Saturday, June 4, 2016

Family Reunion

My family on my mom’s side just had a family reunion today, June 4, 2016, the first in Southern Indiana, I believe. Most years they were held in Southern Illinois in July because my mother’s parents lived there, and July was sure to be hot and dry. At least I think those are the reasons. The one today I didn’t attend and tonight I’m missing my cousins so. Colorado seems so far away.

I’m almost 70 years old now and have been attending family reunions with these relatives (and so many who have died) all my life. I don’t remember any bad times, no arguments, certainly no fist fights or gun battles. My memories are filled with good times, laughter, and fun with cousins. I could write a book about those reunions but instead I’d like to make a list of abstract memories, snips of images etched on my mind like those captured in the flashbulbs of old-time cameras.

The squeak of the porch swing
Lighting bugs in the yard
Grandma’s chuckles amid the soft southern voices of each of her kids

Sleeping on pallets in the living room
Cousins piled up on the feather beds
Pillows damp with perspiration and mattresses that smelled of pee
The grape vine outside the bedroom window

The chiffrobe, chamber pot, and quilts in the bedroom
Grandpa calling out "Verlie, Verlie", and her quiet answer, “Oh, Wil.”
Grandma with her snuff, rose water glycerin, her only cologne
Grandpa in his white socks, black coal dust stains on his ears

The distinctive odor of lime in the outhouse
Cucumbers planted on hills
Mulberries staining the ground
The smoke house that no longer smoked hams

Piles of scrap metal by the garage
Coffee grounds saved and spaded for fishing worms
Green apples in the trees beside the house
Mustard worms on the sidewalk

Iced tea and lemonade, made with real lemons
Dew berries growing low along the road
Blackberries and chiggers seemed to go hand in hand
Lois’s store for candy and orangesicles

Cousins arriving by car to squeals of excitement
Grandpa sitting in those cars turning the knobs, playing the radios
So many cooks in the kitchen, adding beans to the pot

Uncle Todge came in the door as a one-man carnival
Talking like Donald Duck
Giving out candy from his pocket
Making us laugh and loving his antics.

Aunt Betty and her stories, oh, she could tell good stories
Never cut her hair and always wore dresses with sleeves
But first to jump into Harco Lake
And splash and chase and act like a kid

Uncle Jay took a personal interest in every one of us
Remembered the old times, the names and dates
Never talked of his hardships, his time in the Army
Loved us unconditionally and we felt the same about him

Aunt Tootsie is what we called her
And I don’t know why
She was the take-charge sister who got things done
Kept an eye on us kids and we knew she saw everything

Aunt Barbara didn’t make it down home as often as the others
She had four kids and Uncle Jim in Indiana
So when they did arrive we celebrated big
Took those kids around and showed them everything

Aunt Lou was a little on the fringes
Liked her cigarettes and drink
But loved her family, every one
Had a sad little smile that spoke of a sad, sad life

I saved my mom for last, Mil, to all her family
She reverted to a little girl when she came down home,
Giggled and laughed, called me Betty instead of Pam
The only time she was truly happy was when she went down home.

I love you all, my cousins, I hope you know that
We share lots of memories and good genes too
Most of us are healthy and have families of our own
May our love for one another and our reunions continue forever...