24 April 2011

My Love Affair with Family Reunions

I’ve gone to family reunions all my life. As a child and teenager, my family never missed the annual Whitney reunions at Pine Valley. We camped there over Labor Day every year and spent three days visiting, hiking, and playing. The ring of horseshoes hitting the posts brings back the sound of my dad’s laughter as he played horseshoes with his cousins and his brothers. The well-laden table for our Saturday potluck was another highlight. My grandmother hiked with us granddaughters. I played endless games with my cousins and we even staged pinecone fights with another group of kids whose family also camped there over Labor Day. I thought everyone had family reunions to go to each year, but we were the luckiest because we got to camp out for three days.

I loved to camp so much that I was surprised when I went to a Girls Camp one year in Pine Valley and hated every minute of it. Everything was familiar, but the people I loved weren’t there with me. I was miserably homesick and I never went to another Girls Camp.

Part of the reunion fun was the campfire programs and group sings every evening. I learned to sing the songs my grandparents and parents loved and introduced them to new songs. I fell in love with folk music and I never did stray to rock and roll or even the Beatles that were so popular at that time. My heart was tied to family reunion time and the music that accompanied it.

I was the first one to grow up and get married. For a time, my husband and I came back “home” for Christmas and other holidays (including the Whitney reunion). But after awhile our own family began to grow and my “going home” time was our own family reunion with my mother and father and my siblings. Our children played together and they too enjoyed the cousin time that our campout reunions provided.

I loved “living with” my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews for a few days. The nights were often miserable with cold or midnight outhouse trips, but I dealt with that by staying up as late as possible and rising at first light. I loved being with the night owls around the campfire at night and then talking to the little early birds in the morning. It seemed idyllic to me to be out of reach of the interfering telephone and other distractions and directly in touch with God’s beautiful world and the people I loved most who lived in it for this time out of time. Although the reunions always seemed too short, the days were long and relaxing and there were plenty of occasions to talk together about things that matter.
My sister and various nieces and nephews

Listening to other people’s memories and experiences at these precious times has bonded me to other family members. It has fostered and fueled my love of family stories and genealogy and this has become a life-long interest of mine. I learned to love the cousins and extended family that I associated with each year growing up and also the extended family of my adulthood.  Even now, I love to visit cousins and extended family and learn what they have to share. I got my start at the family reunion.

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