Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"New Glasses"

I've been making my "rounds" this morning - visiting my favorite blogs and reading what new things these friends have had to say today. I had some things on my mind of late too that sometimes, when reading what others have to say it gives me a different insight or take on whatever it may be that I am pondering at times too.

One blog that is a big favorite of mine is this one - Shelby Dupree's -as I always enjoy the words of wisdom she imparts and love the array of photos she posts too - from her parent's Mississippi farm to her own flower and vegetable gardens and lots and lots of other things in between.

Today, to my surprise, she was talking about a recent "redo" she did on her blog - new, big photo banner at the top, different template, color background, etc. She was saying she wasn't happy with her blog's look and felt her photos weren't quite right, etc., etc.

Now, since I always enjoy what I read on her blog and love the photos she posts too, it struck me that perhaps her vision of her blog -as compared to how I see it - was not unlike the image my older daughter seems to get returned to her when she looks in the mirror and is trying to do her makeup, fix her hair, make sure her outfit for the day is "just so" perfect. When I look at this daughter, what I see there is a far cry from the image she professes to behold in the mirror. I see a young woman, tall, well-built, very pretty, well-dressed, nicely coiffed and she -well, she sees a four letter word -that rhymes with "snit" which is what she puts herself into every time she looks in a mirror it seems! As I mentioned to blogger friend Shelby about this syndrome, I have offered on many occasions to loan my daughter my bifocals as I felt apparently she needs new glasses or some such since there was always so much disparity between what she was seeing to what I would see there.

And, that idea - "different eyes" - or a different approach, different look, came back to me then as perhaps an answer to something that has been on my mind for a long, long time but it is once again wearing on me as the days fly by bringing me closer and closer to an annual family event - my Mom's Family's Reunion!

This family event was begun back in 1950 by some of the grandchildren then of my great-grandparents - my Mom's generation, in essence. There were a few of my great-grandparents children still living at the time the first reunion was held but the last of that generation died in 1971. Today, there are only six cousins left from the third generation - the one that began the reunion. Those of us who still attend this annual event are now of the fourth and fifth generation away from my great-grandparents. There is still one of my Mom's first cousins who does try to attend the reunion but she doesn't always get there year after year now.

A little background history here maybe is important too - so here goes. My great-grandparents immigrated here in 1880 and 1881 from Sweden. My Great-grandfather came over alone in 1880 and in 1881, his wife and the five children they had then came over and joined him. They had lost their first child when he was still just a baby. Over the next 15 years, they had six more children. By 1950, when the first reunion was held, seven of the twelve children were still living and there were also, by then 38 grandchildren, along with a fairly large complement too of great-grandchildren in existence. Although most of their descendants lived in Pennsylvania, there were little clusters here and there around the east coast of family members but for the most part, the majority lived within a 3-5 hour drive of central Pennsylvania and the area where my great-grandparents had settled.

Today, my son, younger daughter and I are the ONLY members of this extended family who still lives in the same village where our ancestors came to live. My older daughter lives about 45 miles away in Centre County. But the rest of the extended family is really "EXTENDED" now! There's at least one cousin in Hawaii, several in California too now. And coming east, some in Texas, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee along with New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Delaware.

Although this family event over the years has seen some reunions with as high as 80 some relatives attending, the past few years, the attendance has dwindled very much to usually about 25 stalwart cousins -thirty attendees is cause for a celebration to see that many cousins appear.
Over the past 20 years, we have changed the mode of operation from gathering on the last Sunday in July to renting the little park where we have the reunion for the entire weekend thus enabling those coming from a distance the opportunity to either camp out (for those so inclined) or to get a room at a nearby motel and break up the travel time involved, etc. We used to have games at this reunion (and prizes) for kids and adults alike, but over the past couple of years, the attendance and especially, the small number of children there now is so small that the time is mainly spent with the little ones playing on the swings and stuff or trying to play a little softball while the adults talk, visit, remember other family members long departed by looking over old photos and such. And, we have an auction too - everyone brings some "gift" (can be pretty or funky or down right ridiculous) and kids and adults bid on these and the money gleaned then is what we use to pay the rental fees for the parklet we use.

Now I happen to love this reunion -been there since the beginning of it and am an active participant at what does appear to be its demise too, by the looks of things. Over the past 57 years - this year will be our 58th reunion - I have only ever missed two reunions! I suppose because I've been a part of it so many years, it has become as much a staple in my life as is Christmas celebrations with my kids and grandkids now. I look forward from one year to the next to coming together again, being able to see, talk to and just enjoy being in the presence of my extended family.

