Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reunions- Why Bother

Of all the reasons that humans gather into groups, reunions of any kind have the worst reputation. You’ve heard all the old excuses. Boring, a bunch of people I don’t remember, etc, etc. You can find negatives if that’s what you’re looking for. But for me, the positives far out-weigh them.
The three I’m involved in are all groups that I was not born into. The Hunt Family, who meets at Petit Jean each May were forced to accept me when James Carlisle chose me as his permanent pot-luck partner. The Bryant High School Class of 1975 fully adopted me, though I only attended school with them for that last, all-important year. The Tuggles of Hot Spring County also inherited me, when one of their sons married a woman from Kansas with two teen-aged daughters. In all three cases, I feel included, legalities aside.
The most important thing about re-uniting is that we keep doing it. If you compare the possible guest list to the number that actually show up, it can be discouraging. Rather, I just like to enjoy and encourage those who do make the effort.
Family reunions are fun because they have the potential of growing and continuing. You start with a core group (the first generation) and invite all of their descendants. That number grows exponentially each year. (Do I get extra credit for that word?)The key is to get the younger ones interested. The Hunt family accomplishes this by holding their gathering at one of the most beautiful places in Arkansas-maybe the whole world: Petit Jean State Park. Little ones will have memories of standing on the banks of the creek with a fishing pole. “I remember the year (they’ll tell their own kids) that the water was so high we couldn’t stand here. We had to move up to that spot.” (Pointing back toward the pavilion). Or- “I remember once when Uncle so-and-so led us on a hike after lunch, and Mom and Dad were waiting on us when we got back. They already had everything loaded in the car.” The love and acceptance we feel here keeps us coming back.
At the Tuggle reunion in September they take pride in the old recipes. There are conversations about who makes the best chocolate pie. Memories being swapped recall family gatherings after church, lots of laughter and happy times. Here again, all hope is invested in the next generation. I talked with a young lady who was very happy to tell me all about the book she had brought along to read. But, the all important question was “When do we get to eat?” Of course, documenting the family history is another focus of the day, and my Mom is proud to be the keeper of the family trees. Her table attracted lots of interest with people wanting to be sure they understood how everyone was connected, and making sure she had listed all of the newest grands and greats. One young man was very interested in her story of a Tuggle family cemetery in Tennessee that had been destroyed during the construction of a new sub-division. “Why would they do that?” he asked her. Why indeed.
Best of all are the stories- happy memories and even sad ones. We can gain new insight into how our relatives made it through- and came out smiling.
The High School reunion has an entirely different vibe. Unfortunately, this group is destined to only get smaller as time goes by. So, the focus is on really enjoying each other’s company each time we can. For the Bryant High class of 1975, much of the fun is in the planning. Friendships are formed between people who never “hung out” together when they were in school. More than one activity is planned, so that those with different interests will be intrigued. We try to make it worthwhile for class members who travel in, while keeping the costs down. Once there- it’s all about happy hugs and handshakes. We laugh together because there is no need for pretense. No need to try to impress anyone with who you are today. We know all about you, where you came from, the silly things you did when you were young. It’s all about the roots we have in common, and even the struggles we’ve been through since we threw those blue mortarboards in the air. Through all the ages and stages, you’ve still got friends who understand. So, Hornets, if you need details about the 35th, give me a shout at Can’t wait to see you the first weekend in November!
Next time you’re invited to a reunion- don’t just send the letter to the shredder. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it!

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