It’s been about 50 years since my family on my father’s side held its first reunion in north Louisiana.
As my Aunt Ruby, my father’s eldest sister and the family matriarch, always says, “reunions help keep us together.”
Indeed, they do. Aunt Ruby recalled the first 1960s Warren reunion at a Shreveport park where she and others served up fresh corn on the cob and slices of cold watermelon.
Since then, there’s been numerous gatherings, and we’re gearing up for another one in a couple of weeks.
Today’s menus have grown and transformed into buffets with everything from fried chicken, pork roast and barbecue to fettucini and fruit salad.
Our reunions have also become a lot more entertaining through the decades. Banquets, bands, fashion shows, featured speakers and family tree presentations round out the three-day events.
There’s even been a few surprises. One year, a former member of the Temptations performed a brief concert at the banquet.
In 2000, I brought my soon-to-be-husband to the reunion, and invited all of my aunts, uncles and cousins to the wedding just a month later.
According to the AARP’s 2012 Bulletin Poll on Family Reunions, people attend reunions to reconnect with old and new family members, make memories, share family history, gossip and to travel to new places.
Some of my favorite family reunions were a mixture of all of those things.
While there have been some disagreements during reunion-planning sessions and some have lost interest, Aunt Ruby said that “as a whole, the family is still sticking together.”
Her family packs a huge punch at each of our reunions. With eight children, 22 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, Aunt Ruby and her husband have one of the biggest showings each year.
A lot can happen between reunions — divorces, marriages, anniversaries, deaths, new births, sickness and, well, life in general. Following my paternal grandparents’ deaths, reunions became more frequent, and Aunt Ruby became our “go to” person for stories about them.
To keep the reunions fresh and new, Aunt Ruby said it’s important to pass the baton to the younger generation.
“It’s their time to carry it, but we’re (older generation) working with them,” she said.
My favorite reason for going to reunions is to reconnect with family members I haven’t seen in years.
Whether we’re talking about how big our children have grown, swapping email addresses or reminiscing about the old days when we’d pick fruits and vegetables from Big Mama and Big Daddy’s garden, there’s no other place to be and feel “we’re still sticking together.”
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.