It’s a family tradition

Published 2:42 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2011

There is nothing like a good old Southern family reunion, something we country folk really know how to do. Forget all the jokes about finding a spouse among the cousins, lack of dentistry, and old-fashion hairdos that some in our family just kept until they came back in style.

Admit it. We all have family members we wished we had escaped their annoying presence but there are others we just can’t believe it’s been that long since we have seen them. Whether you are cringing from the family cooties or loving the lovable, all families should practice this tradition of reuniting the clan.

As I grow older, my desire to renew my family ties grows. Memories rush back to my cluttered brain as I recall growing up with these very same people.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

It’s been a long time for my mother’s family. I was twelve when the Gipsons and Pittmans gathered together which by my math equals three decades and counting. To say we have all changed is an understatement of epic proportions, but frankly, through the extra pounds, the extra gray hair, the extra wrinkles I managed to recognize my kinfolk and they seemed to know me.

Somewhere along the way, a family fades into the sunset unless a matriarch steps up and leads the clan into gathering periodically.

Our family has wandered in the wilderness nearly four decades like the children of Israel and as the time of crossing the river was growing near, several ladies of the clan pulled their organizational skills together led by my Aunt Jackie who is a former kindergarten teacher. (There are no other forces of nature like one of those! May I point out, our government should consider hiring kindergarten teachers to lead the various Czar stations enacted by our present leader. They would rule the world all while making it a fun and educational activity.)

To pull off a well attended event you must take advantage of the Internet world of social networks and e-mails. Communication is the key.

The only catching up my family has had for years has been the occasional funeral and even less attended weddings. How nice it was to gather for just bonding, eating and reminiscing … less the burying.

I am not a novice to the family reunion tradition. Both of my spouses families gather annually. If you want to feel confused and awkward, go to a family function as an outsider. Once married, you eventually blend in and then they can’t tell if you are one of them or not.

Finally, for once, I was able to drag, I mean invite my husband to my family reunion for payback, I mean, return the favor.

As both of my husband’s families did not frighten me away, I was hoping that the family reunion would not scare him away either. Finally, all the closets are empty of my disparaging hidden relatives. He passed the test.

Why scary? All the members that attend a family reunion resemble each other, the good and the bad, the physical and the mental, and the young and the old. Extreme varieties and versions of me! Ashamed of your kin? You shouldn’t since you have been swimming in the same gene pool they have.

I love my family even as I can see different shades of me. The extremes of my weaknesses and strengths. The slightly off, the weird, the funny, the irreverent humor, the dark side, and the tightly religious or the loosely debauched. All facades of Tracyisms staring me in the face. I am intertwined and developed by all my kin.

Where do I stand? Hopefully down the middle of normal, but that might be wishful thinking.

Reunions keep a family close. Our family was starving for a rekindling.

One unexpected result is I found kin that lived way up here in Huntsville, and the coincidence gets even better because we attend the same church, and our congregation sent assistance to her parents after Hurricane Katrina. Plus, her husband’s aunt just wrote an article for the magazine I am editor.

Yes, the song, “It’s a small world after all…” is playing in my head. Stop!

Family Reunions can dwindle these days when folks are too busy to put family as a priority. As elder members pass on, their kids slack off. So, sometimes, having a yearly reunion can lose its potency.

The lack of participation and the doing things the way they use to be can kill a good tradition. The older generation must embrace the newer ways and younger folks while the youth must learn to appreciate what they get from the older. The two need each other in this world.

Our family reunion was breaking ground on a new tradition.

As we all met up for the first time, for most of my kin, there were no awkward embraces, no judging the other on life choices, or degrees of sizing up who turned out better than others. No hesitation. Just pleasure of reinvesting in our family unit and the pleasure of being a part of a family. It felt good.

The conversations that flowed were about kids, memories, and sometimes for the older it may have dwelled on physical ailments and bodily functions. For me, it was the same old complaint of hormones and hot flashes.

New technology with family reunions allowed a slideshow of hundreds of family photos to play against the background. Immediately after initial greetings we began our “Remember when … nostalgia.”

Photos are powerful tools to bring emotions back as we watch those who had passed and times that for many were simpler. Good memories for the most part, but touched with smidgens of bittersweet flashes.

The newer generation played kid’s games, lots of smiles and for the twins who were slow to interact, found the experience better than they were expecting.

As I drove back home to Huntsville, I was able to go down the memory lane of my life, remembering my aunts and uncles influences, moments that stick out with each member, and how maybe the outward appearances have changed for us all, but we still have that bond, that connection, and thanks to a long overdue family reunion, I was able to reconnect.

I can only hope that our family decides to make this a family tradition.

And, as I recall those who weren’t able to attend due to death, I have a fresh yearning for the day when I will meet up with them in Heaven at the grandest family reunion of all time. I bet the slideshow is really spectacular there!

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached on Facebook at My Hometown Column. Become a fan.