I saw her as I glanced out the window toward the park. She was blonde and gangly, not a cute toddler but not yet a teen; somewhere in those nebulous years before childhood turns to adolescence. She was running around the park with her cousins, catching tadpoles in the creek and turning bushes into forts.
A few hours later, I saw her again. This time she was standing on the steps of the Woman’s Club in Cairo, Georgia, waiting to have here picture taken. It was hot and there were gnats. After what seemed like hours, she was off again, giggling with her cousins.
Later, I saw her gazing at her older cousins, the teenagers. What was she thinking? She was caught in between; too old for the little kids but not quite old enough for the sophisticated teens.
Who was she?
If you haven’t already guessed, the girl was me.
My family has a huge family reunion every year in Cairo, Georgia which is about thirty miles north of the Florida/Georgia State line. It’s always the last full weekend of July. This was our sixty-first year. I have not been to all of them since I am not yet sixty, but I have attended all of them since I have been on this earth. (It’s pretty much mandatory with my Mom.)
With my daughter and son-in-law in Scotland, and my son not making the annual pilgrimage, this was the first year since 1988 I haven’t had my children with me. It was a bit disconcerting and gave me much time for contemplation. I suppose it is why I kept imagining my mini me.
I was also reflective because of the generational shift. It was always the “Big Nine”, my grandfather and his siblings, then the first cousins, their children, then my generation. The Big Nine and their spouses are all gone, relegated to our memories and the family photo albums so the first cousins are now the elder generation. My generation is right behind and two more generations of cousins follow.
It made me wonder, “how did it go by so fast?” “How did I go from being a child playing in the park to one of the older cousins?” Another trick of age is how fast the reunion weekend passes. When I was a child, the fun days playing with my cousins were endless. As an adult, it seemed like we barely arrived and it was time to leave.
It was a more pensive year for me, probably because I was missing my girl, but also because it was difficult to see beloved family members struggling with health issues. There has always been struggles with health or marriages among the family, but I think you are more aware of them as an adult than as a child. There is truth in the saying “Ignorance is Bliss”.
Of course, it was great to visit with family, catching up on the events of the past year. There were reports of healing, graduations, first jobs, school-aged children excelling in sports or academics and my favorite—a new baby cousin! It is always special to welcome a new little cousin into the fold.
I love my family and I love how we gather every year. You don’t hear about family reunions like you used to. I’m thankful that my family has continued this tradition.
Our big family reunion each year always reminds me of another reunion to look forward to—the reunion we will experience when we get to heaven. I have family members of the same genealogy and ancestry I will see but I also have brothers and sisters from all over the world who I will meet there. I think they will be as beloved and recognizable as my family on earth. I hope you will be there too.
Does your family have a family reunion? What is your favorite thing about it? What is a favorite memory?