Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Family Reunion That Almost Wasn't

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the only family reunion I have ever attended or expect to attend. Last July, I hosted a family reunion for my maternal grandfather's branch of the family tree. In honor of my mother, who is the oldest person living in the U.S. in that family, I planned the party on her birthday. The family isn't all that big so I had it at my house. It was really well attended especially by the family members I'd been looking for for at least 8 years and had just recently found. They were as anxious to meet us as we were to meet them.

I almost didn't have the reunion though. My mom's health is failing and I wasn't sure she was up for the whole party thing. But I did it anyway and I'm really glad I did. This year, health issues would have prevented her from attending. As they say, "timing is everything". It wouldn't have been the same without her there.

I made the food myself, and also printed up a small booklet that was sort of a who's-who of the family. I included the information I had about the history of the family names and crests and also added recipes that were submitted by attendees. Everyone got a copy. The weather was beautiful, everyone got along well, and a good time was had by all. I'm so glad I made the effort to get everyone together. I don't know if we'll have the opportunity to do that again under happy circumstances. The family members are getting older and I expect there will be more funerals than baptisms or weddings in the next few years.

Obviously I'm not an expert on planning family reunions having only done the one last year. I have no great advice or suggestions for those who plan or attend reunions every year and are looking for something new to do. So what sage advice do I have to offer to others on the subject of family reunions? My advice is for those who are thinking it would be nice to have a reunion but are hesitant to make the commitment to have one. It is a lot of work. But so what? Housework is a lot of work. Your job is a lot of work. Trying to keep your weight down is a lot of work. Being a good parent is a really lot of work. But you do them anyway. A family reunion is a lot work but ohhh the end result is worth it. So just do it!

I can't tell you how many times I've heard over the years about relatives that could have given me "lots more information" if only I'd contacted them a few years ago before they died. Reunions are the same sort of thing. So do it before the opportunity slips through your fingers. I don't think it really matters if you play games or even add names to the family tree at your reunion. What I think matters most is the human interaction that is unique to families. The opportunity to share stories and photos that will live on is priceless.

Swanee Riverboat, Greenfield Village