So you went to the family reunion this summer — maybe more than one. You spent enough time with people there to remember why we have family reunions, and why we have them only once every year or two. Now what?
Now I’m in trouble, that’s what, because you think I just insulted my family — and they might agree with you. Allow me to explain.
I don’t mean to suggest that I dislike my relatives. I like them. I enjoy them. They’re good, interesting people. Just as important, the reunion pot-luck fare is always abundant and superb. But, even though the reunion I attend almost every year lasts only a few hours, with preparations and travel it occupies two or three days, because it’s 275 miles away. For some who attend regularly, it’s much further and longer. That’s a significant chunk of summer.
I actually enjoy the travel, and the reunion itself is fun. But I don’t think the reunion’s only purpose is itself. If it doesn’t help knit the family together during the year, then it’s just a long way to drive for a great meal, plus some chatter that could as easily be had on Facebook (if we could get most of the family on Facebook).
This summer, I wasn’t in charge of the Alexander Reid Noble reunion, which is held annually in Arco, Idaho, in early August. (Turn left at Pickle’s Place, a conspicuous local restaurant owned by my cousin, and we’re usually in the pavilion behind the church just ahead on your left.) I’m not in charge next summer. So I don’t have any official duties in between, except for inviting my cousin, who is in charge, to share the Google spreadsheet where I keep all the family contact information. But there are still some things I can do. There are probably some things you can do, too.
You know that fun idea you had, between seconds on Aunt Tillie’s home-grown ham and cousin Joe’s Dutch oven peach cobbler-to-die-for? Write it down before you forget it. Then do something about it in time for next year’s reunion.
In my case, a few years ago, that idea was republishing my grandmother’s biographical essays. I remembered just in time to pull it off before the next reunion.
Two years ago, I decided to get my hands on my grandmother’s old missionary journal, from her church mission in the deep South, and send a copy to her great-grandson, my nephew, who was serving in the same area. That one didn’t go so well. The journal of which I had heard turned out to be someone else’s.
Last year, a few hours too late, I thought how much my children would have enjoyed a morning at nearby Craters of the Moon, before spending the afternoon at the reunion. This year, as it happened, my eight year old and one of his favorite cousins had recently studied volcanoes in school, and they were delighted to join me for a pleasant morning tramping around one of Idaho’s odder attractions and pitching difficult geological questions at patient park rangers.
This year, I had two thoughts on which I should act for next year. First, use the family Facebook group I created a couple of years ago, when I was in charge, much more aggressively, to pull in the younger generations of the family. Second, bring all those old family photos to the next reunion, and have the entire family help identify the people in them. (Most of them won’t have heard of crowd-sourcing, but that’s okay.) Maybe they’ll be able to identify the times and locations, too.
There are some other things you’re more likely to remember, perhaps. Be sure to share the best photos on MyHeritage, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, or wherever you do those things. While you’re at it, print out a few and snail-mail them to Aunt Tillie, who wouldn’t go near the Internet to save her immortal soul. I’m not saying this will inspire her to write you into her will, but at least you’ll put a smile on her face.
I’ve told you my ideas. I don’t know yours. Whatever they are, it’s time to inscribe them in your to-do list and your calendar, or at least post a note on your fridge, so you and others can enjoy next year’s reunion even more.