Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family Reunions - Never a Dull Moment

Family reunions… No two are alike, and large or small, they're always interesting. One branch of our family has small, annual gatherings, while another has a huge, weekend-long event every three years.

The pastor of our church once said, "There's no finer food on earth than at a church potluck." I disagree! A family reunion potluck is every bit as good, perhaps even better! I can still see the three picnic tables put end to end, and covered with casserole dishes, cake pans, salad bowls, drink coolers, etc. The descendants of three brothers, Oluf, Emil, and Adolph Hammer, would gather each year, most living within a couple of hours away, so the potluck was a perfect format. A mouth-watering meal was served, seconds and thirds were had, recipes exchanged, and a happy, satisfied digestion commenced.

There was never a shortage of things to do, regardless of one's age. Young cousins tried to drown each other in the swimming pool, while their dads got a softball game together, and their grandpas played horseshoes. Moms and grandmas tended to the food, and got "caught up" on everything happening with each others' families. There were new cousins to meet, laughing till your belly hurt, and getting tormented by goofy Uncle Jim. There were White Elephant gift exchanges, and howls of laughter as your staunchly democratic cousin gets a sack full of republican paraphernalia, and Aunt Joyce goes home with a giant rubber ducky for her next bath.

But there are deeper, more meaningful aspects of a family reunion. It's here that many of the younger generations will learn about family traditions, and come away with a feeling of deep, strong roots. Family history is discussed and enjoyed and discovered, even by people who didn't think they were interested in it. Adult cousins, circling the campfire late at night, will discover that their most treasured memories are also each other's most treasured memories. It can be a bittersweet time, when, reunion after reunion, you see the older faces being slowly replaced by younger faces. As we grow older ourselves, we know we won't always be here to keep things going, but building a tradition among the younger generation most certainly will.

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