Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Have Family Reunions?

The excitement has started to build for the Crenshaw Reunion. Reservations for cabins have been made. Parts of our family are committing to be there, and most are already looking forward to having a great time. So what is the big deal? We just had the 2008 reunion last month, and it is now eleven months into the future before the 2009 Crenshaw Reunion will take place.
What is in a family reunion? Like people, reunions come in all different sizes, shapes and places. There are usually some key figures in family history in which reunions are begun, or are held in remembrance of. My family—Daddy’s side—began many years ago having a birthday celebration for him somewhere around November 13 each year. Since Daddy outlived all of his siblings, he was the likely candidate. He did, however, have a sister-in-law, Aunt Alice who survived Uncle Sam, my namesake, and she also was treated to an annual birthday party by her six daughters. We usually attended that celebration as they did on Daddy’s birthday.
Someone came up with the brilliant idea of consolidating the two into a family reunion, which we did. November seemed to be a great month in Georgia for that to take place, and it worked well, rotating it at different homes or parks around middle Georgia, that is, until that really early winter Sunday around the latter part of the 1970s. We had a good crowd. We had it around a lake in Bibb County, and we almost froze to death, cutting short a reunion of two great families. More changes were initiated before the next year. Everyone decided to move it to wonderful October, almost always a more, friendly month weather-wise.
October has remained constant since that time. The only other thing that changed was the location. We adopted Indian Springs State Park, near Jackson, Georgia where it has remained constant for over twenty years.
Sadly, my father, mother, a brother and a sister along with Aunt Alice and several of her daughters have passed away since that time. If there is a downside to family reunions, it is that many die as the years go by. The upside is that many more have been born into the various splinters of all of our families, and therein is the problem with an ongoing family reunion. How do you get young people interested in becoming a part of the family get-togethers?
At a time when your children are young, they go because the family goes together. The difficulty happens when they become teens. Teens dance to a different drummer as any of us know who have them, or have completed the rearing of our children. They are experiencing new and different things, not all of which we always approve. The best thing is to start early letting them get to know their cousins, and by all means have something to make the reunion interesting to young people as well as those of us who have settled into senior status. Nothing bores young people faster than idleness. Nothing seems better to those of us who are elderly than sitting around in a good chair reminiscing about old memories or passing down tales that have been ingrained in our memories from having heard them over and over.
Young folks like action, such as hiking, boating, walking and campfires—even horseshoes challenge them. Oh, and don’t forget the great eats at reunions when the aunts and cousins delight in bringing their favorite dishes. Some even become legendary. Uncle Billy promotes his banana pudding each year, as does Uncle Meredith his fried apple pies. Many people show their insecurity by dipping their desserts first and then loading up a platter with all the dinner delicacies. It just gets to be fun. There is even a small amount of time for business, albeit a small amount of time for that. Usually it amounts to only passing the hat for donations for the shelter, paper products and drinks to accompany the meal.
So successful has the Crenshaw Reunion been, many of those attending have stretched it out to three or four days in a cabin, culminating with a drive into the north Georgia mountains for apples and cider while enjoying the early beginnings of Fall colors.
Sadly, not all reunions are as successful as this one. The Barlow Reunion which actually began first faded away as many family members died and others lost interest. But the biggest drawback to achieving success was the inability to recognize that a reunion must have young people to carry it on years later. In order for that to happen, they must be included in the planning and the excitement of taking part.
There is no better time than a reunion to seek stories about genealogy research. Who hasn’t said at one time or another, “I wish I had asked Grandma or Aunt Alice or Uncle Wright about this or that?” Those are the missed opportunities which can in many cases never be recaptured. For example: Long after the death of my father, we pondered why we had never been able to locate the gravesite of a Great-grandfather who we thought for years had been buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon. I don’t know the countless hours we trod over that sacred burial ground looking for his final resting place. Then out of the blue at a reunion, an older uncle said, “He’s not buried in Rose Hill! He was buried in Fort Hill in Macon!”
With that revelation sinking in, and after obtaining directions to the newly-discovered cemetery, my son, daughter and son-in-law wasted no time in heading in that direction in quest of the long forgotten burial place of my great-grandparents and in less than an hour of walking, they came upon both graves and a small amount of rubbing the tombstones revealed the secret mistakenly thought to be in another place.
One year, after extensive genealogical research, my son and I embarked on an adventure to meet some cousins whom we had never become acquainted. The connection was my grandfather and their grandfather were brothers, yet through the years, we had never met any of them, that is until we met them on paper and through census records. Meeting them in the flesh was a different story altogether, as we tracked a couple of them down. One elderly woman was suspicious of the two men knocking on her door claiming to be relatives. After reassuring her that we only wanted to meet her and others of her family—with no interest in monetary gain—did she relax enough to listen to our story of finding genealogical connections with her family.
Bottom line was, enough were interested in finding out more about us, that when we invited them to come to our family reunion that year, we nearly doubled in size on that day. It was quite an enjoyable time meeting and attempting to introduce all of our family to all of theirs. There were many questions and not enough answers, but all in all, it was a great day.
And the young people enjoyed wading in the stream and walking on the rocks at Indian Springs.


The Queen said...

I completely agree with you! Without the younger generations, reunions disappear. I believe they are important for many many reasons and we'll keep this one going as long as people will participate! I wrote my opinion of reunions in my blog too!

Pam said...

I love to read everything you write!

Anonymous said...

There is picture you used in the post of Mother and Daddy, with him sitting and her standing behind.It is of them when they were very young, possibley right after they were married.

I was studying the picture, admiring how beautiful they were back then and then I noticed something unique, Daddy had all his fingers.

We kids grew up aware of his middle finger, I think on his left hand, was half gone, the result of an accident in the cotton mill when he got it caught in a machine.

I am in agreement that the younger family members must keep the reunions going, as we have except for the Barlow reunion although we did try for few years.