Monday, June 13, 2011

Family Trees

Family faces are magic mirrors looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past, present, and future.
-- Gail Lumet Buckley

This is my family.  My father is the first one on the back row on the left.  The rest of the people in the picture are my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.  Remember, I told you there are a lot of us!  This, of course, is not the beginning or ending of our family.  There were many more before us and there are many more after us (my generation).  We are spread across the United States and now we're spread around the world.   When God said go forth and multiply, we took him at his word and we did, because anyone who knows us, knows that we always do what we're told to do (now those of you who know us, do NOT laugh)!

We just spent a wonderful weekend together.  We do this every other year in June.  Our numbers of attendees were small this year and there was even some talk of this being the last reunion.  There were all the excuses:  baseball, swimming, other family get-togethers, just got out of school, afraid of the Kansas weather, I don't really know those people that know, we all have them.  Just pick one). 

My grandmother started this tradition when I was seven years old.  Her kids were spread across the country and she wanted everyone to be together so that we could all get reacquainted.  People came from Texas, from Colorado, from Wyoming, from California, from Missouri, and, I'm sure, from places I've forgotten.  We met in the city park until the rain started, and then we moved to my house, just down the street.    The kids sat with my aunt, on the bedroom floor and sang songs.  There were many, many of us...together.

We didn't do another one, unfortunately, until my grandmother's last summer with us.  Looking back, she probably knew she was not well, but she didn't let on to anyone.  She didn't want anything getting in the way of our time together.  We met at the Fair Building because there were too many for any one's house.  Everyone came 'home.'  And then she died the next winter.  Her heart was just tired out. 

We all promised that we wouldn't let her down; that we would keep making our get-togethers a priority.  And so started the tradition of every other year.  We have traveled to Colorado, Iowa and Kansas City.  And, of course, we've all gone 'home' again, many times. 

It's amazing to me, with the numbers of folks we have, just how close we all are.  We all like each other.  We all love each other.  We are important to each other.  We may fight amongst ourselves once in a while, but heaven help anyone who hurts one of us! 

All of these people have shaped who I am today.  I hear their voices in my head, I hear their laughter, and I love to hear their stories.  Their hugs are the best!  Whether they are with us in person or with us in spirit, we know we are there for each other. 

This weekend we worked at the cemetery where many of our ancestors are buried.  One day soon, there will be a prayer garden there for anyone to come and sit awhile; to remember, reflect, and rejoice.  I have no doubt that Grandma was right there with us pointing out to everyone in heaven just where her kids were on that morning; that we were together, working, sharing, loving, crying a little, and rejoicing. 

You see, Grandma was many things.  She was a disciplinarian, she was a jester, she was a GREAT scary storyteller in her big bed, she was the pianist singing with the kids at the piano, she was the love to all of the grand kids.  Her greatest gift to all of us was how to love. 

I never knew my grandfather.  He died before I was born, but he must have been an extraordinary person to have chosen this woman as his life partner.  I always hate when the weekend comes to an end and know that we have to wait two more years to hear more stories, to join together in song, and, of course, to eat.  My aunts are all awesome cooks!  Now so are my cousins...well, some of us anyway.   Grandma always made the best fried chicken in the world.  We had fried chicken on Saturday night and it was good.  Not as good as Grandma's, but it was good. 

I had a piece and pretended, for just a minute, that we were all there together again:  Grandma, Grandpa, the aunts and uncles who are home in heaven with them, the great aunts and uncles who were always there too, and those cousins, brothers and sisters who couldn't be there.  In reality, we were all there...together, for a little bit of each of them is in each one of us. 

Take a look at the picture.  I can see a little bit of each one of them in me:  the hair color, the eyes, the build, the athleticism (or not), the grin, the personality.  What a wonderful time we all had together this weekend! 

And yes, in two years we will do it again, at home.  We will meet for fun and other activities on Saturday and on Sunday, we will attend church together in the little church in the valley and then have a picnic in the prayer garden.  All of us...together.

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.-- Alex Haley

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