This I Believe

Brenda - Springfield, Missouri
Entered on June 1, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, gratitude
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This I Believe….

I believe in summer reunions. From the time of my first memories as a three or four year-old, family reunions were the organizing force for our annual vacations. In those days, these get-togethers were held as a “Fourth of July” celebration for the little country church, but because everyone was related somehow, they were in truth, an excuse for all the aunts and uncles and cousins to gather from near and far, and for my family, a chance to go to Texas and spend at least a week at our grandma’s house getting ready for the big day.

The highlights of every year’s celebration were the three-legged race, the sack race, and of course, the “fishing pond,” where little fishing poles were hung over a curtain so Uncle Kurt, hidden behind, could help us snag a fish or crawdad cut out of an old inner tube, along with other prizes. And no reunion was complete without serious games of “42” by the uncles, homemade lemonade in the 50 gallon crock, and all kinds of cousins spread out under the tabernacle waiting their turn to ride in the hay wagon, play horseshoes, or wait impatiently for the pies and coffee cakes to come out in the middle of the afternoon. When my own son got to his first reunion at the age of three, he joined the tradition and he, too, had to wait his turn. But he– and I, watching– were amply rewarded! Those cousins, aunts, and uncles still gather, and it is a comfort to know that they are there, even though I can only rarely join them. Who is making the peach coffee cake this year, I wonder?

Now I impatiently await another reunion, this time for an entire community. For the last thirty years, the city my family lived in for seven of those years, when my sons were much younger, has come together for a “really good time” celebrating the arts – visual, musical, and gustatory! Begun as a Bicentennial Year project, the festival is now organized by a city “arts and humanities” commission, and over 2000 eager volunteers. Although we left ten years ago, we cannot leave what that event symbolizes. Every year it calls us back, to see and experience not only wonderfully creative endeavors but an amazing connection of people with deep passion for contributing to something that enriches many lives, and the community as a whole. There I will see friends who also come back, as well as those still a part of the fabric of that community, who blend together in the three-day celebration that uplifts and inspires us, as well as enlarges our waistlines. We walk from tent to tent, stopping to see new babies, talk with an artist who’s come back again, or share some cobbler and ice cream with a friend who needs a break.

Is it ever “the same”? Not really, and that’s what keeps it exciting. New artists and musicians, food, and people, keep appearing to join the party. This year, we will bring friends from our current city, and that, too, will be a cause for celebration. It is in these gatherings, and many more, I suspect, around the country, that we touch our roots, give thanks, and reach out to embrace the old and new, together.