When you are a kid, reunions don't make much sense. They are a torture you are forced to bear where a lot of old people come armed with a casserole under each arm. In the shade of a park pavilion, people you have never seen before come up and hug your folks as if they know them. Ancient aunts and uncles (or so they claim to be), as shriveled as prunes, reach down and plant wet kisses on your face and mess up your hair with their bony hands, and your only prayer is that there might be playground equipment near enough to give you an excuse to ask if you can play on it.
If you are unlucky enough to be forced to sit through a reunion program, you end up listening for hours to those same shriveled-up prune people tell each other what they remember about Grandma and Grandpa Whosit whom they all seem to know, and they laugh and laugh, and you can't figure out what they're laughing about, especially since the microphone screeches one second and doesn't work the next, or else there isn't a microphone at all and Aunt So-and-so talks so quietly you can't even hear the boring stuff she is saying, which is just as well because it doesn't make sense anyway.The past year or two has been interesting because I am entering the stage of life where I see family patterns turn into reunion formats overnight. What were once Sunday afternoon get-togethers of close family members suddenly become organized yearly events for the recollection of things you remember, and suddenly reunions take on a whole new light.
Such is the case with Veloy's family's Walker Cousin Reunion, which was born the day of her dad's funeral.
Her dad's family had never been very close, really. I had been married to Veloy 20 years, and though I knew her Uncle Frank and Aunt Elda, and who Uncle Bill had been, and where he lived, I had no idea who most of the people were who gathered at the church for lunch that day when we came back from the cemetery.
I think the Turner sisters started it. I had heard of them but never seen them in action. This may not sound right to say about a funeral luncheon, but they were hilarious and helped make the day a very special and memorable experience.
We listened to them tell about incidents in the family's past that I never dreamed existed. Dozens of people were drawn into the web of memory the Turner sisters triggered, and before the afternoon was over, the Walker cousins had determined to get together on a yearly basis. And they have.
One year, the reunion was at Bessie Chad-wick's cabin in Tibble Fork. Another year it was at Ron and Vera's in Lindon, then at Jim and Janelle's (that's Uncle Frank's daughter), in their back yard in American Fork. Another year it was at Veloy's mother's house, which had been the only family home, and which everyone referred to as Grandma's and Grandpa's.
They talked a lot that year about how they remembered the house when they were kids, and a lot about playing in the barn out back.
I've learned more about my wife's familyat the Cousin Reunion than I ever would have otherwise, and have seen amazing things done with Jell-O, to boot.
I think of the Jell-O because this year's reunion was held just this afternoon at Verdon's and Laurene's place in Midvale, and I noticed while walking to the table that I had five different kinds of Jell-O on my plate, which all tasted great, by the way, (one had fresh peaches), along with roast beef, homemade root beer and fresh, sliced homemade bread. For dessert there were brownies, cake, sweet Chex mix and a carrot cake with raisins, the last of which I just realized I forgot to get a piece of before we left, and a freezer of homemade caramel cashew ice cream.
After eating, everyone pulled their chairs into a circle and began just talking about everything that seemed common to everyone there, which was a surprising amount when you consider that this is a bunch of people who for 30 years never got together, and now only get together once a year.
I learned a new face today, as well - Glade, Uncle Frank's son, who lives in Boise. He's retired now but for many years was a photographer for the government, recording proj-ects like the Jordanelle reservoir, etc., all over the Western states. On the subject of the barn, which seems to come up every year, he mentioned how one time when they were hauling hay, he was up in the loft and threw his fork to the side where it fell off the side and stuck up one of Monte Beer's shoulders.
On current events, Evan Colledge, husband of one of the Turner sisters, told about when he was in the military, just after the war, and traveled through Iraq from Baghdad to Arabia on a narrow gauge railroad.
A combination of all that ice cream and the warm afternoon sun must have gotten to me, because I started getting groggy about then. So I retreated to the side and sat by my brother-in-law, Bert, in one of those low fold-up aluminum loungers. It tipped over and broke, and I got a good ribbing before I was able to make a graceful recovery.
But that's OK. Compared to how I felt as a kid, reunions like the one held today, embarrassments included, are fairly tolerable affairs.