The Gathering Ritual
Finding Balance by Jessica
For longer than I can remember, my dad's family gathered each summer in the mountains to visit, fish, and camp together. Though these family reunions only took up four or five days each summer, they seem to have expanded and filled almost the whole of my childhood. I can't imagine my growing up years without them; the absence would leave gaping holes in who I am today.
My parents never missed a year. My mom brought us all as babies to a remote spot on a remote mountain where she had to pack water and make sure she had enough diapers (no disposables back then!) to last the trip. If we had accidents, she had to rinse out our things. I remember wearing plastic bags over my boots and enduring a very damp sweater after I fell into a stream. Dad taught us how to fish, and at night we'd gather around a huge bonfire and listen to my grandpa and his nine (yes, nine!) siblings tell stories about growing up in a small farming community, relations with Native Americans, and surviving the Great Depression.
When I grew up, I brought my fiance to the reunion. It was a test. Would he like it? Would he understand it? He did. And when we got married and had babies, I brought them too. Over the years, my grandpa's nine siblings have slowly passed on, and this year we are left with only three of the original ten: my grandpa, his younger brother, and his older sister, who is in a nursing home and can't remember us.
As we gathered this summer -- not on a mountain, but at a park, where the aging and distant can more easily come together -- my grandpa expressed his sorrow that the stories aren't being told anymore. That his parents' family has grown so large and spread so far, that it's no longer easy to unite in the name of family.
Families grow, and this is a good thing, even though it makes reunions more difficult as the years pass. But reunions evolve, and soon ours will break off and become a family reunion for just my grandpa's descendants. But the stories will still be told. They are written down, bound in books, and we have precious photographs for those who are too little or can't remember. My children will know who they are and where they come from – not just on my dad's side, but my mother's side, and my husband's side too. Our reunions may no longer be week-long fishing trips in the high Uintas Mountains, but we will still make a family ritual of gathering.
In the summer, meeting together with family is a priority. We carve our days around the different gatherings, plan camping trips, pool together to rent cabins, and make sure the rest of our busy lives are paused for this important family rhythm.
Get to Know Jessica
Take a closer look at the blogger, wife, mother, and master of...
Picking Your Battles05/09/2013
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Book Club: Jessica's Pick10/12/2012
The Gathering Ritual09/06/2012
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