This is the first year in fifteen or more that we have not been involved in an Independence Day reunion with my husband’s cousins. My husband is one of 20 in his generation, the grandchildren of an immigrant who changed his name to Charles. There were 18 grandsons and 2 granddaughters. Last year was the last reunion on this generational level. It’s the end of the era. Most of the cousins are grandparents; some are great-grandparents. One branch of the family tree has nearly 300 people in it. Two have around 100 people. One has only 30. Seven of the cousins have passed away now and interest was waning, especially on that large branch that has its own reunions.
One cousin used to host little get-togethers every Independence Day in his back yard under the huge spreading tree that shaded the entire back yard. We used to go there, sometimes watching the big parade first, bringing our contribution to the pot luck. The host always did sloppy joes. His brother always brewed root beer and made ice cream. Various relatives brought macaroni salad, potato salad, green salad, jello salad, fruit salad, and all kinds of salsas to go with the chips. Somebody brought candy to shoot out of a cannon for the little kids, who spent the first hour in the sandbox, the second hour climbing into and falling out of the tree, and the third hour eating candy. Then it was time to go home and get supper and have fireworks.
Somebody thought we ought to have huge reunions every five years. There had not been one for around ten years and maybe fifteen years before that one when the idea came up. We had two of those “every five years” reunions and then announced the end of the era.
It’s nice to be with these cousins. They are lovely people, all of them. But in big reunions you are usually either worried about the details you were put in charge of, or talking to the members of your own branch of the tree anyway, so you don’t really get to enjoy the largeness of the thing. You take all kinds of pictures and then get home and cannot remember the names of the people in them, and even if you enlarge the image all the way, you still can’t read their name tags.
The smaller reunions were great. You sat around in the shade of that huge tree and actually got to talk in depth with whichever cousins came. The food was always great. The root beer was always perfect. Then time took its toll and the cousins who hosted every year could no longer handle it. It was time to end that era.
We are at loose ends this year, and it is a let down all the way around.