Monday, August 24, 2009

No Family Reunions in my family

What is a family reunion? It's a meeting where lots of relatives get together and have some fun getting reacquainted, sharing stories and photos of the older generations, and maybe even putting a family history together, I guess. I don't really know - I haven't had the pleasure of attending one. Ever.

Why? Well, because I grew up in San Diego and have lived here all of my life. My father's parents and siblings lived in Massachusetts, before scattering to other states. My mother was an only child, and her parents were only children, so there were not any first cousins on her side and I don't recall meeting even a second cousin from my mother's side.

My father drove to California from Leominster, Massachusetts in 1940 and never went home. His mother, a sister and a niece came to visit in 1958, and then all of his siblings came to San Diego at one time or another, but they were not reunions. I visited Leominster twice in the 1960's and then took my family to New England in 1982 on vacation and we enjoyed meeting all of the cousins, but it wasn't a "reunion."

Probably the only real "reunion" was in August 1990 when my brother Scott and I traveled to Leominster for my aunt Janet and uncle Ed Seaver's 50th wedding anniversary. There was a church service, a nice party at the place in Sterling where they had their wedding reception in 1940, and a dinner that evening. Three of the four of my father's living siblings were there, and 9 of the 11 first cousins (grandchildren of Fred and Bessie (Richmond) Seaver) were there, and quite a few from the next two generations. It was a really fun time for me, and especially for my brother, Scott, who had never been there before and met many of his cousins for the first time. But it was only one short day, and then it was over. Linda and I have been back there several times over the past 19 years - 1991, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2004, and 2007, as I recall, and I've been able to do a lot of genealogy research, and sharing with my cousins, during those times.

So, I feel cheated! There were no great big surname get-togethers in my time, where everybody wore a family T-shirt and put their names on a big family tree, participated in massive watermelon feeds or scavenger hunt games on the family farm.

Why didn't my Carringer/Auble grandparents, and their parents, have more children who had children - I want more cousins! Oh well, my Carringer and Auble ancestors, in particular, were not too prolific, it seems. Plus the fact that they came west away from their families back in the east fueled the family isolation.

On the other hand, visiting and sharing with one or two families at a time produces more "quality time" for all of us. I cherish the times I've been to New England (and Florida, New Jersey, Arizona and South Carolina too!) and stayed with my aunts/uncles and cousins, and the food, laughs, stories, walks through the cemeteries, etc. And the visits to San Diego by the Seaver cousins, whether they are overnight or just sharing an evening meal, have been great.

We don't get to choose our ancestors, and we don't get to have lots of aunts, uncles and cousins sometimes. Having a large family living in one locality is a rarity these days, it seems. Our family is so spread out now that my daughters rarely see their first cousins, and my brothers and I rarely get together any more. I guess that is family life in the 21st century.


Lisa L said...

I grew up going to family reunions always held around my great-grandfather's birthday. Unfortunately, once he passed away, the family no longer held reunions. As with many of today's families, my generation of cousins is very spread out and find it difficult to connect often.

I enjoy following your blog!

Elyse said...

Randy - don't feel bad.

Down here in Cali, my family has a once a year party at Christmas time. These days, the number of family friends outnumbers the actual family members, but no one really cares. Everyone talks about my grandparents for a bit and we play a few games that have been passed down. I still wouldn't call it a reunion though, since it only lasts for a few hours and then everyone goes home. The focus isn't even on those who have passed, but more about catching up with everything that has gone on throughout the year.

But when I was in Seattle as a kid, we had something that was more like a family reunion. Every year on the last saturday of July, my great aunt and uncle would throw the "ping pong party". While no one wore family tee shirts, everyone talked about old memories, looked at old photographs, ate good food (ice cream sundae bar!!) and had a ping pong tournament.
The next day, we would go to my cousin Joan's house and have a huge water fight and lots of good food. The focus at this one was more about the kids, since there were A LOT of us.

I'm with you Randy - I feel a little left out of the family reunion fun! But I must admit, it sounds like I've had something a bit closer to a reuinion that I previously thought.

JamaGenie said...

Trust me, Randy, if you have never had the "pleasure" of a "real" family reunion, consider yourself lucky. The annual get-together on my mother's side was right up there with root canals - something that had to be done but never enjoyed.

We did manage to have one on my dad's side once, which *was* fun, but we have never had an encore. We substitute funerals instead. If that sounds weird, the Dearly Departed has usually been in much pain, so being free of it is cause for celebration. No T-shirts or three-legged races, but we don't need that sort of thing to enjoy being together. The funeral itself is more like a roast, then to the cemetery for a subdued graveside service, then back to the church hall for a hearty lunch and catching up. Despite the reason for gathering, a good time is had by all.