I never really quite understood ‘family reunions’ and actually never really knew people had them (whatever they were) when I was growing up. I think that’s another of the many casualties of divorce. Broken families don’t have family reunions. I’m not so sure I have grasped the deep seated value of family reunions until this year. O, sure I valued getting together with the family and I’m exceedingly grateful to and for my mother-in-law’s foresight to initiate our annual family reunions — but I’m not sure I have grasped the significance or importance until now. Trouble is… family reunions are by nature one-sided. And in a family with many children, in years to come, our family will be multifaceted and likely very diverse.
So what’s the significance or what’s the great value in family reunions? Well, the significance is identification and remembrance. You gather with people you may or may not have been friends with outside of family and you share a particular history – a commonality that you don’t share with others. Now, I’ve heard it said (and have said so myself) that there’s a closeness with, say, church family that one doesn’t have with family, but there’s something with family that we only have with family. When it all comes down to the basics, it’s family that we all take responsibility for. Family reunions remind us of that. They remind us, too, of where we’ve been — the events that we’ve shared and seasons we’ve passed through (whether together or not). And if you’ve got “picture-takers” or scrapbookers in your family, you’ll have ample opportunity to see where you’ve been. You’ll have opportunity to reminisce (or cringe) over days gone by and you’ll have a thread that you can follow through the years.
Each year, my husband’s side of our family gathers (usually at the Oregon Coast) and we have a bunch of “traditional” things we do. Some traditions I think would be better served if they were left to old memories, but some really love the annual egg toss and water-balloon
fight toss. I’m also thinking that if we’re going to get in the van and drive a long distance… I’d sure rather drive a little longer and reach the sunshine! I can have rain most any day and cloudy most every day… the Coast is beautiful… but I’m of a mind that heat would be a delightful ingredient to the beach atmosphere! Over the years our ‘responsibilities’ have ‘evolved’ as family size and abilities change. But, generally, each of the brothers or sisters families take a day for meals and family devotions/singing/activities. Because we’ve increased in number, we now rent two homes on the beach instead of one and so we go back and forth between the homes. There’s lots of visiting, laughter and picture sharing… lots of great food and lots of sandy laundry and as each family grows, more memories are made as more events are shared and recorded. There’s a downside, too, and that is that from year to year the ‘make-up’ of the group has changed… and as we think ahead, there will necessarily be more loss and sorrow. We’ve shared those griefs together and have seen the Hand of the LORD in our midst… we pour over the photos, retell the stories, weep for what was and isn’t – laugh over what was and will be. But that’s also what families do… they sorrow together and share losses — not just the additions and achievements. Sorrow is a necessary part of life… it’s a mix of joy and pain and families face all of these… they’re what make up the photo albums and strengthen the fabric of the family.
It seems that with every reunion, there’s a change… an addition, a loss, a significant milestone, and more. Each family member has welcomed the
outcasts “outsiders” and children born into each of the sibling’s families and the family tree grows stronger and, I think, more beautiful with each addition. I think it has taken time for this to be evident, but it’s interesting how each addition rounds out the family and increases the value of each member. I hope this tradition continues long after we’re gone so that our children’s children will have something to carry on — something to build on. Pictures and their own memories will have paved the way.