A lot of the younger ones in this family group who have drawn away from the reunion over the years -due often to distance, sometimes because they are unable to get away from work or other commitments that particular weekend -now say they aren't interested in attending because -mainly -they don't know anyone there. Well, if you don't attend now, didn't attend for several years, decided in 5 or 10 years that "Oh, I'd like to go to that family reunion" -first off, it may not still be in existence because it can not go on forever without a larger amount of extended family support and also, if you don't know your family now and it's soooo difficult to come together and meet with them using that reason, then what makes you think it will be easier several years from now to get re-acquainted with them then?

Now, on the other hand, this coming Saturday will be another family reunion event which both my daughters, my three grandkids and I will be attending. This one will be held at an amusement park about 35 miles or so from where I live and there will be well over 100 people attending it too! A cousin of mine (first cousin., that is) who lives about 10 miles from me and two of her children and her grandchildren will be there but they will be pretty much the only relatives there that my girls know fairly well. All the rest of those attending this event will be children of my oldest uncle and their grandkids and great-grandkids! That particular uncle had ten children, of which nine are still living and there are oodles of grands and great-grands from his family too!

My girls are really looking forward to getting acquainted with this "Hill Hundred" you could perhaps call them!

But the biggest differences between this reunion and my Mom's family would have to be the set-up and food. At this reunion, the food is being catered by the park management at a cost, per person of either $14 or $17.50 a head, depending on how much each individual wishes to eat! At my Mom's family reunion, it is the traditional type with "pot luck" meals - ranging from all kinds of casseroles, salads and desserts that each family brings to put on the table.

At my Dad's gathering, some of the organizers for the event - grandchildren of my oldest uncle - have a full contingency of games planned for all ages as well as a "talent" program too where anyone who wishes can "perform" -whether it be playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, karaoke - you name it! This event runs from 11 a.m. (sharp) till 7 p.m. Saturday night. My Mom's reunion begins as people start to trickle into our park site early Saturday afternoon and will end late Sunday afternoon - after two big meals have been served, as well as a make-shift breakfast too on Sunday morning. My Mom's reunion is now and has always been, pretty much also a "dry" event - meaning no outward display of alcoholic beverages. My Dad's reunion - well, suffice it to say that a couple of my cousins there often join forces and set up a keg! (Although, I'm not so sure they'll be allowed to do that at this particular park where we'll be gathering as my daughters said they thought this park is posted for NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ALLOWED. We shall see I suppose how that plays out.)

So, here's my dilemma - and where I really could use "new glasses" or another set of eyes (or many of them) to think this over and see if anyone here can come up with any suggestions of how to draw more of my Mom's extended family back to the reunion and stave off it's eminent death -soon- if we don't manage to do just that!

What would you do? How would you try to entice people to attend?

And, now -in closing, here's the lovely Bushism for today!
June 20, 2007 (and Happy Birthday today to my former classmate, neighbor and long, long time friend too. Happy Birthday, Kate!)

"The Bob Jones policy on interracial dating, I mean I spoke out on interracial dating. I spoke against that. I spoke out against interracial dating. I support the policy of interracial dating." -CBS Evening News; February 25, 2000.


Vic Grace said...

Gosh you do have a bit of a dilemma. I would have no idea how to organize or entice people to a do like this, or any for that matter. If I have a brainwave I will let you know.

I don't have many relatives anyway and they are either in USA or UK so a reunion would be difficult even if we could find each other.

Good Luck

Paula said...

I've been thinking of getting a family reunion organized myself. Seems the only time we all get together is for funerals. That's really quite depressing! I have alot of aunts, uncles and cousins and we truly LIKE each other, we just happen to be, like you, scattered all over the country and busy with our individual lives. I don't have any words of wisdom for you, just good luck blowing your way.

Shelby said...

I have always loved going to our family reunions!! They are such good times to get together with everyone and hug and chat and eat and laugh and remember . . .

Happy Day!!!! :)

Smalltown RN said...

Family reunions....hmmm...well my immediate family are all in the same city....all 12 of my siblings....we don't have any family in Canada other than my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews...and we get together all the time.....actually just at the beginning of the month about 45 of the 60 odd of us were at the graduation party for my nieces and nephew.

Hey go check out my blog...there is a surprise there for you....and you topic today is to fitting for the prize...cheers my friend...

Linda said...

This is a dilemma, especially with people so far flung all over the country. We have trouble just getting local family together for reunions or picnics or anything so I'm afraid that I would be of no help at all.

The only suggestion that I can make is that it's a family tradition that needs to be revitalized or else no one will ever know their own kinfolk.

Good luck with this! I bet it's going to be tougher than your Class Reunion was!