I can remember fondly childhood gatherings of almost each branch of our family.
Kids playing every imaginable game in the yard – hide and seek, tag, baseball, and any other activity that would keep us occupied while the adults gathered telling jokes and laughing.
The women folks filled the tables with golden fried chicken, tender barbeque, lean roast beef that made your mouth water, coconut and chocolate cakes and blackberry cobbler that would just bring you to staring wishing you could be the first to taste it.
And the vegetables – fried okra, pinto beans, fresh green beans, fried squash, baked beans, fresh cut garden tomatoes, hot banana peppers and the list goes on and on.
Some of the men folks would bring out their guitars and fiddles and fill the air with music, while others led expeditions outside to show off their latest auto project under their hood of their pride and joy, shoot off a new firearm or brag over a hunting trophy.
As dinnertime neared, the preachers in the bunch would gather up and arm wrestle to see who would say grace. Wait a minute; maybe it was the women folk that were arm wrestling, to see whose dish was first on the table.
I still see the extra skin under their arms waving back and forth with everybody cheering them on.
Perhaps this was in my childhood daydream, but I know somebody arm-wrestled before the day was out.
There was always a lot of praying, a lot of praising and a lot of happy faces on us kids when “Amen” was said.
After the meal, there would be more music, more laughter, more games and usually a little drama sometimes among the kids, sometimes among the adults.
Whatever it was though would pass quickly with a mended fence and another piece of coconut cake or maybe a bowl of fresh made strawberry ice cream or a piece of cold watermelon with a bit of salt sprinkled on top.
It might seem that I am dwelling on the food but really what these reunions did allowed a chance for cousins to connect and build some shared memories to help hold the family together as time went along.
I have the honor to carry on the tradition taking the lead among my family passed from my uncles to me. Though I must admit with each passing year, I see fewer of our relatives take an interest in participating.
For those who don’t attend, others relatives ask why – they say, “I don’t know anyone.”
In some respects it makes me sad. I know how hard the previous generations worked to keep the families together and connected. By those connections, we were stronger.
Families helped each other; did business with one another; and depended on those connections as time became tough.
I spoke with many others who have shared with me similar disinterest among families to stay connected. There was a time in the south when we could look out across a town and tell you how everyone was interconnected. How many times removed they are a cousin.
I pray that this is not a trend reflecting even a greater break down of the family in our country. Although I fear it is.
Families reach across the miles and across time. Each of us stands upon thousands of shoulders. That is a lesson we each need to share with the current generation and continue to tell the stories that make us laugh, learn and respect each other, so connections remain strong.
If you have a family reunion, support it, help make it a success, make it interesting for all ages, so it’s a memory they wish to make with their children when they have them.