Monday, July 13, 2015

A Day That Took My Breath Away

Where do I begin? A seed was planted (about) a year and a half ago. It took root and has been growing ever since. This past weekend, it was like a peony plant that suddenly burst into bright technicolor.

On the day of her mother's funeral, one of my cousins gently prodded me and another family member into the idea of planning a family reunion. This past weekend, she told me the idea came from the fact that her mom's side of the family had a reunion every three years. It had been twenty three years since our family had a reunion.

It was time.

Our family has reached the stage where we don't have the excuse of weddings to bring us together in happy times. Two funerals within two months reminded us of how much we enjoyed being together. We were in need of a reason to get together for a happy occasion.

That was this past weekend.

I arrived well after the party started Friday night. By the time I had arrived, supper was long over and everyone was outside enjoying the evening and the easy company of family.

I sat back and took in the view. I felt the energy. I inhaled the moment and it was great. I sat back quietly and thought of how absolutely "right" it felt to be together. Family enjoying family, getting to know family, the new generation getting a taste of the family connections we have been fortunate enough to appreciate as long as I have a memory.

I thought of the "missing generation". Those who are in and around the ages of my own children. Those who didn't choose to come (mostly) because they didn't know anyone.

"How will you get to know people if you don't come?" was one response to that age old feeling I know only too well.

"The word re-union means you are re-uniting with people you know" was one of the missing family member's responses.

From that point onward, I thought of our family reunion as a "family union" and I set out to try to get to know those who I don't know well, better.

I succeeded on some levels. I took the opportunity to talk one-on-one with so many cousins who I have gotten to know on a quick email basis. It was so nice to sit down and enhance some of those quick conversations which led me to "know" I wanted to know that person better.

I talked with second cousins I knew by name only. I had my childhood memory of sitting back and thinking these girls were sooo pretty and nice. I remembered their smiles and the twinkle in their eyes. I had no idea who they really were. I didn't speak in those days. I sat back quietly, watched and absorbed. Suddenly I was greatful for that one small memory because that was the launching pad which I used, to get to know these second cousins just a little bit this past weekend.

I have regrets. There was another family who does not even exist within my childhood memories. More second cousins who I didn't even know by name. Even as I write this, I had to back track to figure out there was the same degree of separation between us. But without that one small childhood memory to use as a catalyst to a conversation, I barely realized who they were and I had no idea what to say.

It is hard to start that conversation. Okay now, who are you and who am I to you? And once we figure that out, where will our conversation go? My only regret is the conversations I didn't have.

Suddenly I was in the shoes of the "missing generation". The generation of second cousins without the childhood memory to launch them into a conversation with someone they not only don't know, but have no memories to connect and unite them, let alone re-unite.

My own children would have been at a gathering of cousinhood with all the "once removed" and "second" and "third" descriptors. I fully understand their hesitation over coming. You kind of "need" your base family group of people-you-know-well to launch you into new and unknown territory.

Re-unioning is an up close and personal set of stories. Unioning is something (I think) we all have a little more trouble with.

There were oh-so-many up close and personal conversations this past weekend. I love re-hearing the words as they waft up to my consciousness as I remember the days past.

Re-unioning is fun and easy. Unioning is akin to starting a new job where you walk in and everyone and everything is a stranger to you.

Re-unioning is like stepping into an old job you know well and running with it. Unioning is learning the ropes but discovering the connections of what-you-already-know and how it applies to all-you-are-learning.

"Blood is thicker than water" is a quote my mom has cited time and time again. It is so true. But I cannot help but think of the relatives I did not get to know this past weekend and I wish I had done better.

It was a wonderful re-union. The new unions? I didn't do so well in that area. It is hard to get to know brand new people in a large setting. It is so busy, so overwhelming and there are so many people to feel like you have the focus required to get to know the one person in front of you when there are about ninety others in your midst.

Yet among all the reunioning and unioning there was one "union" that transpired which was meant to be. It is not my story to tell but it is a story I know well and I feel and care deeply about both parties. They met, they talked and they connected at this reunion.

If for no other reason than that one "union" alone, I classify this reunion a success of all successes.

The sun that set upon our day of great connections and reconnections was a piece of art. It was as if all those who were not with us here on earth said "good night" with the only language they had.

It was a breathtaking sunset on a day that took my breath away.

As I drove home yesterday, I felt like I was raking up the petals of a peony bush which lost its splendor as quickly as it bloomed. There was a crash of disappointment as the weekend wound down and I drove towards "real life" again.

Like the peony that loses its splendor as quickly as it comes, the memory of this past weekend and the deep roots within our family will remain green and vital until it "blooms again" within the renewed connections we have made and will continue to build on as life goes on.

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