June 6, 2011 12:36:00 PM
At the family reunion you couldn''t always tell which person was the "reunitee." Did that person look like Uncle Luther or Aunt Betty? Or did they just marry someone who looked like Uncle Luther or Aunt Betty? Whatever the case, on some level, everyone was familiar.
After about 25 years some older cousins put together a "cousins'' reunion." A generation had gone by and the children we remembered as toddlers were now young parents themselves. Grandma had 10 children, making for dozens of cousins.
My nephew sat beside me, and every time a pretty girl walked by he''d ask, "Is she related to me?"
"That''s Butch''s daughter" or "Little Sarah, Sandra''s daughter. It''s a reunion, Mark. They are all related to you."
"Dang," he said.
I reminded Mark that family reunions are not a good place to find dates. And yes, we are a family of nicknames: "Butch," "Spike," "Chip," "Skip," "Big Sarah" and "Little Sarah." Uncle Luther called me "Piddly-toot." I have no idea why.
The second and third generations mixed and mingled and discovered shared family histories. Stories were shared about their parents and grandparents, the childhood stories they had never heard. Like how Aunt Shirley cut off Momma''s head in family photographs, or about the hidden fort built on top of the chicken coup, or about Aunt Edell and George, the monkey. A lot of hearty laughter was heard while a few tears were shed.
Older cousins wondered if the younger cousins would continue family gatherings once we were gone. Each year we were losing more of the older generation, and that wasn''t all that we were losing.
Cousins described their aches and pains, surgeries and unusual medical conditions. We complained about memory and hearing loss and lack of "get-up-and-go." We retired early each evening, and there were noticeable changes in our appearances.
I whispered to Sam, "We used to be the beautiful people."
When the reunion was over, I called cousin Sandra. "You''ve missed the last couple of reunions and at our age that''s missing a lot."
I updated her on cousin news and shared the "beautiful people" comment.
"Sandra, I''ve been telling Sam about Aunt Sarah and her three girls, but y''all aren''t showing up so he can see the beautiful people."
"Oh, honey," she said. "We are old now. I have white hair."
"Like Aunt Sarah''s?"
"Yes," she said; then she laughed, sounding just like Aunt Sarah.
"You know, I used to look in the mirror and see Momma, but now I see Grandma," she continued.
"I know what you mean. I see Momma."
"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but ... " family, family is forever.
Shannon Rule Bardwell lives and writes in the Prairie. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.