Monday, July 31, 2006

The Book....

It was the summer of 1960 when my parents loaded my newborn baby brother and me (not-yet-two!) into the car (without carseats or even seatbelts!) and drove the 150 miles to his parent's house. His grandmother (Gran) was staying there and so all of our aunts and uncles and cousins were coming to spend the weekend to see her.

While I don't remember the weekend, I can tell you a lot about it. My dad and his 5 brothers and 1 sister were all in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. All but one were married, and all of the married couples had kids except one - and their first was born a few months later. "The boys," as my dad and his brothers were collectively called, pulled several pranks on their dad and each other. When some of the pranks started "going off" in the middle of the night, my parents announced that anyone who woke me up would have to be the ones to get me back to sleep!! One of those pranks was my grandpa's clock radio set to full volume. When it came on, it happened to be playing "When the Saints Come Marching In." My grandpa thought he'd died! It was a great weekend!

I know all this because we have a book, you see. Sometime that weekend, probably over a meal that included Toler-Creeks and watermelon, they decided that this "reunion" should be an annual event. It was determined that my uncle Wendall (the first-born, of course!) would be the first "president" and the office would rotate each year to the next youngest sibling. They got a ledger book, and wrote this down. On this certain weekend every summer, everyone would gather and the president would be responsible for organizing the details, supplying the meat for the meal and recording the events in the book. Attendance was written down (with my uncle Gary and his wife listed as 2 1/2, because Deanna wasn't born yet - but she was there!) and some of the more memorable events of the weekend (including my parents need for me to sleep!) were recorded. They pasted in a picture of Gran and a group picture of everyone there, and the book was begun. And so it has continued for 46 years.

Every year at the reunion, there is a "business meeting." Everyone sits around and the "president" reads the account of the previous year. Then each family recounts the highs and lows of the previous year. Who had a baby, who had surgery, who graduated. Some of the funny stories of our lives, and the sad ones too. Adjustments to the "rules" are discussed and voted on. I know at some point, I think after my grandpa died, the date was moved away from the weekend closest to his birthday. And I think it was after my grandma died that my aunts and uncles asked the assembled group if we still wanted to have an annual reunion. I think they were a little surprised by the resounding "yes," but they announced that it was time to "pass the torch" to the next generation, and so now the office of president passes from Wendall's children to Vic's and so on. Every six years, my brothers and I host the reunion. We set the date and provide the place and beverages, plan games - and update the book.

The book is just the greatest thing. 46 years of family history, stories and pictures all in one place. At the 40th reunion, it was decided that while the ledger book still had blank pages, the binding was loose and the pages were yellowing quickly, so my uncle carefully took it apart and put each page in an archival quality sleeve. Now it is a large album, and new entries are still added each year.

And it says right there in the book, the current summary of rules...."It is the president's responsibility to be sure there are at least 2 cookers full of beans......."

1 comment:

Marie N. said...

That is a really neat story. Do you have to travel far and wide each year? We're thrilled one of my cousins moved to Tennessee after Katrina -- now they are only 500 miles away instead of 1000. The others are still in the deep south and the west coast.