July often reminds me of a time long ago, when we’d gather as a family for a great big party. We’d dine on potato salad, fried chicken, homemade ice cream and deviled eggs – not to mention tasty homemade pies and cakes. Everything sat in the warmth of the July sun until every last lick was eaten. Today those tasty morsels would be like certain death and the truth of food poisoning would be apparent the next day. Maybe in those days the same was true, but we went on living anyway.
Getting together with family was pretty easy too. Most everyone lived close by and the need to search for the long lost relative, didn’t take long. Today, families are spread all over the map and it’s not nearly as easy to get together. I kind of miss those times, especially as I grow closer to the end of my days.
There was my mom’s aunt, who once got stuck in our recliner and her ample size created a challenge for my thin husband. Every year she’d say how much we’d grown. She was a very well traveled lady, who we saw only once a year. I had to be reintroduced each year.
There were the cousins we never really got to know except for that one day a year. There were second and third cousins too. Farm families were often larger than city ones, so relatives we didn’t even know we had would show up. I often wondered if they really belonged to us or they were just there for the food poisoned potato salad.
We had potato sack races, played horse shoes, contests of all kinds, usually designed to bring out the competitive spirit and pit cousin against cousin. The end of the day would consist of a huge bonfire and stories of old being spun as the crackle of burning logs filled the air.
There always seems to be one black sheep of the family – whose name would certainly come up at least once. Whatever happened to old what’s his name? Last I heard, he was in prison for stealing chickens
Our family trees can be filled with all kinds of nuts and they often show up at reunions. There was the yodeling cousin, her sibling who could click the roof of his mouth with his tongue and another cousin strummed on a wash board. This was done for the entertainment of the elders. I’d often direct some kind of skit as well. This was one thing my cousins dreaded, but it turned into a career for me.
We can’t chose our family members. They’re a part of who we are. We all come from the same DNA so there is a natural bond. There are a few we’d much rather not be related to, but keeping connected is sadly a lost tradition. I can’t wait for that final reunion in heaven. I’m sure I won’t recognize any of them.