Sunday, August 10, 2008

Family Reunions

How do you really feel about your family? I'm not talking about just your immediate family, but your aunts, uncles, cousins and even the in-laws that you end up running into at these family get together's. The people that you only hear from at Christmas or see every few years.

It really is true, that we can pick our friends but not our relatives. Would we even admit that we were related to most of them if we weren't at a reunion? Probably not. The odds are we are only going on the word of other people that we really are related!

I had a couple of "aunts" and "uncles" that weren't even related to me. They were siblings of people who had married into the family and were good friends of my parents. It wasn't until I was doing work on the family tree in my teens and twenties that I realized we weren't actually related! That probably explained why I actually liked them!

In 1972, the descendants of my great grandparents had a family gathering and at least a couple hundred people crawled out of the woodwork and admitted to being related! My paternal grandfather was the tenth of eleven children born between 1853 and 1876. Nine of those eleven children lived to maturity. Those nine children had anywhere from one to eight children. The relatives came by car, camper, bus and plane from all over Canada and as far south as Nevada. They ranged in age from a few months to well into their 90's.

My dad was the third of five children born to the tenth of those eleven children. Many of my first and second cousins were old enough to be my parents! I'd heard my parents and cousins talk about several people but I'd never met the majority of them.

Reunions can be really weird when you don't really know any of the people and even the closest cousins are all a lot older. You have nothing in common, other than similar DNA running through your veins. Some of them can be nice and show respect and genuine interest. Some expect that because you are "related", that entitles them to hear your life's story in detail! Even with colour coded name tags, depicting which branch of the family they are from, it can get a bit overwhelming! Sort of a "Who's Who at the Zoo!"

Because that first big gathering was held in an Olympic year, the organizers decided to hold a mini-Olympics with races, games and contests to get people acquainted. I think it was more to weed out the smart and the strong! There was a big pot luck supper with enough food to feed an army.

In the evening, there was an old time dance at the local community hall. My fathers siblings had a dance band in the 1940's so they and a few other family and friends took turns providing live dance music for the evening.

The next day, there was a picnic at my parents farm as that was the original prairie homestead of my grandfathers branch of the tree. My great grandparents and some of the younger children moved from Ontario to southern Manitoba in the early 1890's.

Such a good time was held by so many of the attendees at that first gathering, that it was decided to do it again in four years. Thus a new tradition was born. It has continued over the years. Attendance has dropped significantly as the older generation has thinned out a lot. The younger ones are just too spread out and really not that interested in carrying on the tradition. The last few reunions, the Sunday gathering has been at a cousin's farm a few miles away.

The most recent one was held over three days last weekend. A wiener roast on Friday, a pot luck on Saturday and a picnic/bar-b-que on Sunday. This will probably be the last one that includes all those branches. It's just too hard and expensive to organize.

Did I go? Are you kidding? No way! I haven't gone to one of those in over 20 years! There are only a handful of the whole lot that I would even admit to being related to! I'll take my friends over most of my extended family any day!

If I have to be at a family reunion, I'd much rather be a spectator, than a participant! I'll watch from the sidelines as others cringe when they see "Auntie" coming or talk behind "cousin's" back.

I did come across one family reunion on line that sounded like it may be fun. It was the synopsis for a dinner theater "murder mystery";

Murder At The Family Reunion
7 Characters, 2 Women - 4 Men(two male roles played by one man)
Characters include: Rich uncle, his girlfriend, a niece and her idiot twins, a nephew and his daughter, and a plastic surgeon.
A murderously funny family get-together.
The Hooper family reunions are never a dull event. How could they be? Everyone hates each other. In fact, the only reason the family gets together at all is because Uncle Louie likes them. Despite all the family backstabbing and infighting, everyone likes to please rich Uncle Louie. Once a year, the Hoopers try to bury the hatchet in the hopes of gaining a little favor in Uncle Louie’s last will and testament. But this year, they may want to bury the hatchet in Uncle Louie when he shows up with his new friend, Daisy, in this ferociously funny festival of dysfunctional fun!

Now that's my kind of reunion!!



videonick said...

Well, I don't think I will get to a family reunion, if one is ever held. My family is scattered all over the place. Most of them are overseas in either Jamaica or the U.K.

I actually don't really know most of my family. I have met a couple of aunts and cousins, that's it.

I would venture to guess that being a spectator at any reunion of my family would be a better place to be than a participant.

I haven't even gone to an school reunions either. My graduating class had a 20-year reunion back in 2004. I did not go. Anyone that I would have wanted to see, I have already seen. :-)

dnsyl57 said...

I'm with you - in the spectators section. My high school class had a 25 year reunion in 2001. They somehow got my mailing address, but I made it clear I wanted no part of that trip down memory lane! Someday I'll have to write about it - but there are lots of other topics I'd rather do first!!