Family Reunion

12 07 2010

It’s a hard job, but …

I spent the weekend at family reunions. One was miles away, the other was right here in town. The “miles away” one wasn’t my family, it was the family of a friend and I offered to drive. (The things I’ll do for food …)

The deal was that this reunion fell on my friend’s mother’s birthday, and my friend had told her family that she wouldn’t be able to make it. We drove down under cover of semi-heavy traffic and my friend snuck up behind her eighty-plus year old mother and kissed her on the cheek. Of course, pandemonium ensued. I endured accolades for being the deliverer of joy, I liked that, a lot. Call me Santa Claus. Tears flowed (not mine though! …okay, maybe a few were) and the result was a happy reunion.

As reunions go this one was a laid back affair, chatting and hugging and catching up was the program. There was a guitar there and several of the attendees could play better then I can, but I took my turn and rasped out a couple of songs and then passed it on. There was a meal which we arrived to late for, but the food was out for grazing and I did a bit.

And miles to go before I sleep …

I enjoyed myself and we stayed way too late and drove the three and a half hours home in the dark. My bedtime ended up being three A.M.

The next day (that day actually, since it was already past midnight) was my own family’s reunion. By contrast this one was a more structured affair. A rented hall, which is rented three years in advance for the same Sunday every year, is the annual scene and there is a schedule of sorts that can be recited by any member of the McKinlay clan. The invites always say “Arrive at noon, lunch at one”, there are games and entertainment after lunch, and then dinner if anyone wants to stay. Socializing goes on through the agenda which never runs on time.

Rarely, anymore, does anyone stay for the second meal. This disappoints me as I have been attending this reunion for more than forty years now and I am a nostalgic and reminiscent type of guy.

The eyes of age

I see this reunion in my memories, I see it with the eyes of a child. It was a wonder to me. My cousins would be there. It took place in a park. There was a structured rigidity to the day but a light attitude and a happy feeling permeated everything. My father made potatoe salad, my mother made a casserole, my grandparents next door were to busy preparing and were not to be disturbed. I was scrubbed and polished and put into new clothes purchased (or made) for the occasion.

The drive to the park was long and seemed so slow. I bounced like a caged monkey in the back seat of my parents or grandparents car, I did that all the time, but on this particular Sunday no one told me to stop. Everything was perfect. Even if it rained, there was a flavour to the day that made it the most delicious of days in the summer and made it second to no other day except Christmas (and that was a close second).

Any last words?

Final thoughts? The day doesn’t play out the way it did, my grandparents and my mother are gone now and my cousins have moved away. The second meal, as I already said, rarely happens and I’m too old to play in the park’s playground without getting funny looks. But, I wouldn’t miss it for anything, just being in that old stone building and looking around brings back the old feelings and freshens the memories.

And every year now I find a moment to sit still and look at the assembled crowd. I start to wonder who won’t be there next year but in short order my memory starts filling in the empty spaces with images of my mother and my grandparents, my Uncle Lloyd and my cousin Jim, those who are attending the rest of the reunions in spirit only and I suddenly glimpse the reality of the afterlife. If heaven exists no where else, I know it exists in my heart and my memories, memories that are peopled with the loved ones who come with me in my heart, every year, to the family reunion.

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