Saturday, June 27, 2009

Family Reunions: Distinctly Southern?

From farmhouses to old churches, courthouses to cemeteries, libraries to literary sites, and museums to The Mouse, I've spent the better part of June on the road... and have more of the above planned for July, as well. (But not The Mouse. One Mickey visit per season will have to suffice.)

Such traveling is always a reminder of how things are different in various parts of the country. People talk differently. The stores and restaurants are different. Lifestyles vary.

Which brings me to my question... during my travels, I attended a family reunion in the sticks of Kentucky. Not my family, mind you. I crashed another family's reunion. :) (I wanted to interview the elderly members of the family, and they invited me, so leave me alone. :) )

Anyhow, it was a typical family reunion... kids running around playing, more food than anyone could ever hope to eat -- sloppy joes, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, potato salad -- good stuff, topped by a table of desserts that would have fed the entire state of Kentucky, women chattering away, the menfolk heading for the lake with fishing rods in hand, and a few men and boys gathered near the picnic shelter strumming on their guitars and singing bluegrass and southern gospel.

The whole thing had a very Southern feel to it... maybe it was the music, but the whole thing just suddenly felt distinctly Southern. I had a hard time picturing a family in, say, New York or Massachusetts or Maine DOING this. I'm sure they must have family reunions of some kind... I imagine they gather together and eat... but there's just something about a down home reunion that just has that Southern flavor to it.

So I wondered... do those of you living up north do this kind of thing? Do you have family reunions every summer, and if so, what are they like?


Laura said...

I have to tell you about a fairly recent tradition started in my husband's family. The year that my father-in-law died (in June 2004), we had the funeral but since our son was away hiking in the mountains of New Mexico and he was very close to his grandfather, we decided to wait until August to bury his ashes. We also decided that, since the family would be all together, we would have a small family reunion with the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren plus spouses, of course. Since we have our camp area in the woods, we offered to have it at our place. Well, to make a short story long, my father-in-law was a chainsaw woodcarver and he had carved us a totem pole which is in our camp area. Jim said that when his dad finished it he told him, "The tradition in an Indian tribe is that they dance around the totem pole to pay tribute to the carver." We never did this for Pa (everyone called him Pa). So started a new family reunion tradition. We dance around the totem pole to honor Pa - every year since he died. And that's what happens in our family, plus tons of eating, horseshoes, talking and lots of laughing. Which reminds me...time to set the date for this summer's festivities!

Lauri said...

We went to my Dad's extended family reunions in the sticks of KY a few times. I'm not sure if they still have them, but they the second or third time decided to make them into revival meetings as well as a picnic. Um yeah, we belong to a denomination that isn't that in your face and we didn't know anyone there for various reasons, so I don't know if it continues. My mom's family? They all live on the West Side of Cinti, so we have get togethers of my grandmother's siblings children/grandchildren, etc. Most of my friends can't believe and we see these people regularly, we get together every couple of years - or when one of the California people come to visit and someone decides we need one. It's someone's backyard & people sitting around and talking while kids swim in the pool. Cinti isn't to far from the South, but this is much more German than anything else.

Heidi said...

Well, I can answer about the Pacific Northwest, or at least our little family of "German Immigrants". For 9 years now we have been doing a "Herrmannfest" (my maiden name) with our entire family and my uncle and all of his kids, spouses and grandchildren. Really, that's all the family we have here in the United States!!! Considering that the Herrmann's in the US started with just two brothers who started their own engineering firm (and worked together for 35 years) we now number 24. Not a HUGE family reunion, but still, the WHOLE Herrmann crew in the US. Amazingly we all still live in the greater Seattle area (which is pretty amazing given today's economic times). My brother graciously hosts it every year at his home in country where he has over an acre of land. Of course we eat, chat, joke around, wonder at how big the kids are getting, play games, etc, but the highlight each year (no matter the weather or temperature) is an all out, HUGE water fight! It started the first year by chance, but is now one of the main focuses of the day. Fortunately we've almost always had perfect weather and after we are all thoroughly soaked (young and old), we lay out in the sunshine and talk and talk.

It's a wonderful time. Maybe not a traditional kind of family reunion, but it's often the only time we all see one another the whole year!

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