Are you among those love a good, old-fashioned family reunion or do you dread them? In my experience, folks are in one camp or the other. Me? I love getting together periodically with distant family.
The first family reunion I remember attending was a picnic held in Williamsport, PA, at a relative’s wooded cabin. Swarms of older relatives were there, pinching cheeks of us youngsters and remarking on how much we’d grown. (Most of them, I didn’t know at the time — they were from my Grandmom’s side of the family — so it seemed strange that they’d comment on my growth.) My uncle drove us from outside of Philadelphia to the mountains in his pick-up truck, which had a cabin on the back. My cousins, brother, and I were crammed inside like illegal immigrants. I think the year was 1976. My grandfather was present and I spent most of my time that day with him. (I was extremely shy.)
Since then, my cousins have planned reunions of our immediate family once every ten years (or so). They’ve had the foresight to hire a photographer so we could get a group photo. Looking back through the images, it’s bittersweet to see how our family grew and changed as well as remember those who are gone now.
I wish I’d been in my personal historian business when we had our last formal reunion because I would have taken the opportunity to interview my grandmother, cousins-in-law Stanley and Ed, all who have since passed away.
Each one of them had their unique and fascinating stories, now lost forever.
Sometimes our family gathers for weddings or funerals, but, even though we’re all together, those events have a singular focus. They’re different somehow. Our last get-together coincided with a happy event: my aunt and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary. My cousins (don’t you wish you had cousins like mine?) arranged to rent out The Spirit of Philadelphia and we spent a February afternoon cruising the Delaware River. Our group ranged in age from 11 to 95. A highlight of that event was seeing my then 13-year son break out into some sweet moves on the dance floor to the tune of “I’m sexy and I know it.” He gathered around him quite a collection of relatives, who stared in either awe or shock. All I could do was laugh hysterically at his antics. Normally extremely introverted, he left it all on the floor that day.
If you’re planning a family reunion this summer, consider setting aside a table for you to ask people questions or have them interview one another. Use smartphones to record the conversations.
Here are a few questions to prime the pump:
What other family reunions have you attended? Who was there who but is now no longer living? Share a story about one of them.
Who is your favorite family member? Why?
Share a story of something that happened with your cousins. How do you feel recalling and sharing it?
If you could ask a family member any question, what would it be? To whom would you ask it?
What’s something that no one here knows about you?
What questions would you add?
Share in the comments below as we’d love to hear from you.