I returned from my reunion road trip to New Jersey a few days ago. I met cousins for the first time and connected with a few I had not seen in years, and I was able to see my two aunts. For that, I was happy.
My cousin Ellen and I planned the event. We picked a date seventeen months in advance based upon input from various family members, and we put a deposit down on a venue which could hold one hundred fun-loving members of our family.
I stressed that the church hall I rented was not large enough based upon the size of our extended family, which exceeds two hundred. I knew not everyone could come, particularly because we don’t all live in New Jersey. We don’t even all live in the United States. Still, we thought, it would be an epic event, wouldn’t it? After all, our family funerals are legendary in attendance.
Ellen and I contacted our cousins and started making plans. She reserved a block of rooms at Embassy Suites, and people booked flights.
As the date got closer, we decided to order sandwiches from a local venue, Jamie volunteered to make her famous pasta salad, and I made a non-mayonnaise-based coleslaw because our family all knows that we can’t serve Jamie any products with mayo. We purchased fruit, veggies, ice, drinks, and some cookies. I made the funeral cake.
While we were disappointed that we only filled a quarter of the room, I am looking at the positive side. I got to chat with my two aunts who I have not seen since my breakfast with them two years ago, along with three of their children and the grandchild and great grandchildren of my Aunt Peggy. Two traveled straight through from the mountains of western North Carolina, not stopping overnight like Ellen and I did. (They are younger!)
I met one of the children of the best member of our extended family—my cousin Meghan, whose dad is Tim from Texas. Tim visits Grandma often despite living in Houston and calls her every week. Tim is awesome, regardless of being a Texas A&M fan. (Go Cocks!) Meghan traveled from Scranton, even though she had to work on Saturday and Monday and to attend a funeral of a close friend that week. Thank you, Meghan.
I was happy to be asked by one of my cousins for the contact information of my cousin John, whose great grandfather, the brother of my grandfather, owned a huge ice house near Lake Hopatcong. FYI, according to the Landing, NJ historical site: At the time of its construction, its fifty-six-foot height made it the largest ice house in America. It was said to be able to hold 100,000 tons of ice. It was the largest single-span construction in the United States until Radio City Music Hall was built.
Cousin John introduced me to his wife and daughter. I am happy he came and made enough of an impression that another cousin wanted to meet him again.
I met a cousin who was a friend of my oldest friend, yet I never knew she was related to me. I spoke to another cousin who is an attorney in New York, who told me about going to the Texas/Mexico border in December to work with the immigrants. Cousin Jerry told me that “the stories we hear on the news are all true. I was there.” I met his sister and a few other cousins from that branch of the family—the descendants of my grandfather’s brother Joe. I chatted briefly with my cousin Christine, whose Carnival ship followed my Norwegian cruise liner around Alaska last summer.
I talked with two of my cousins who are the daughters of my mother’s oldest brother. I have not seen them since the funeral of my Uncle Bob three years ago. I used to play school in their basement as a child. Uncle Larry had somehow gotten actual desks from a classroom, which we all thought was so cool.
And last, but not least, I spent several days traveling with my co-reunion-planning cousin Ellen, who lives just outside Charleston. Ellen, along with her brother Eddie from Wilmington, left the reunion and returned to face Hurricane Dorian. Thankfully, they were spared the wrath of the storm felt by the people of The Bahamas.
In the end, I enjoyed the weekend. I hope that it was just a poor choice of date rather than apathy that resulted in the small turnout. In any case, I am glad I went, but I will pass the reunion planning baton to someone else next time.
P.S. Thank to my dear friend Mary, who helped me to look on the bright side.