My family recently gathered together for a reunion in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There were double cousins, second cousins, third cousins, in-laws – some close as brother and sister, others near strangers in acquaintance. One family drove an hour to get there, another two days, another flew three hours. But I think it’s safe to say, that no matter how far or near, no matter the cost in time or preparation, every single one of us would say It was more than worth it!
I came across a quote while preparing for the reunion that resonates with me even more after our family was together for three days:
Family ~ A Link to the Past and a Bridge to Our Future
In the short time we had together in those cabins by the river, we swapped stories of past relatives, shared our personal struggles with life this side of heaven, laughed and cried together in ways that will forever remain in my heart as a special gift.
I learned that my sweet shy grandma liked to watch pro wrestling on TV (WHAT?!). That my brother was once dragged home from a dance by our wonderful grandparents, Ma and Pa, because they thought it was too worldly. That my great grandpa was once land rich in Texas and had given a farm to each of his children as a wedding gift. He had also owned a bank during the great depression, and when things went belly up, he sold parcels of his own land to personally reimburse the account holders in his bank (think George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.) Aww!
We talked about a great uncle who was an ace pilot in WWII; an aunt who suffered from agoraphobia and depression; a stepfather to our mothers who leaned toward cruelty to his children and stepchildren.
We brought family mementos and homemade gifts for a silent auction at the reunion: creative cookbooks filled with family photos, recipes and stories that are worthy of being handed down to subsequent generations as family treasures; wooden photo “cubes”; three of Ma’s homemade aprons; vintage photo key chains; two quilts; potholders and dish towels; Ma’s square angel food cake pan; two family photo framed collages; a book about cave insects written by our uncle; photo coasters…and so much more. Each one of these items is a link to our shared past – to those loved ones who came before us and contributed significantly to who we have become today.
There is nothing more “heartwarming” than watching cousins chase each other down with a water balloon…or competitively toss cheese balls onto a team member’s shower cap/shaving cream-topped head…or smash a pie onto an unsuspecting cousin’s sweet face. Laughter has always been one of the threads that holds our family together, and this reunion only made me want more – more of the JOY that comes from shared DNA, stories, memories – that twinkle in the eye that is unique to our family.
One night, we attended a music/comedy show in Eureka Springs at the Ozark Mountain Hoe Down where we heard beautiful gospel harmonies and Elvis oldies, as well as comedy skits including “Tater Chip Patches” and “Uncle Posture Pedic.” We laughed until our sides ached and we could hardly breathe. But when the patriotic music closed the show in honor of our vets, the recent loss of our family’s own Navy veteran, Wayne, my sister’s husband, hit hard and we found ourselves sobbing in each other’s arms…comforting one another as only families who are close can experience. We were all emotional wrecks after that show – laughing and crying until we were spent. But we had one another…and that is a good thing.
Over those few days together, there were snatches of conversation that I wish could’ve prolonged into hours of sharing…encouraging…comforting. We shed tears and hugged necks, as we offered glimpses into both joy and heartache. I saw sides to cousins I barely know that made me thankful to God for this beautiful, broken family to which I belong. Even though we are miles apart in land and years apart in age, we share a common history and we need one another.
It may be awhile before we see one another again, but I will cherish these family reunion memories until then, and treasure these people whom I am blessed to call my family.