Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Family Reunions

Mickie McGee


Seeing as I used think that genealogy was the study of genies, it is not surprising that I have made little effort to search my ancestral roots. My daddy once said that he was afraid to look up his family tree for fear he’d find out he was the sap.

I’ve always been content with whatever base information I could glean at the annual family reunion, which, even after all these years, amounts to precious little.

Be that as it may, I am intrigued at the sudden scarcity of these once-revered family events and wonder what, if anything, I personally can do to revive them.

“I despise family reunions,” my cousin said last week when I accosted her for not attending the Bohler Reunion, a yearly gathering of my maternal grandmother’s kith and kin. “It always ends up with my little family seated at one table, and every other family sitting alone with theirs,” she said disgustedly.

“Heck, I figure, why go to the trouble of cooking a meal, then toting it somewhere and having to eat with my own family? I might as well stay at home and save myself the trip.”

Though she has a point, I know that if we got our heads together (albeit at the same table) we could come up with a way to spice up the soon-to-be-history family reunion. Just what was it that made the reunions of my childhood so much fun? And they were fun, I promise you.

Dinner on the grounds, we called it a lot of the time. We either gathered at the family churchyard or at the usually dilapidated family home place. Long tables set on concrete blocks stretched for miles it seemed, underneath huge oak trees.

My Aunt Mozelle’s banana pudding was always a hit with the kids and before the Amen was uttered after the blessing we had all made a beeline to the desserts. There was always plenty of cake, fried chicken, potato salad, and sweet tea and we grazed up and down the table all afternoon.

Assorted cotton tablecloths butted against one another to showcase scores of bowls brimming over with steaming hot vegetables, salads, and desserts that would put Weight Watchers out of business in a single afternoon.

It’s funny but I don’t remember individual families segregating themselves from the extended family. There always seemed to be lots of mingling, hand slapping, hugging, and yes, cheek pinching going on. We would never have dared take a seat and stay there all day. “We were like flies on a turd,” my nephew says. “Never still.”

Oh, I’m sure that in the midst of all of that we did our share of gossiping. We just rationalized and called it “catching up on the news.”

Who didn’t want to know who was recently divorced, married, had a new baby or who had run afoul of the law. We were human, after all. Someone once said that a family reunion is one of the most effective forms of birth control. I can see that. Any family tree produces some nuts, some lemons, and a few bad apples.

Still, we had fun. We laughed, we sang, we ate…and ate…and ate. Reunions used to last all day long, as opposed to now when most folks are gone before the tables are cleared. Definitely before the money for the kitty is taken.

I can remember sitting at my grandmother’s feet after lunch, and listening to little old ladies jabber about mundane things, fanning away flies and mosquitoes as they raised their voices so as to be heard over the distant humming of ice cream churns.

Old dog-eared photos of reunions past were circulated among the crowd along with the family Bible, as if it were the Holy Grail.

I don’t recall that we were ever in doubt as to the identity of anyone attending. Unlike today, the majority of those attending the family reunion back then saw each other on a regular basis, either at the grocery store, at church, or sitting a spell on the other’s front porch, “just a’swingin.”

“Blood is thicker than water” was a popular saying back in those days and families (though they might get mad enough with one another to kill) stuck together through thick and thin, good times and bad.

“I can rip my own family to shreds when I talk about ‘em,” my uncle says, “but if someone outside the family says anything bad about them…well, I’ll fight ‘em in a skinny minute!” Family loyalty. It was a beautiful thing.

“There seem to be fewer and fewer of us at the reunions each year,” my mother said. “It’s almost not worth the effort to go anymore.”

How sad.

I make a suggestion that we, the younger generation, do what we can to revive the Family Reunion. Before it’s too late, let’s think up new ways to lure our kin together once a year. So what if you think your gene pool needs a good dose of chlorine. Whose doesn’t?

I really think it would be worth the time and trouble to stay connected to our relatives, especially in this hurry-up society in which we live. Friends come and go but your family is forever. Besides, and don’t forget this, the preservation of your family’s history is at stake. Not to mention, some mighty fine banana pudding.

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Mickie McGee is a 57-year-old Southern born and bred female, raised in a small town forty miles north of Augusta, Georgia. She has been married to a John Deere "veteran" for thirty-eight years and has two grown sons. Her childhood was chocked full of exciting, sometimes traumatic, events and thus, her penchant for writing about them. She writes a personal column,"Dear Hearts," in her weekly hometown paper and, at last count, had written some 340 of them. As far as she's concerned, one can only write (that is, with any passion) of what one has experienced, and she has experienced quite a lot in her half a century of living, and she gets a thrill each and every time a reader gushes, "I've been there, done that!"

© Mickie McGee

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012