Why You Should Attend Your Family Reunion This Year
August. The month when we try to wring the last golden drops of pleasure from the sunny summer before the obligations we face in the fall. Why then do so many families plan reunions in August?
Several years back we had a family reunion which changed my outlook on reunions forever. Already re-scheduled once because so many family members had weddings to attend, this reunion was set smack in the middle of the hottest month of the year.
Let me begin by saying that I wasn't looking forward to the trip in the first place, and the forecast, which contained an “excessive heat warning" didn't make it any easier to set out. These were people I knew only through vague childhood memories of conversations about "the family." Many would be the children of children I didn't know...but obligations are obligations, and my father's descendants had to represented.
From the moment I pulled in the driveway my attitude changed. There to greet us was one of the four cousins I actually remembered--and his wife and children. While they were hosting the clan, they also wanted to preserve the family history so their children would know their roots.
Bill rushed off to bring Uncle Louie, a former hillbilly currently living in a nursing home. A seventy year old, Louie was rescued from oblivion when Billy and some younger family members stepped in and upgraded his life. He dazzled the younger generation by eating a dozen burgers and hot dogs in the course of the afternoon.
Cousins Sandy and Johnny, looking more like my late Uncle Art than ever, arrived with Aunt Rose, the last relative from their Mom's side of the family. She wasn't a Craven, but no one seemed to care. One by one others arrived – some actual descendants of the family founders, others related by marriage – representing long-dead aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and parents. Together we mourned the dead and celebrated the living as we shared the family stories.
After the meal, while the children scattered to enjoy the pool and trampoline, the adults migrated with the shade, still bringing old memories to life for me. As the hours passed and family bonds were forged anew, I had the strangest sense of being part of something far greater than myself. Children I had never seen before shared the same blood that ran in my veins; together we bore the responsibility of maintaining the family. If we lost the memories, if we neglected to tell the old stories, it would lessen those ancestors somehow.
As the shadows lengthened a wicked storm descended on the clan, forcing us to head out in a dozen different directions. But I left far richer than I had arrived, carrying with me the dreams of a larger family, a lavish heritage of love and respect. They were nice people these relatives of mine.
And, while many of the family tales were tinged with tragedy, they were the narrative of MY life, shared by a limited number of souls in the whole world. From the explosive union of a poor miner, born months after his parents migrated from England, and a feisty young Irish turned American girl, emerged a family line, forged of human links, that now extends for six generations!
So, as the days grow shorter, and the summer fades, if you have a family reunion looming, perhaps attending it will be the wisest investment of time you ever make.