Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time to Again Gather the Clan

Every year, Labor Day weekend, is the Shields Family Reunion. It is held near the original farmstead where my father and his 9 surviving siblings were born and raised. Though the original dwelling is in ruins, I have visited the old graveyard, the family church and the high school in town that bears my maiden name. It is the bosom of my family to which I have returned faithfully since the death of my father in 2003.

The first year I went, Labor Day 2004, no one knew me, but everyone knew who I was: Charlie's daughter. I am his spitting image, and was welcomed warmly, as the pain of Dad's death was still very raw. I went with my husband and son, and was reintroduced to everyone. I had only met most of these people at my Dad's funeral the prior December. Brian and I stayed in a hotel in town, so we had an out if we needed one. While nerve wracking, it was a wonderful experience.

In the years since, I have earned my place as Rebecca. Still Charlie's daughter, to be sure, but an individual, known in my own right. We no longer stay in town when we visit, we stay with Dad's younger brother Lyndel, right down the road from his older brother, Marvin. I have learned what life was like from their perspectives growing up dirt-floor poor. Through them, I am getting to know and better understand the man that was my father.

I also spend time with 3 of Dad's older sisters: Dorris (whom I most resemble), Joyce and Mary. I met his oldest sister, Reba, on my first visit, but she has not been back since. While I love them dearly, I find them less approachable and more critical than my uncles. They also forget that I am a 40+ year old woman, not a teenager in search or need of a maternal figure.

My son is getting to know his cousins, aunts and uncles, too. When we are at home, we are a small family of 3, with only my husband's youngest sister near enough to visit. It is easy to forget that we are part of something larger. I didn't have extended family growing up, as my mother was an only child, and we were completely cut off from my father's family. It is very important that Christopher knows that he has many, many relatives near and far.

This weekend, the Shields clan will again commandeer the property now owned by my grandfather's brother's grandson, Jerry. There will be nightly cookouts, a live band, karaoke, and way too much to drink. Aunt Dorris will give the evening meal blessing and cry. We will cook and catch up on family news and gossip. We will celebrate my cousin Lisa, who has come though breast cancer treatment bald and bruised, but unbowed. Christopher will learn how to shoot a .22 shotgun, and search for deer and coyote tracks and turkey feathers with his cousins. For the first time since 2004, my husband will join us.

Our gathering together is salve to our souls. Leaving is always hard. Anticipation for the next years' event begins when I step on to the plane bound for New York.



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SOUL: said...

how really cool is that! i hope you have a really good time.
(i love the way you write by the way!)
happy humpday!

Rebecca said...

Hi, Soul! I can't wait to go! I have printed our boarding passes, and all I need to do is pack for myself and my boys!!

And thank you for your kind words re: my writing :))

Random Magus said...

My dad's got 4 brothers and 5 sisters. So have a huge brood of cousins. Some of my uncles I have met only 5 times as they live in another country and a few cousins that I've never met. But the rest we used to have such a great time as kids. weekends would be days alternated between two grandparents [maternal and paternal]

Maria said...

I always have to be dragged to family reunions and then when I get there, I never regret it. I always have fun and learn a lot.

It's just the getting there that is hard for me.....

Have a great time...

Kate said...

One of the things that I like about getting together with family (especially mow that we're all getting older) is what I call wrinkle-matching. This occurred to me once when I was talking to my older brother. I was looking at him and thinking, boy, something looks familiar. I realized after while that he has the exact same vertical wrinkle between his eyes that I have.

SOUL: said...

:)) let us know how it goes when ya get back !

The World According to Me said...


I don’t think you can beat a family reunion.
Nice to hear your husband will be accompanying you this year.

I look forward to hearing all about it, on your return.

The Real Mother Hen said...

There is so much warmth in the way you write it, RP, makes me want to go to your this reunion (I actually don't like reunions).
Have a good trip. And will see you soon.

seagrape said...


lilith said...

youre lucky that your family is like that. i will always be my father's daughter, but that is not a good thing in my case. regardless of what i do, i will forevermore be known as the daughter of a lying bastard.

Uncle Phatato said...

I think this is my favorite post by far!

SOUL: said...

welcome home...c ya soon