Yeah, Mom, These are my people!
At our recent family reunion in Cairo, Georgia, I overheard one of my cousins telling another cousin about her son’s camp experience. She was concerned that he fit in and was not teased by the other pre-adolescent campers because of his long hair. When she picked him up from camp and questioned him, he enthusiastically responded that he was indeed in the company of “his people”. It was such a cute story and that one line stuck with me all weekend.
Three other cousins spent the past year working on a documentary film about our family for the 60th anniversary of our family reunion. They arranged with the owner of the town’s movie theater to show the film on the big screen. We all walked to the theater en masse to watch the movie about our ancestors, affectionately known as “The Big Nine”.
As I sat in the darkened theater, waiting for the show to begin, I looked around and got a lump in my throat and a little teary.
These are my people.
We are scattered across the country from Hawaii and California to Kansas and Tennessee with most of us living in the southeastern states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. There are even some family members living abroad.
We are nurses, teachers, bankers, investors, attorneys, builders, government workers, law enforcement, military, business owners and pharmacists. We are clergy, bakers, artists and writers. We train horses, rescue wild life and live by the sea. We coach sports.
We are stay-at-home moms and retirees.
We have high school diplomas and graduate degrees.
We are conservative and liberal; Republican, Democrat and Independent.
We drive expensive sports cars, hybrids, trucks, mini-vans, sedans and SUVs.
We travel extensively and are homebodies.
We are tall, short, overweight and underweight. We are athletic and klutzes. We have fair complexions and darker skin. We have hair as straight as a board to heads full of curls. Our eyes are blue, green, hazel and brown.
We are Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or non-denominational. We are devout in our faith and not so much so.
We are partiers and tea-totalers.
We are introverts and extroverts, soft-spoken and boisterous, quiet and talkative.
We are old and young and somewhere in between.
We have experienced the kind of pain and hardship that drive us to our knees yet also the joy that makes our hearts soar. We have said goodbye to family members at funerals and welcomed new members into the fold at weddings. New baby Blantons are always a welcome sight at our reunions.
We are so different but so much the same.
We all trace our ancestry back through one of nine brothers and sisters who thought it paramount to keep the family ties strong. The bloodline goes back through their parents, Joseph and Mary, whose funeral prompted the start of our family reunion six decades ago. It then goes further back through the generations, all the way to one who came over on the Mayflower. It is a rich heritage.
The film ended and the lights came up. You could hear sniffling and saw people dabbing their eyes with tissues. I think we were all struck by the beautiful story that is our family.
My mother’s generation make up the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family now. They are the ones who remember their grandparents and the good times growing up as cousins. They are the keepers of the stories.
My generation senses the importance of carrying this legacy on. It is what our parents have instilled in us. I think we realize that it could either go on or end with us. That’s why we continue to make this annual trek to a small town in south Georgia every July. Gnats, heat and all.