Friday, July 10, 2009

reunionizing with the family

The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people
you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you.
~Kendall Hailey

The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe,
to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people - no mere father and mother -
as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one
in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by
an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.
~Pearl S. Buck

If you don't believe in ghosts, you've never been to a family reunion.
~Ashleigh Brilliant

* * *

These three quotes were rattling around in my head during our family reunion last week. (I'd been searching for good quotes for a craft project I submitted for our auction.) Together, they sum up an extended family: a bunch of people you might not otherwise have befriended and yet whose existence informs your perceptions of yourself, your ancestors, your progeny. I studied quietly those cousins of my mom who were all raised together and were obvious influences on each other, wondering how a whole generation can love reading and pass books back and forth to each other by the sackful. My grandfather's siblings still have identical hand gestures and expressions after decades of living in different states.

Grandma (in white) and her three living sistersGrandpa and Zora

Aunt Nadine (Grandpa's sister) and me
That second quote is so relateable. One of the biggest joys of having a kid is introducing her to the greater family. Little Zoralee has gotten a year's worth of loving and manhandling over the past weeks. Wow. Whether she was perched at the table in her Sassy Seat for a meal or furthering her crawling skills on the lawn or being strolled or carried about, she elicited a "Heeeey Zoooraaa!" from every passerby, usually in a voice two octaves above normal pitch.

And now for some pics, although oddly enough, I didn't take many. Or, I didn't take many that were of people other than Zoralee. Fine. I am smitten.

the auction mid-week, featuring homemade and regional itemsgames

And now, some of my favorite Zoralee-centered moments:

When my dad made announcements at mealtimes, speaking loudly about when group photographs would be taken or where the sign up sheet was for sweeping the dining room or riding horses, Zoralee turned to him and grinned. Sometimes she talked back, sure as sure can be that Grandpa was addressing her individually. This ritual turned into quite a crowd pleaser.

It is especially endearing to see my brothers and boy cousins with Zoralee, protecting her from the wild animals and also small gravel bits that might make their way into her mouth. I dunno; you sort of expect the girls to sidle up to a baby (sorry about the stereotype, but hey), so when the guys just want to sit in her presence and watch her try to crawl - that's, as my aunt Lavonne said, "sweet and precious."

Zoralee and I (and I'm sure everybody) would reach a point every day of over-crowding, a limit to our sociability. One day, when she was waaay beyond that point, I took her back to the tent and we laid down to nurse. I thought she'd be konked out in 30 seconds, by the way she looked. She tends to break out in a rash on her face when she's overly tired, and this was the worst I'd ever seen it. But, after nursing, she looked up at me with love, and giddily cood her appreciation for being taken to a quiet place. She then proceeded to crawl around the tent for an hour soaking up the sound of nothing. It was perfect.

I've mentioned before that Zora is a mover. A wiggler. A squirmer. But one evening, for inexplicable reasons, she sat upon the grass very contentedly for twenty minutes, simply watching. She strained her neck to watch birds fly past, and I followed her gaze to a bee buzzing from clover to clover.

By mid-reunion, Zoralee looked like a real camper, with mosquito bites and random scratches and scrapes to her face and body, and filthy fingernails. I was so proud of her! A real outdoor girl. There's something about dirty fingernails that gets me high on life. Here's her first morning waking up in the tent.

This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up with a couple of other favorite moments, having nothing to do with Zoralee:

One day, I was in the main lodge playing cards with a group of the old timers. There were between 35 and 60 years between me and them. Two of my second cousins, who are young and trendy, came in to say goodbye to everybody. She is a gorgeous, professional dancer with wild hair and supermodel sunglasses. He is the handsome sporty type, with a fantastic build and spikey hair. As they walked out with hips swaggering like the show people they are, they both held up the peace sign and said, "Peace! Peace!" over their shoulders. It stood in delightful juxtaposition to this table full of old people sitting on wooden benches, their cards spread across a plastic tablecloth in a game of "Hand and Foot."

Playing music is just about as important to this family as eating. We ain't professionals, but we do love to play together. If somebody is sitting still for more than a few minutes, they are sure to pick up an instrument and commence, and passersbys will likely join in. It's great having the cousins come over, because we introduce each other to new songs and bands. And then we get to hear Grandpa Gene's old timey classics like "Deep Ellum Blues" and "Mama Don't Allow No Guitar Playin' Around Here." The best is when the non-musician audience isn't particularly paying attention and you can jam and experiment with no pressure to perform.

Zoralee and Aunt Melody dancing to the music

A group that was still around after the reunion played softball on July 4th. We had a real hoot, bad-mouthing each other and combining and twisting softball and baseball rules from around the country. It stank that two of our youngest players got injured within 10 minutes, but they recovered well. Softball was a big part of my growing up years, and it's weird how common of a sport it is in my extended family too, kids and adults alike.

If you must see more, my sister, Rachel, posted a bunch of totally different pics from our reunion on her blog at this link.


Rachel Clear said...

Great job!

You reunion post kicks my reunion post's butt. I love it.

I love all the insights and what-not. I was too lazy to add any insights, so I loved reading yours. :)

lori lls said...

Your pictures are way better though.