and tried to include me in conversation and activities but, having been raised in the city in a smaller and transient family, I saw nothing that we had in common and felt like a fish out of water. They were country folk and I was a city slicker, they had farms, cows and huge gardens that supplied their families with food. I, on the other hand, depended totally on what was on special at the grocery store to fill our cupboards. I even turned my nose up at the thought of having to dig in the dirt to get my food and drinking milk straight from the cow out of a stainless steel pitcher . I was also somewhat perturbed that the women were left to watch the kids and get the food set up while the men went and played (well, truth be known, probably more than slightly perturbed). After all hadn’t these women heard of the women’s rights movement?
All very foreign to me yet it somehow held a fascination I couldn’t explain at the time.
So for several years my response was “it’s his family so we will go for my husband’s sake”. But after we had a couple of children and they couldn’t wait to go see all their family and play with their cousins my heart began to soften. I thought about what I had missed as a child by not having the same opportunity with my own family and my attitude began to change. I wanted our children to experience family in a way I never had. The realization came to me that I was a part of “this family” now.
Every year I would get to know this family better and began to see that there love for each other was genuine and that they loved me in the same way. They were actually showing me what being part of a family was really all about. The full impact of their influence on me and how I raised my family was not realized until many years later when my own children began leaving home.
As our kids grew older I began looking forward to the family reunions as I realized the importance of family and that it wasn’t just his family reunion but was our family reunion. I came to look forward to the reunions and the love we found there.
Over the years many of the older generation passed on and finally Dad and Mom Bird went home to heaven too and a strange thing happened for a few years, the “Family Reunion” sort of fell by the wayside. Then all our kids grew up and had families of their own and in-laws to consider and life was so busy that we didn’t see each other much any more. Those of us who were now the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families realized that our grandchildren were missing out on a great family tradition. And as our children grew older and their children as well we began a journey that brought us back to the family reunions.
Things are different now, change happens, and many family members are no longer with us, many have moved out of the area and can’t make it, but we are coming together again and hopefully setting a course that those who come behind us will follow and the importance of family will be passed on to future generations.
In my own extended family we have also developed a new appreciation for each other and have been working to bring our family closer together. Our families have come to be one family as well.
In this winter season of my life I am so grateful for this family that took me in, tolerated me, loved me unconditionally through the rough years and taught me the importance of caring for one another. And I am thankful for the love that has grown out of it all in our own children for their families.
That love has been passed on to my own siblings and many foster children over the years and it all started at the Family Reunion!
If you’re looking for us the first Sunday in August we won’t be available. We will be at the farm on the hill at our “Family Reunion” where we will find family, food, fellowship, fun, some crazy people, but most of all love!
When is your family reunion?
If you have one don’t miss it!
If you don’t have one, start one!
Don’t have a family? Join us, there is enough love to go around in ours!
Because family matters!