Family Reunion

Child vs. Adult Perspective

While Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off of summer for most, in my family it signals reunion time. Every other year we gather in South Carolina for a weekend of food, games, fun and reconnection.  

We see people we haven’t seen all year, sometimes family that we haven’t seen in many years. Overall, it’s a great time. Luckily, we pretty much know how to behave, avoiding those “Lord, Aunt Mary done hit Uncle Leroy over the head” moments. 

This year, as I was sitting at one of our events and looking around at the crowd of people, I realized that being thirty-something is an eye-opener. I remember being a child with an idealistic view of my aunts, uncles, older cousins and family friends. I thought they knew about everything, their lives were perfect (no one told them when to go to bed, eat, etc.), and they knew how to have a good time. They would talk for hours, laugh at each other, reminisce on old times and even got a good dance or two in before the end of the weekend. I couldn’t wait to be like them.  

Now I am them, and it’s not the party I was expecting. I am no longer privy to the rose-colored glasses of childhood. This time I know about the internal family struggles, financial headaches, health issues, and all of the other things that happen in “life”. I know about the family members that “just can’t get right” and the stress this causes the rest of us. I see how life has beaten some of us down, and how working too hard has caused some of our eyes to look eternally tired.  

But, with this revelation, comes another. I see why these reunions are important. In everyday life most of us are not lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love us just because we’re “me”.

In everyday life we are forced to wear the mask – the mask that smiles when we don’t feel like it, the mask that offers politically correct answers when we really just want to let loose, the mask that hides our inner most thoughts, dreams and fears, because we don’t want to be judged. 

But at the family reunion, we get to give our mask a vacation. We get to be ourselves around a whole group of people that have no choice but to love us because we are family. We get to reminisce about the good times, not really dwell on the bad. We get to relax, laugh, and not worry (well, not a lot anyway…) about being judged. We get to laugh at each other’s faults because, “Boy, you are just like your Uncle Tommy.” 

So while I can no longer claim ignorance to the realities of adulthood, I can claim a deeper appreciation for my family and the reunions.

Towanda Long, the Cafe Lady

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