Commentary by Ward Degler
The license plates were from Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some folks came from those places, and further, to attend the family reunion.
A granddaughter and her husband came from Hawaii. Another came from California with her fiancée. They came in twos and threes and in family carloads.
My wife’s family reunion has been an annual affair for more than four decades. Most of us have T-shirts to prove it.
Most years we’ve gathered at one of Indiana’s state parks. We take over the family campsites with the dormitory cabins, the mess hall and the community fire pit. Everybody brings food, usually more than what’s needed. And everybody brings their hunger for renewing family ties.
There are always new couples that previously tried on the family as boy friends or girl friends. Newborns ride the hips of their mothers. Toddlers move from one lap to the next while the pre-teens rediscover the fun of Four-Square. Everyone makes themselves accountable for the safety and well being of everyone else, and everyone pitches in to help out in the kitchen or to make the cabins comfortable.
There’s no air conditioning at the park, so everybody brings electric fans. The park folks just know the electric bill will soar when the family reunion is in full swing.
Meals are buffet style and nobody is denied seconds. After dinner several tables in the mess hall deal out the cards for intense games of Euchre. Meanwhile, the family musicians set up the bandstand for the annual concert. The guitar players and singers have done this for years, and by now have gotten pretty good. From time to time a professional takes to the stage and adds a new dimension to the fun.
After the music dies down, some folks wander off to bed while others gather in canvas chairs in tight circles, quietly sharing moments with one another.
We do it every year, and as folks arrive from near and far, a soft and unexpected warm breeze settles among us. Some say it’s the weather, but the family knows it for what it is – the unbreakable bonds of family love.