While in my hometown last weekend, our timing was right to attend a mid-year reunion of my mother’s branch of the family. Knowing my mom enjoyed showing off her grown-up granddaughter, we made the drive out to the Old Home Place.
Besides, how could any sane person pass up all those homemade vittles, southern comfort food at its finest.
My maternal grandfather, the second oldest of eight children, and my grandmother had five children. His other siblings each had large families too, except of course mine. With only two offspring, my little clan was the runt of the bunch.
Throughout my childhood, we would venture out every July 4th for a day-long picnic that produced enough food to feed a small country. Great-grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles held court, while as many as four lesser generations ran around trying to catch June bugs and fireflies.
I knew everyone’s name and who belonged to whom. There was no need to point out which cousin went with which aunts and uncles.
Decades have passed since those days, all the original Greats are gone, and my generation scattered around the world.
Faces are familiar, if older, but names escape me sometimes. I no longer know which cousins are which, or which new generations fit on which branch.
If it was confusing for me, my daughter was completely lost. We stayed close to my mother, who artfully made introductions. The last time most of my family saw my daughter, she was about 13, that was more than 10 years go.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, she couldn’t deny who she belonged to, being that the three generations of women in our family, are like three panes in the same window.
On our way back to our hotel, my daughter voiced regret that she didn’t have childhood memories of a large family like I do. Where I had dozens of cousins, my children have a small handful. There have been no annual gatherings, no close-knit relationships.
Despite the shrinking of our world, access to social media and instant communication, real life distance has grown. There is no sense of extended family any longer, and my children, and my nieces are the poorer for it.