My family used to have reunions here in Tennessee. My mother is from a large family and every other year they came from all over the U.S. to get together. Now some people have told me that if their whole family ever got together, it would probably result in a fistfight as so many of them don’t get along. Sometimes grudges are so deep that people don’t even remember why they are feuding.
Our roots go back many years in history to the time when Tennessee was wilderness and not even a state. We all get along with each other, more or less – or at least the ones that don’t get along do not come to reunions. Relatives worry us because they know too much about us. The family knows all of our problems and mistakes.
There seem to be fewer and fewer of us at each reunion. The family tree gets more branches, but as the young twigs become limbs, they are less interested in sharing their acorns. Those that do come are a bit older and their hair a bit whiter each time. There are a few more wrinkles all around too, but other than that, everyone is pretty much the same. We just sit around visiting waiting for the kudzu to grow and cover us.
There are so many descendants in our family that it is probably just as well that they don’t all come as the hall would not hold us. We have a hard time even keeping track of living descendants at this point.
We used to meet in the park with our children and have games and things to do, but now the focus seems to be on food – lots of it. Once it was homemade chicken and dumplings, green beans, new potatoes, and coconut cream pie. Nowadays it is more likely to be Kentucky Fried Chicken and deli potato salad. Home cooking is going out of style and people to eat out more and cook less. I sure do miss banana pudding – but not enough to make one.
Reunions give us a chance to catch up on all the family gossip – who is divorced, who married, who died, who has a new baby, who is sick, and who is pregnant. We also get to talk about the people that didn’t show up and speculate on the real reason why.
Family genealogy has become a big thing lately. Somehow relatives are easier to deal with when they are dead and can’t embarrass us any more. Their misdeeds are merely colorful anecdotes from the past rather than skeletons in the closet. Our family has its share of eccentrics, just as most families probably do – whether we claim them or not.
Watch your purse, as our cousin is a kleptomaniac. Don’t mention the fact that one ancestor was illegitimate and some are alcoholics. Forget all the divorces, especially the recent ones. Sweep it all under the rug and pretend you don’t know. Years from now when our descendants are doing genealogy and there are enough years between now and then to keep association at a respectable distance, they will think of them as only another amusing tale.
Family reunions are tolerable. As far as I’m concerned, anything can be tolerated once every two years. I went mainly because my mother wanted me to, and my kids went because I wanted them to. Even though we groan about having to associate with family that was given to us rather than chosen, imagine how awful it would be to have no extended family. Be sure to take note of how relatives that are too involved with other activities or too important to bother with kin are usually the first to come forward and claim family members that become rich or famous.
All in all, nobody shot anybody else, nobody punched anyone else in the nose, nobody’s purse was stolen, nobody got food poisoning, and nobody became angry or left in tears. I suppose we could say that as family reunions go ours was always a big success.