Alongside Disney World getaways and beach trips and mountain escapes from the Texas heat exists – in a category all its own – the occasional family reunion. I say occasional to include those whose families lift the percentages of frequency in compensation for mine, which just had its first ever reunion.
Crossville, Tenn.: the logical place for a reunion of my mother’s side of the family, having all come over from the old country in Norway and settled in New York. But there we were, 60 strong, squareheads most, including two from Norway, all of us on the Cumberland Plateau.
Such is the way in these days of mobility that people choose to live where they will, with no regard for where they come from. My parents are responsible for this retirement locale. My aunt and uncle followed them. And then my aunt’s sister and her husband. Another lot across the street, but also on the lake, has sold to my uncle’s best friend growing up. Then there’s Aunt Margery, who didn’t make it this time, just the way she has never made it down, despite the fact that she built a house down the street in case she might want to move there from Queens. At 91, it’s looking doubtful.
My New York cousins came with their kids. One is NYPD blue, the other a weekend male nurse and weekday house-husband. Both talk the way I once did. Normal, for New Yorkers. Hardly Confederate Yankees; more like carpetbaggers, maybe.
Turns out, there’s a host of ministers and missionaries in the part of the family I knew nothing about. My great uncle from Norway is a retired Lutheran minister, as is my mother’s brother. One cousin married an Egyptian girl, the daughter of a minister and director of an orphanage. Another is headed to a Presbyterian seminary. Another works for Campus Crusade for Christ. Still another teaches in a school for missionary kids in Mexico City. One is back now from China, where she spent two years teaching English and being a missionary incognito.
Here I thought I chose this profession, or at least was chosen for it by God in some exceptional act of singling me out. Seems I’ve gone into the family business. Even the ones who don’t make their living at ministry make a life of it.
The food was bland, the games lame and the stories were sprinkled with catches in the throat and more sentiment than a Lifetime cable TV movie.
My forebears were has-been sinners and would-be saints. We remembered them fondly and passed the baton to the next generation of peculiar treasures, who have vowed to avoid family reunions.
It was surprisingly much ado about something. And, on reflection, priceless.