Why The Last Full Weekend In July Is So Important To Me

If you know me, you know where I was this past weekend, the last full weekend in July. It’s the same place I’ve spent the last weekend in July nearly every year of my life — Cairo, Georgia. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may recognize the annual recurring theme — family reunions.

Another Blanton Family Reunion has come and gone.  It seems like the older I get, the quicker they go by.

Reunion After COVID

I felt a little anxious about our family reunion this year.  The  annual event was cancelled last summer because of COVID, so many of us had not seen each other for two years.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would people stay home? Would it seem awkward? Would conflict and division spill over into our family get together?

I also thought about the five cousins who had died since our last reunion in 2019.  Would the void be unbearable? Would we all be too sad to enjoy our time together?  Would there be a dark cloud over us?

Within five minutes of checking into our hotel, I spotted a beloved cousin coming up the walkway.  I rushed out to meet her and we embraced for the first time since my son’s wedding in December of 2019.  A few minutes later, we walked into the Cairo Woman’s Club, our meeting place for almost sixty years.  There was a flurry of greetings, cousins seeing each other again for the first time in too long.  We were back where we belonged on this last full weekend in July and it felt right.

Just Like Old Times

We did all the things we usually do at our family reunion — visited, ate good food, shared old family stories, reminisced while looking at the photo albums from the 1960’s to the present.  We played corn hole, went skating, went shopping in nearby Thomasville and watched the children play in the hotel swimming pool at night. It was loud and fun and oh, so good to be back together again.

We also remembered.  In the midst of the laughter, there were some tears shed for the ones we missed, the ones who left a void in this sacred coming together.  Like so many who have gone before, they will become part of the rich tapestry of our family history.  

Just as the weekend flew by, the years have flown by as well.  Although I can clearly remember the days of playing with my cousins in the creek behind our meeting place, I am much closer to becoming one of the elders admonishing the children to “shut the door!”  My generation will be the ones to keep the old family stories going, to help the younger ones remember the ones they never met, yet somehow know.

Bittersweet Endings

This morning, as we were all loading up to head our separate ways, my young cousin’s husband spoke for us all when he said, “this is the sad part.”  So true.  But, as we were hugging and saying our goodbye’s we also promised to get together soon.

In a sense, this weekend felt like a collective sigh.  It was a first big event for some.  It was confirmation that there are some things a pandemic simply cannot ruin. And, it was a spark of hope for next July and many more July’s to come.

Cairo Woman’s Club

You can probably tell from my writing that family is very important to me.  Sometimes I grumble and complain about the heat of South Georgia, the prevalence of gnats, and the less than desirable motel we have to stay in, but honestly, I can’t imagine being anywhere else than at the Blanton Family Reunion on the last full weekend in July.  Here are the links to some of my other Family Reunion memories: Home, This Is My Family, These Are My People, For The Love Of Family, A Family Reunion Story,Journey To Cairo (Not The One You’re Thinking Of),What Do You Do When Your Tradition Is Interrupted?

How about you? Does your family have a reunion? Do you enjoy going or do you dread it?  What is your favorite thing about a family reunion?  Do you think they are a passing experience? I’d love to know.

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